Study Guide

Mary Poppins Summary

Mary Poppins Summary

Once You Start Poppin'(s), the Fun Ain't Stoppin'

"When there's something strange, and it don't look good—who you gonna call?" Ghostbusters? Well, yes. But a flying nanny works just as well.

When the movie opens, The Banks Family is in distress. The family nanny has just quit, and the two kids, Jane and Michael, have run away from home (though they actually just got lost chasing a kite). Their uptight dad, George Banks, decides to put out an ad for a strict no-nonsense nanny. But the kids write their own ad, calling for a sweet and fun nanny. George tears this up and chucks it in the fireplace. But it gets blown up the chimney, and Mary Poppins magically gets a hold of it.

Even though Mary has a weird habit of reassembling thrown out garbage (like the ad), she's a nice person with magical powers. She arrives at the Banks house, zooming in on her flying umbrella as the wind blows George's strict nannies away. Flabbergasted, George has no choice but to hire her. She immediately astonishes Jane and Michael with her magical hijinks—helping them clean the nursery with magic that makes the nursery clean itself up. She also teaches them—and the rest of the world—that "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."

  

Daddy Issues

Next, she takes them through a series of adventures, first entering a cartoon world by jumping into Bert the cockney chimney sweep's chalk drawing on the sidewalk. (Bert and Mary seem to be old acquaintances, ambivalently attracted to each other…something's simmering on the burner, but it's hard to say what). After this frolic—involving the classic song "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"—they visit her Uncle Albert, who floats in the air when he laughs, and Mary sings them a song about an old lady who feeds pigeons.

Mary cheers everyone in the house up—except for Mr. Banks, who's obviously jealous of her popularity. He wants to fire her, but Mary prevents him by suggesting the children go to the bank and learn about Bank's lessons of discipline and thrift. However, this doesn't go so well: Michael gets into a tussle with the head of the bank, who tries to force Michael to invest his tuppence in a savings account. People at the bank misunderstand what's going on and all try to withdraw their money, in a panic.

After Michael, Jane, and Mary go on a song and dance excursion with Bert and his chimney sweep pals, Mr. Banks goes to the bank and gets fired because of Michael's behavior. Funnily enough, he finds he's totally excited to leave the bank and goes home feeling "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious."

The next day, George arrives home a changed man, ready to have fun with his kids. He takes them out to fly a kite, and Mrs. Banks comes too. At the park, they run into the son of the deceased head of the bank, who gives George his job back—with a promotion to partner. At the same time, the wind changes, which means Mary Poppins needs to leave—her work there is done. Naturally, the kids are sad, but they're pumped up to have their dad happy and in a decent frame of mind.

Mary sails away on her umbrella, leaving a joyful Banks' family behind.

  • Scene 1

    Scene 1

    Bert Smashes the Fourth Wall

    • London comes into view, with Big Ben towering over it, as the opening credits roll. In the musical overture, shortened versions of songs we'll hear later—like "A Spoonful of Sugar" and "Chim Chim Cher-ee"—play.
    • We see Mary Poppins sitting on a cloud, applying makeup with a little pocket mirror. She's putting on her game face.
    • Then, we pull back to the overhead view of London and the camera dives down to a street, where Bert, the cockney chimney sweep, is playing as a one-man band.
    • He goes over to bystanders, and makes up rhymes about them using their names and details about their lives. They seem amused…and not at all creeped out.
    • Suddenly, the wind changes, and Bert sings that it feels like something is about to begin. (*Cough cough* he's talking about the movie *cough*).
    • Bert finishes playing and most of the cheapskates who were listening to him don't give him a tip. (Some of them do).
    • Bert then talks to us, the audience, like we're actually there, and leads us towards the house of the Banks family.
    • But, first, he shows us Admiral Boom's nearby house, where the admiral fires a cannon to announce the time.
    • Admiral Boom tells Bert that heavy weather's brewing.
  • Scene 2

    Scene 2

    A "Man's World"?

