Mary Poppins: The Peculiar Challenge of Animating Her World

“Sandy Powell came up with the idea of painting the actors’ costumes to match the look of the animated characters,” Capobianco said, referring to the costume designer. “Mary Poppins wears a long pink and white gown that looks like it’s made of many layers of fabric. It’s actually just one piece of material that’s painted to look tiered; all the buttons and ties are painted, too.”

The key to the look of the sequence was the Royal Doulton bowl in the Bankses’ nursery, which takes the place of the chalk drawings in the first film as an entry to the animated world. Jeff Turley, the animation production designer, explained: “We looked at a lot of Royal Doulton bowls, and what caught my eye were the hand-painted ink decorations with sort of watercolor washes. That look is reminiscent of the work of Ronald Searle” — a British cartoonist — “and some of the Disney films, like ‘101 Dalmatians’ and ‘Mary Poppins.’ It felt like a good fit, at least as a starting point.”

Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) and the three Banks children, accompanied by Jack the Lamplighter (Lin-Manuel Miranda), ride a carriage driven by Shamus, a jaunty Irish setter (voiced by Chris O’Dowd) through the bowl’s landscapes and visit the Royal Doulton music hall — a sequence reminiscent of the “Jolly Holiday” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” numbers in the original movie. Blunt and Miranda interact with an assortment of animated animals, including penguins — a homage to the cartoon waiters in the previous film.

Filming the live performances so they could be combined with the animated elements proved challenging. “For the big music hall number, we were basically shooting the scenes three times,” Marshall said. “Once with Emily and Lin-Manuel and reference dancers representing the animated characters, so I could frame the shot and know how many people would be in it. Next, I’d take Emily and Lin out, and just shoot the reference dancers so the animators would know what they’d be doing. Then I’d take the reference dancers out and just have Emily and Lin-Manuel dancing, imagining everything around them.”

Capobianco added, “When we were on the set, we’d tell Lin and the other actors, ‘Remember, you’re carrying a penguin and it’s going to have a certain weight.’ As actors, they would have a zillion other things to think about, and the take wouldn’t quite be there. I’d ask Rob, ‘Can we get another take?’ He’d do it, and I’d say, ‘We still didn’t get it,’ and he’d say, ‘No, you got it.’ ”