Behind the music of Mary Poppins Returns
To create Disney instant classics Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman grew up looking up to the Sherman Brothers and talked about how that both was a terrifying and motivating factor to make music for Mary Poppins Returns.
This winter, audiences around the world will experience a new chapter in the world of Mary Poppins that will contribute a brand new story with new Disney tunes from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. The duo will step into the legacy created by the Sherman Brothers, who wrote the classic songs from the original and talked to ComingSoon.net about their approach to both pay homage to the original and create new music for a new chapter of Mary Poppins.
From working with Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda in the creation of songs to sitting with Richard Sherman after he’d seen the movie, the duo takes us on a journey behind the scenes of making the music for Mary Poppins Returns.
ComingSoon.net: When Mary Poppins Returns came your way, can you talk about your initial thoughts stepping into the shoes of the Sherman Brothers and what they did with the Original film?
Scott Wittman: Well initially we were paralyzed.
Marc Shaiman: As was anyone working on the film. It’s a mixture of exhilaration and complete panic. How do you possibly take on a job where you will be compared rightfully so to perfection? It takes a while to realize well…you have to write. The turning point was when we realized by us writing, we can express our love and thanks to the Sherman Brothers. Say, ‘you have guided us our entire lives and you have taught us how to write songs and how to orchestrate and how to tell stories in a musical movie. Here’s the best way we can say thank you is to honor what you taught us.’ That was how we had to think about it.
CS: Was there any specific song that started out as a love-letter to what you learned from the original film?
Scott Wittman: I think ‘Can You Imagine That’– Mary’s song in my mind in this score is the closest to Sherman-esque. Especially in the verse before when she’s talking to the children.
CS: And from there, what songs would you say came the most effortlessly?
Scott Wittman: They all take effort. Sometimes people ask, how long does it take to write a song. 30 years and a day! (laughs) We had the luxury to have Emily at our disposal. She would come to see us and we would spend the afternoons trying songs in this way or this key. fortunately for us and writing.
CS: That’s amazing, so you were more able to write the songs with the cast in mind with them.
Scott Wittman: Emily was an integral part of the collaborations as was Lin because they were both in New York and that’s where we work out of.
CS: Going back to the Disney legacy, what would you say are your favorite Disney songs?
Scott Wittman: I love anything Sherman so most of the Sherman scores. I certainly love ‘Baby Mine’ and we talked about the score to Pinocchio.
Marc Shaiman: It’s all the classics. ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ and ‘A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes’ These are beautiful, perfect songs. And then the score to Mary Poppins is the Pinnacle. There’s nothing better.
CS: Have you had any surreal moments of hearing music from this film outside of working on it yet?
Marc Shaiman: Well the most surreal moment was when we got to sit with Richard Sherman for 90 minutes. We filmed us interviewing each other and to actually sit there across from him. I’d met him two times before. We had corresponded after he saw the movie and he sent us the most lovely letter and message. But to actually sit with him at Disney Studios
Scott Wittman: In the Sherman Brother soundstage.
Marc Shaiman: And to get to ask him every Mary Poppins question I could ever imagine wanting to ask–every Sherman Brothers question–that was surreal.
To hear Angela Lansbury or Dick Van Dyke sing our songs–that’s surreal. You just can’t even believe it, you cannot believe you’re hearing these legendary performers singing the notes and the words that we wrote.
CS: Did you get the opportunity to see any of the musical numbers being filmed?
Scott Wittman: I went over.
Marc Shaiman: We were barely there for any of the filming, we had a new job working on a show on Broadway.
Scott Wittman: I went back when they were shooting Lin’s number. I was there a couple days for that. He had his son with him and he just saw there with big eyes while his father was there with all these people on bikes, on lampposts and things like that. It was thrilling to watch.
Marc Shaiman: We got 6-7 weeks of rehearsal so we got to see everything being rehearsed over and over again. Especially ‘Trip a Little Light Fantastic’ because they rehearsed that from start to finish, when we saw it. We’d see it from beginning to end. No cut, no pause in the middle. They staged it so it could be performed in one piece. That was thrilling.
Mary Poppins Returns is now playing in theaters!