    • Bert scoots on over to the Banks house, where we can hear screaming and chaos breaking out inside.
    • It turns out the nanny is resigning and leaving. The Banks children, Jane and Michael, have run away…and the nanny's sick of their antics.
    • The maid tries to block her from leaving, and, at the same time, the children's mother, Winifred, arrives back from a suffragette meeting (a meeting about women's right to vote), excitedly talking about what happened.
    • Next, she sings a song about the struggle for women's suffrage—while the irritated nanny tries to interrupt, to say she's leaving.
    • But Winifred isn't breaking up this musical number so easily. Finally, the nanny punctures the mood and tells her that the kids have run away for the fourth time this week—and she's leaving.
    • Winifred pleads, but the nanny's set.
    • At that moment, Admiral Boom's cannon fires, and the maids and Winifred all prevent vases and objects from falling.
    • Outside, the father, Mr. George Banks is walking home. He and Admiral Boom chew the fat about how awesome the British pound is doing. Mr. Banks helps the nanny put her luggage on the carriage she's leaving in, without realizing she's resigning.
    • Next, George enters the house, and sings a song about how pleasant his life is and how great it is to be a British man in 1910.
    • He sings, "It's the age of men." He thinks it's a man's world—like James Brown.
    • Finally, Winifred gets his attention, and explains that the children ran away and the nanny resigned.
    • George calls the police, while a constable knocks on the door. It turns out the constable has already found Jane and Michael.
    • The kids explain they didn't really intend to run away—their kite got loose and they chased it across the park.
    • When the constable tries to banter about kites, George semi-dismissively interrupts him and offers him food in the kitchen. But the constable just leaves.
  • Scene 3

    Scene 3

    Nanny 911

    • Later, George and Winifred are arguing about how to hire a new nanny. George and Winifred agree that Winifred's done a lousy job of selecting nannies—four of them have all peaced out recently.
    • George decides to write an ad for The Times, dictating to Winifred an advertisement for a strict, command-and-control nanny.
    • The kids walk into the room and apologize, and show him their own advertisement for the nanny. They want a nanny who's all kind and sweet—not a whip cracking, storm-trooper nanny.
    • The dad thinks this is the dumbest thing he's ever heard. He tears up their ad and chucks it in the fireplace, while calling The Times to place his own ad.
    • But the wind blows the pieces up the chimney…
  • Scene 4

    Scene 4

    Blowin' into Town

    • The next day, Admiral Boom's assistant says that the wind is changing. Then, he and Boom notice from their rooftop that a ton of nannies have all lined up at the Banks house, answering George's ad.
    • Michael and Jane are miffed—this looks like a second-rate crowd of ultra-strict nannies. But a strong wind comes and literally blows the nannies away—they fly up into the air and disappear down the street. Jane and Michael's little dog barks at them.
    • From a distance, they spy Mary Poppins flying in the air with her umbrella. She lands in front of the Banks house.
    • Michael and Jane are psyched—she looks like just the kind of nanny they wanted.
    • The maid lets Mary in, and is surprised that the other nannies have all vanished.
    • Mary marches right in and speaks to Mr. Banks. She shows him that she has the same ad he tore up yesterday, though it's now been magically put back together.
    • Mary announces that she meets all the children's qualifications, and—when George is too stunned to say anything—Mary basically hires herself.
    • She rides up the banister of the staircase, to the children's surprise, and gets ready to get down to business.
    • Winifred comes to George and asks him what he thinks of the new nanny. George seems stunned and baffled, but then he says, yeah.
    • He does think she'll do a good job.
  • Scene 5

    Scene 5

    Do You Believe in Magic?

    • Upstairs, the kids get to know Mary, who starts doing crazy things, like pulling a giant hat-stand out of her carpetbag and hanging her hat on it. The kids can't understand how she can get anything out of the carpetbag, considering it appears empty.
    • But she keeps pulling out lamp stands and stuff.
    • Then, Mary whips out her tape measure, which she finds after reaching deep down into the bag.
    • After she measures Michael, the tape measure reads that he's "extremely stubborn and suspicious," while it says that Jane is "rather inclined to giggle, doesn't put things away."
    • Mary's own measurement reads, "Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way."
    • Mary asks them if they want to play a game—"cleaning up the nursery."
    • She explains that you can make boring jobs into a game, by finding the element of fun.
    • She launches right into the song "A Spoonful of Sugar," explaining how "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."
    • Looking out the window, Mary gets a robin to land on her hand, and continues singing while the robin accompanies her (though the robin doesn't sing actual words).
    • Mary Poppins snaps her fingers at different parts of the nursery, and they clean themselves up on command. Jane does the same thing, and it works. But Michael can't snap his fingers.
    • Then, Mary sings while her own reflection in the mirror accompanies her—upstaging her, at one point.
    • Michael finally gets the finger snapping, but ends up falling into a toy wagon, which drives into a closet that locks him inside. All the items in the room are moving on their own.
    • Mary commands the room to settle down, and it does.
    • Then, she and the children ride the stair banister, surprising the maid, and head out to the park.
  • Scene 6

