Community & Current Events

Saving Mr. Banks: Bringing 1960s Disney to life

By: Simone Castello

Walt Disney Studios Canada Author: Canadian Living Credits: Walt Disney Studios Canada

Community & Current Events

Saving Mr. Banks: Bringing 1960s Disney to life

By: Simone Castello

From sketches on paper to stills in real life, a costume designer's main job is to bring movie characters to life on the big screen. This role is especially important when working on period pieces, because the outfits have to remain true to the times. Acclaimed costume designer Daniel Orlandi shared some of his experiences while working on Disney's Saving Mr. Banks and likened his work to that of a psychologist, helping actors get into character through their costumes.

On deciding Walt Disney's wardrobe for the movie:
Simone Castello: None of Walt Disney's suits were preserved after he passed away, so where did you find inspiration to conceptualize what he was wearing when he met P.L. Travers?

Daniel Orlandi: We looked at pictures of him at the studio. We only see Walt Disney at the studios so it was fairly easy, and I also talked to Richard Sherman who remembers him quite well from working together.

SC: The colour grey stood out in Disney's wardrobe. Did you consult with Tom Hanks to see what he would be more comfortable with, or did the idea stem from your mind?

DO: [Hanks] wanted to be Walt Disney, so whatever was right for Walt Disney, that's what he wanted. It was always a grey suit, which was sort of the custom of the time anyway for a head of a company; a business grey suit is what they wore. It's a serious colour.

On consulting with Emma Thompson regarding P.L. Travers' wardrobe and committing to a true portrayal of the character:
SC: P.L. Travers' costumes were very different from Mary Poppins – an absolute contrast in style and colour. Did you consult with Emma Thompson about the type of outfits she would wear to authentically portray P.L. Travers?

DO: We did a lot of research before we started. P.L. Travers is not Mary Poppins; we wouldn't want her to look like Mary Poppins. We wanted her to be as authentic as possible, but we wanted to show the contrast between [her], Disney, the Sherman brothers and Don DaGradi. They're all expecting this little old lady like Mary Poppins to arrive and that's not what they get. We wanted P.L. Travers to be this formidable presence; sophisticated, contrary, completely British and a fish out of water in sunny, southern California. You know, to contrast her with the secretaries.

SC: There's a strength that resonates from Thompson's portrayal of P.L. Travers, which stems from her outfits. Do costumes make a difference to actors when they're getting into character?

DO: Sometimes, costume designers are more like psychologists. We decided that P.L. Travers, a woman of her means, probably had her clothes made. It was a custom to have a dressmaker and you would bring in pictures of magazines or say, "This is what I want." P.L Travers was a woman who needed the money to continue her lifestyle and that's why she came to California. Emma Thompson is quite a bit more attractive than the real P.L. Travers, so we gave her a sturdier shoe [to help get into character]. We covered her arms to be more modest. We paid attention to the little details.

On the challenges and joys of creating authentic costumes for Saving Mr. Banks:
SC: What were some of the challenges for the costume department when creating this movie?

DO: The big challenges were we had two different periods: 1906, her childhood in Australia and then we went right into the 1960s. Another one of our bigger challenges was recreating Disneyland in 1961. It looks quite different. We also had to recreate many of the walk around characters from that time at Disneyland, like the ride operators and the balloon sellers.

SC: Which character's wardrobe did you have the most fun designing?

DO: I have to say just doing the fittings with Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks and Colin Farrell were so much fun. We made all of our principle clothes and all of a sudden the actors felt, "Oh yes! This is my character." It's that great 'aha' moment and that's a great joy.

SC: Can you discuss the fine details you had to focus on when creating authentic costumes for the movie?

DO: The little insignia on [Disney's] tie is the Smoke Tree Ranch symbol. He had a house in Palm Springs at Smoke Tree Ranch, which is still there and it was Walt's getaway from the city. Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers wears her father's ring that Colin Farrell (who portrays P.L. Travers' father) wears in the flashback. Some people notice it but most people don't. However, it's a nice connection for Colin and Emma to have, since they have no scenes together.

