Iconic director Stanley Kubrick operates on a totally different spectrum to the films of Walt Disney, preferring to tell stories of the existential troubles of war and human torment over magical tales of childlike wonder. That isn’t to say, however, that Kubrick ignored every film ever to come out of the industry titan, nor ignore any film that operated outside his sphere of interest. Such is clearly illustrated on the list of Kubrick’s very favourite films, noting Ron Shelton’s comedy White Men Can’t Jump, Mike Leigh’s fleeting social satire Abigail’s Party and also the Walt Disney classic Mary Poppins.
Stanley Kubrick revealed this in an interview shortly after the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968, wherein the director admitted: “I saw Mary Poppins three times, because of my children, and I like Julie Andrews so much that I enjoyed seeing it three times. I thought it was a charming film”.
The original 1964 classic, starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, follows a magical nanny (Andrews) who employs music and adventure to help two neglected children become closer to their father. Receiving five Academy Awards for the film, including a leading actress award for Andrews and a statuette for Best Original Song for ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’, Mary Poppins remains a popular classic, receiving the sequel treatment in 2018 when Emily Blunt took over the iconic role.
Though Stanley Kubrick’s admiration for the Walt Disney classic was not without complaint, stating: “Children’s films are an area that should not just be left to the Disney Studios, who I don’t think really make very good children’s films. I’m talking about his cartoon features, which always seemed to me to have shocking and brutal elements in them that really upset children”. Elaborating on these traumatic moments, Kubrick recalls Disney’s pre-war 1942 classic, commenting, “I could never understand why they were thought to be so suitable. When Bambi’s mother dies this has got to be one of the most traumatic experiences a five-year-old could encounter”.
Interestingly, the director then goes on to open a wider conversation about the nature of film censorship, noting that there should be stronger regulations for children’s films. “I think that there should be censorship for children on films of violence… I don’t see how this would interfere with freedom of artistic expression. If films are overly violent or shocking, children under 12 should not be allowed to see them. I think that would be a very useful form of censorship,” the director commented.
It was a shame in a way that despite Kubrick addressing many film genres, he never delved into the children’s drama or even the animation sphere. A children’s animation from Stanley Kubrick is something we would’ve all loved to see.