    Scene 6

    Mary and Bert Keep It…Platonic?

    • Bert's drawing chalk illustrations on the sidewalk near the park, singing "Chim Chim Cher-ee" and soliciting tips.
    • Mary's silhouette falls on the ground and Bert recognizes it—he knows Mary and they greet each other like old pals.
    • Bert tells the kids that Mary is going to take them on some sort of unexpected adventure, and starts comically miming the scenes in his chalk-drawings.
    • They want to do magic to travel inside Bert's drawing of an English countryside. Bert's attempt fails, so Mary does it for them and they travel inside the illustration.
    • In the illustrated world, they're all dressed differently. Mary's got a fancy dress on and Bert's wearing a striped suit with white pants and a straw hat.
    • Bert sings "Jolly Holiday" in praise of Mary Poppins. It's a little flirtatious. Bert thinks Mary's pretty great, as he leads her down the lane.
    • They walk into a farmyard with cartoon animals around. The animals pick up the tune and start singing (in human language).
    • It's pretty much the Disney-est thing ever.
    • Bert and Mary leave the farm and dance as birds fly around them. Mary's umbrella flies of its own volition and a cartoon squirrel chases after it. Cartoon bunnies, squirrels, and deer race by, and two turtles escort Mary and Bert across a river.
    • Mary sings verses praising Bert as a true gentleman who doesn't try to "press his advantage." Bert seems to have mixed feelings about this.
    • Mary and Bert sit down at an outside table, and penguin waiters suddenly swarm around, bringing them menus and complimenting them.
    • Bert praises Mary above all other women, and then dances with the penguins, somehow altering his pants to make him do more of a penguin-style dance.
    • They have a Stomp the Yard-style dance off, with Bert making a dance move and the penguins answering.
  • Scene 7

    Scene 7

    The World's Most Famous Made-Up Nonsense Word

    • Next, Bert and Mary meet back up with Michael and Jane—who had been running around this whole time doing whatever. They ride a merry-go-round, and the horses jump off the carousel and carry them through the woods.
    • Bert and Michael start racing with each other, before Mary makes them slow down.
    • Animated foxhunters and hounds go racing by. They ride with Mary and company for a while, but Bert decides to help save the fox (who is apparently Irish—he speaks with an accent—getting chased by British foxhunters. It's a political allegory).
    • Bert picks up the fox, and they ride onto an animated racecourse.
    • The jockeys chivalrously let Mary pass them, and she wins the race. Cartoon men present her with a big bouquet.
    • One of them asks her how it feels to win and Mary says it feels, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!"
    • Then, she launches into the song, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" while Michael and Jane stuff their faces with ice cream.
    • When they finish the song, a thunderstorm breaks out and it starts raining. The rain erases the chalk drawing on the street, and suddenly Mary, Bert, and the kids are back in the real world.
    • They part ways with Bert and head home.
  • Scene 8

    Scene 8

    Double the Powder, Double the Fun

    • At home, Mary makes the kids take medicine because they got their feet wet. The kids discover that it actually tastes great—like "lime cordial" and "strawberry." Mary takes her own and says it tastes like "rum punch."
    • Even though it's bedtime, the kids are still hyped up and not ready to sleep. The kids talk about their cartoon adventures, but Mary denies it ever happened.
    • She then sings a lullaby, which rapidly knocks the kids out.
    • The next morning, Admiral Boom decides to put a double-charge of powder in his cannon.
    • In the Banks house, Winifred plots to throw things at the Prime Minister with other suffragettes.
    • Weirdly, everyone in the house is happy. The only one who seems miserable is George—he's annoyed at how happy everyone else is.
    • Even the maids are singing, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!"
    • Winifred tells George that he's out of sorts, but he angrily denies it. He says that Mary Poppins has been undermining the level of discipline in the house.
    • Admiral Boom's cannon goes off, and everyone rushes to prevent things from shattering.
  • Scene 9