On reviving fashion statements to suit the modern era:

SC: If there were one fashion statement from the 1960s that you could bring back in 2014, what would it be?

DO: I love the idea of people going to Disneyland or places like that and getting dressed up. It was an adventure and it was fun. To see the people going to Disneyland now as opposed to the people then, where some of them had ties on and the kids were all dressed up and were neat, clean and colourful, it was great to see that contrast while filming at Disneyland.

Check out our photo gallery featuring some of Daniel Orlandi's sketches for Saving Mr. Banks, along with images of Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson and Colin Farrell in character.

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Saving Mr. Banks: Inspiration from vintage Disney

A young P.L. Travers and her father in Australia

Acclaimed costume designer Daniel Orlandi notes that a particular challenge for the costume department was remaining authentic to the times depicted in Disney's Saving Mr. Banks. "The big challenges were we had two different periods: 1906, her [Travers'] childhood in Australia and then we went right into the 1960s," he said.

By: Simone Castello Source: Walt Disney Studios Canada Credits: Canadian Living

Saving Mr. Banks: Inspiration from vintage Disney

Daniel Orlandi's sketch for Walt Disney's suit

Orlandi also discussed the importance of creating outfits that were signifcant and true to the fashion trends of those periods. "[Hanks] wanted to be Walt Disney, so whatever was right for Walt Disney, that's what he wanted," he said. "It was always a grey suit, which was sort of the custom of the time anyway for a head of a company; a business grey suit is what they wore. It's a serious colour."

By: Simone Castello Source: Walt Disney Studios Canada Credits: Canadian Living

Saving Mr. Banks: Inspiration from vintage Disney

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney

Focusing on fine details: According to Orlandi, the little insignia on [Disney's] tie is the Smoke Tree Ranch symbol. "He had a house in Palm Springs at Smoke Tree Ranch, which is still there and it was Walt's getaway from the city," he said.

By: Simone Castello Source: Walt Disney Studios Canada Credits: Canadian Living

Saving Mr. Banks: Inspiration from vintage Disney

Daniel Orlandi's sketch for P.L. Travers' classic outfit

Orlandi is quick to point out that P.L. Travers is not Mary Poppins. "We wouldn't want her to look like Mary Poppins. We wanted her to be as authentic as possible, but we wanted to show the contrast between [her], Disney, the Sherman brothers and Don DaGradi," he said."They're all expecting this little old lady like Mary Poppins to arrive and that's not what they get."

By: Simone Castello Source: Walt Disney Studios Canada Credits: Canadian Living

Saving Mr. Banks: Inspiration from vintage Disney

Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers

Orlandi discussed the transformation from Emma Thompson to to P.L. Travers. "P.L Travers was a woman who needed the money to continue her lifestyle and that's why she came to California," he said. "Emma Thompson is quite a bit more attractive than the real P.L. Travers, so we gave her a sturdier shoe [to help get into character]. We covered her arms to be more modest. We paid attention to the little details."

By: Simone Castello Source: Walt Disney Studios Canada Credits: Canadian Living

Saving Mr. Banks: Inspiration from vintage Disney

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson as Walt Disney and P.L. Travers

Orlandi spoke of the joy he experienced while creating costumes for everyone from the actors to the extras in Saving Mr. Banks: "I have to say just doing the fittings with Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks and Colin Farrell were so much fun. We made all of our principle clothes and all of a sudden the actors felt, "Oh yes! This is my character." It's that great 'aha' moment and that's a great joy."

By: Simone Castello Source: Walt Disney Studios Canada Credits: Canadian Living


Saving Mr. Banks is now available on Blue-Ray and DVD, so you can watch this wonderful movie in the comfort of your own home.
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Saving Mr. Banks: Bringing 1960s Disney to life

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