John Lee Hancock's "Saving Mr. Banks" dramatizes the creative struggle to get "Mary Poppins" adapted for the big screen. And while much of film is devoted to the contentious relationship between Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) and 'Poppins' author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), there were people at the periphery who were just as important to the process. Chief amongst these people were the Sherman brothers, the crack songwriting duo behind the movie's unforgettable songs. Jason Schwartzman plays Richard Sherman while B. J. Novak plays Robert Sherman.
And when we got the chance to talk to Schwartzman recently, we quizzed him as to his five favorite Disney memories. While we submitted this structure for the interview before we chatted, Schwartzman was caught off guard. Not that it mattered much. "Oh I can do that," he said. He then explained his relationship with all things Disney: "I grew up in Los Angeles. I didn't go to Disneyland all the time but I definitely went once every couple of years, which is definitely a lot. Being close to Disneyland, it's a big part of my life. Disney in general … I don't know what the word is … What do you call it when it's beyond sentimental and beyond nostalgic?" We're pretty sure that's just called magic.
1. "Pete's Dragon“
When we asked Schwartzman what his favorite Disney memories were he immediately said, "Watching 'Pete's Dragon' obsessively." Honestly, we were kind of taken aback. For those of you who are unaware, "Pete's Dragon" is a largely forgotten 1977 Disney film (that studio is remaking with "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" writer/director David Lowery penning the script) that combined live action with animation, focusing on the relationship between a young boy named Pete and his towering dragon pal Elliott (voiced by Mel Brooks confederate Charlie Callas). "I don't know. It hit me. It just got me. I became obsessed with that movie," Schwartzman explained.
Not that it was the only Disney classic that he would watch on repeat: "And 'Robin Hood,' which I think is a very underrated Disney movie." The 1973 film, featuring anthropomorphic animals in all the roles, is now seen as something of a lost classic, and if you haven't watched it, you should track it down.
2. Space Mountain“
When pressed for what his favorite Disney attraction was, Schwartzman easily came up with an answer. "I think that it would have to be Space Mountain," he said. Space Mountain, a dark roller coaster that shoots you through the inky cosmos, was first opened in Walt Disney World in 1977 as the centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland. Two years later, a similar (but not identical) version of the attraction opened at California's Disneyland (also in Tomorrowland). It remains a classic of both parks. "It really is," Schwartzman agreed. "... if you're not in the mood for it, it makes you in the mood for it. It's just incredible."
3. Seeing "Captain Eo"“
Schwartzman also singled out another Disneyland attraction: the 3D, space-theme Michael Jackson movie "Captain Eo" (directed by Schwartzman's uncle, Francis Ford Coppola). The film premiered at both stateside parks in 1986, and closed when the criminal cases against Jackson were becoming too hard to simply ignore (it was replaced by a lamer attraction, "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience"). After Jackson's death, though, a slightly revamped version of "Captain Eo" came back to both EPCOT and Disneyland, a nostalgia-tinged relic of a bygone decade. "That was a highlight. It's incredible," Schwartzman said. "I saw it in the park when it originally came out. It really affected me, because it was Michael Jackson right at the sweet spot. That was a period when Thriller and Bad was so powerful to me and I was such a huge fan. I loved Thriller so deeply, it was all I listened to as a little kid. So to see Michael Jackson in this movie where he's fighting aliens with music. It was just beyond words for me."