    Scene 9

    Floaters

    • Mary leads the children outside, as they head on errands. A little dog runs up and barks at Mary—Mary seems to understand his language. The dog leads them down the sidewalk.
    • They arrive at the house of Mary's Uncle Albert. Bert's already there.
    • They walk into a room where Albert is floating up by the ceiling. Apparently he has some sort of condition (disorder?), where he laughs and starts floating in the air. He keeps cracking up.
    • Albert starts singing the song, "I Love to Laugh." Everyone else starts cracking up too. Mary and Bert sing verses too.
    • Bert laughs so much that he starts floating in the air as well. Michael and Jane start to float too, but Mary drags them back down.
    • Soon, Michael and Jane are up in the air, laughing, anyway.
    • Only Mary remains earthbound.
    • Bert and Albert tell each other terrible jokes and continue guffawing and floating.
    • A table set for tea floats in the air, and Mary relents and floats up with them.
    • They have tea in the middle of the air, as Bert and Albert's intentionally bad jokes continue.
    • Michael asks if there's a way to get down. Albert explains there is—you need to think of something sad.
    • Albert starts talking about a cat that got run over, and the children start moving back to the floor. But Albert turns it into a joke, so they stay floating.
    • Mary gets tired of all this, so she makes them all float back to earth through her magic powers. She leaves with the children.
    • Albert cries because he's sad to see them go, while Bert sticks around and commiserates.
  • Scene 10

    Scene 10

    Bird Buffet

    • Next, we see George Banks arriving home. The kids run up and start telling him jokes. But George doesn't want to hear it. He's all stressed out and fed up.
    • When he sees Mary, he asks her to come with him. Meanwhile, Winifred is rushing out to another suffragette rally, but George makes her sit down.
    • George starts telling Mary how to raise the children, and sings a song about how they need to operate with discipline and be more like him—an efficient bank manager. He wants them to go on outings with purpose.
    • Mary agrees and says that the children will go to the bank with George tomorrow. George agrees, but seems apprehensive.
    • Upstairs, the children are worried that Mary got fired. But Mary explains that's not the case: she got Mr. Banks to agree to let the children go to the bank.
    • Then, Mary sings a song about an old lady who feeds birds at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, and shakes a little snow globe with a replica of St. Paul's in it.
    • We actually see the old lady, feeding the birds on the cathedral steps, as Mary sings.
    • Turns out—this was another lullaby. Michael and Jane have conked out.
  • Scene 11

    Scene 11

    It's All About the Benjamins…or the Tuppences

    • The next day, near St. Paul's, the children head to the bank with Mr. Banks. They see the bird-feeding lady, and Michael wants to buy bird feed from the lady for tuppence (two pence).
    • George tells him not to, and they head into the bank.
    • The head of the bank, Mr. Dawes Jr. and his father, Dawes Sr., greet them. George says the children want to open an account.
    • Dawes Sr. asks for Michael's tuppence to put it in the account, and sings about how the tuppence will turn into more money once its placed in a savings account. George and the other bank guys join in the singing.
    • But the kids are weirded out by all this. Michael's not buying the message about saving. He still wants to feed the birds.
    • When Dawes Sr. tries to take Michael's tuppence, he still holds onto it, demanding his money. It causes the customers in the bank to panic and make a run on the bank, demanding all their money from their accounts.
    • Michael and Jane run outside and down alleyways until they run into Bert, who's covered in soot from chimney sweeping.
    • They explain what happened with the tuppence and the bank disaster. They're worried their dad doesn't love them.
    • Bert comforts them and says that their dad's just in a tough spot, stuck in a cold, heartless bank all day, forced to fend for himself.
  • Scene 12

    Scene 12

    Steppin' and Sweepin'

