The new film Mary Poppins Returns is filled with Easter eggs — visual and musical allusions to the original 1964 film that are intended as loving homages from director Rob Marshall and songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. Here are six things to look and listen for.
1. Well done, Sister Suffragette
In the original Mary Poppins, family matriarch Winnifred Banks (played by Glynis Johns) famously fights for women's right to vote as a member of Emmeline Pankhurst's suffragist movement. Decades later, in Mary Poppins Returns, her daughter, Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer), has begun following in her late mother's footsteps, working as a union organizer. But there's one big Easter egg to keep an eye out for: The "Votes for Women" sash that Winnifred wore, which was later turned into the tail of the Banks family kite, is still in pristine condition when her grandchildren take the kite out for a spin.
2. Dance of the penguins
The penguins, which shared a delightful moment with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews during "Jolly Holiday," have returned for a comparable number in the sequel, created in the same original style. "I chose to do this sequence in classic Disney, hand-drawn, 2-D animation," director Rob Marshall notes, "even though it's twice as expensive and took us twice as long." Several of the artists they worked with for this daunting section were veteran Disney animators brought out of retirement specifically for this project. "We had the wonderful artist who did Belle working on it," Marshall adds. "We had the best of the best."
3. Richard Sherman, Cheerleader
If you watch the opening titles, you'll see the name "Richard M. Sherman" billed as a musical consultant. Savvy audiences will know that Sherman, along with his late brother Robert, created the score for the original Mary Poppins and countless other Disney classics. But Marshall almost wishes that Sherman's billing read "'cheerleader' instead of 'consultant,' because that's what he was. Marc and Scott would play him the music, and he would just say, 'Yes! Go!'"
In Shaiman's underscoring for the new film, there are several crucial moments where you may hear a nod or two toward the Sherman brothers. They're so deeply embedded in the film that even its stars still haven't caught all of them. "I heard a new one while we were doing a radio thing," star Lin-Manuel Miranda says. "It was on the line, 'Mary Poppins, it is so wonderful to see you again,' and there are three notes of the song from the first film where they're writing about the perfect nanny. You hear it in the moment when they're seeing the nanny they asked for again."
4. Jack the Lamplighter and Bert the Chimney Sweep are connected in the great circle of Disney.
Bert the Chimney Sweep, played by Dick Van Dyke in the original, does not appear in Mary Poppins Returns — he's out traveling the world. However, Miranda's character, Jack the Lamplighter, does have a strong connection to Bert. Once upon a time, in their younger days, Jack was an apprentice to Bert, who taught Jack everything he knew.
As for Van Dyke himself, the 92-year-old does make an appearance in Mary Poppins Returns as Mr. Dawes Jr., the elderly son of the elderly bank owner Van Dyke also played in the 1964 original. "When he walked onto set, he said to me that he felt the same spirit as he did on the first film," Marshall recalls. "That was a full-circle dream come true."
5. Meryl Streep plays Ed Wynn? Sort of, but not really.
Not quite. Streep, who starred in Marshall's film adaptation of Into the Woods, was more than game for a role in Mary Poppins Returns. "She wrote to Rob, 'Yes, yes, yes! What took you so long?' when he wrote to her," producer Marc Platt says.
In this film, Streep plays Topsy, Mary's eccentric Eastern European cousin, who lives in a fix-it shop that frequently turns upside down. Audiences attuned to the original might see some similarity between Topsy and the first film's Uncle Albert (played by Ed Wynn), whose nonstop laughter causes him to float up to the ceiling.
6. Julie Andrews doesn't appear, but a different Disney icon does.
Everyone now knows that Julie Andrews, who won an Oscar for playing Mary Poppins, won't make a cameo in the sequel, politely declining an appearance so as not to steal Emily Blunt's thunder.
However, a different Disney legend does make a cameo at the very end of the film, and you recognize her right away. Angela Lansbury, who played Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast appears here in the speaking and singing role of the Balloon Lady, a character taken from the original P.L. Travers source material.
"Angela was 91 when she made this film, and she sounds magnificent," Platt says. "She made a little role instantly wondrous and she has my favorite moment, which is really the theme of the movie. She says to Mary Poppins, 'The grown-ups will forget by morning,' and Mary Poppins says, 'They always do.' We thought to ourselves, wouldn't this be quite a world if none of us did forget that sense of wonder and possibility and hope and light?"