Friday, May 18, 2012

Mary Poppins: feed the pigeons

Title: Mary Poppins
Year:  1964
Director: Robert Stevenson
Running time: 140 min.
Country: United States

Mary Poppins is one of the most popular Walt Disney musicals. We will see that pigeons left an important footprint (should I say clawprint?) on the film and soundtrack. 
Bert with pigeons around.
One of the first pigeon appearances is when Bert (Dick Van Dyke), a friend of Mary (Julie Andrews) appears working in a park as a street artist. We can notice that he is not actually alone, and a flock of these feathered creatures wander over his paintings. Typical pigeon activity in urban park environments. Bert seems not to care about the pigeons. This is not the case of the next character who is devoted to pigeons. At bed time Mary sings the Feed the birds song to the children. It is the story of an old woman (Jane Darwell) that sits on the steps of Saint Paul's and sells bags full of crumbs to feed the little birds (actually they are pigeons). The main theme of the song is very bird-friendly:

Come feed the little birds,
Show them you care
And you'll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag

The complete scene can be seen here. Nowadays, in most cities, this old woman would receive many complaints from the public and she would probably get a fine from the police because the city council has  forbidden feeding birds.

It is said that the Feed the birds song was Walt Disney's favourite song. Fragments of this song are played during the most important moments of this film. Walt Disney personally gave the role of the old woman to Jane Darwell. This was her last performance.

Details of the pigeon starring 

  • Source: Mary Poppins Starring moment: 0:37:29 and 1:24:20
  • Pigeon activity: They are the typical Londoner pigeons.
  • Symbolism: there is no special symbolism.
  • Relevance: Medium. The pigeons are secondary characters. However, their friendly attitude during the feed the birds song enhances the scene's realism. Jane Darwell was a very good actress and this is one of her most remembered performances.
  • Training level: High. They behave very naturally and friendly.

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