    • Bert leads the kids home, singing a bit of "Chim Chim Cher-ee." Inside, Winifred is getting ready to run off to another suffragette meeting.
    • Bert tells Winifred the kids need someone to look after them. Winifred realizes its Mary Poppins' day off, so she pushes the kids off on Bert. He needs to look after them for the day.
    • Bert takes them chimney sweeping with him—in their own house, at the fireplace. But Michael and Jane get sucked up the chimney and shoot out onto the roof, covered in soot. Mary Poppins walks in, in time to see this happen, and she and Bert both shoot up the chimney after them.
    • They walk around on the roofs, and look out over London. A stairway made of chimney smoke forms in the air, and Mary leads them up it.
    • They stand on top of a tower and savor the view. Then, they head back down on a plume of smoke, which retracts into a chimney.
    • Then, a bunch of Bert's chimneysweep friends pop out of various chimneys. They start dancing around on the rooftops and chimneys, performing "Step in Time."
    • Mary gets in on the dancing too.
    • Admiral Boom mistakes the chimney sweeps for hostile enemies and decides to fire multiple fireworks at them.
    • The fireworks explode and the chimney sweeps scatter.
    • Bert hits one of the fireworks back at Boom, who manages to duck.
    • All the chimney sweeps rush down the chimney into the Banks house, where they chase the maid around and continue to dance and perform "Step in Time."
  • Scene 13

    Scene 13

    Sacked

    • Mr. Banks arrives home and is horrified. Bert whistles, and all the chimney sweeps troop out the door.
    • George is angry, and demands that Mary Poppins explain what just happened. She cheerfully says she never explains anything and walks upstairs with the kids.
    • George gets a phone call from the bank, and its Dawes Jr. and Sr. They tell him they want to see him this very night. It sounds like they want to fire him.
    • He complains, and sadly sings, telling Bert about how he's been defeated and ruined. He blames Mary Poppins for this catastrophe.
    • Bert humors him, and sings ironically about how George has more important things to do than spend time with his kids. George starts to look pretty guilty.
    • The kids come downstairs and apologize to their father. Michael gives him the tuppence that caused the squabble at the bank.
    • It looks likes George is realizing the error of his ways. He feels bad.
    • George heads down to the bank to meet his fate.
    • Predictably, he gets fired. The bank board blames him for the run on the bank that happened earlier in the day. Dawes Jr. even punches a hole in the top of Banks' hat.
    • When Dawes Sr. asks him if he has anything to say, Banks, looking at the tuppence, says, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!"
    • Banks realizes he feels great, and tells them one of Uncle Albert's jokes, which he heard from the kids. He's eager to go out in the world and have fun.
    • After he leaves, Dawes Sr. gets the joke Banks told and starts laughing. It makes him float up into the air.
  • Scene 14

    Scene 14

    Parents + Kids + Kite = Happy Family

    • The next day, the wind changes—which means Mary Poppins has to leave.
    • She packs up her giant hat stand and other belongings in her carpetbag.
    • The children are sad to see her go, but Mary acts like she doesn't have strong emotions.
    • Downstairs, Winifred and the maids are worried about George, who hasn't come home yet. A constable is on the phone discussing George's disappearance, worrying he might've jumped in a river out of despair.
    • Fortunately, George walks in the door, singing "A Spoonful of Sugar."
    • He calls for the kids, who tearfully say goodbye to Mary and run downstairs.
    • They discover that their father has fixed their broken kite. They're delighted, and they all sing the song, "Let's Go Fly a Kite."
    • Winifred uses her "Votes for Women" sash as a tail for the kite and she heads out the door with George and the kids, as they go to fly their kite.
    • Now, they're a family having fun together.
    • Bert is selling kites at the park, and starts singing the song too.
    • Michael holds the kite as they launch it off.
    • The Banks family sees Dawes Jr. and the other bankers flying kites in the park too. Dawes Jr. tells them his dad died laughing but had decided to appoint George a new partner in the bank beforehand.
    • George gratefully accepts the position.
    • Back at the house, the handle of Mary's umbrella—which is shaped like a parrot's head—talks to her. The umbrella says that the children love their father more than her, and Mary says that's the way it's meant to be.
    • She seems a little wistful, but she takes off into the air with her umbrella. Bert waves goodbye to her from below and Mary waves back.
    • We see her flying away, high above London.