One of the Oscars’ most egregious snubs surprisingly came in the form of Walt Disney. Saving Mr. Banks is a film that focuses on the creation of one of Disney’s most famous films: Mary Poppins. The film primarily centers around P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the true-life writer of the Mary Poppins novel that Disney is eager to adapt into a family film. Travers is a stern British woman whose novel was primarily a reflection of her own childhood that she is heavily guarded about. Financially she needs the adaptation to happen, to which she begrudgingly works with the Disney team and gives them tremendous pushback whenever they attempt to interject anything within the canon of comedy or being family-oriented. Yet it is Walt Disney himself (Tom Hanks) who begins to bring down her defensive wall through his charm and charisma. However, in the process of Walt Disney appealing to her, he inadvertently causes Travers to confront her past, especially her emotional issues regarding her relationship with her father.
Rather than have her P.L. Travers be a woman audiences resented and hated, Emma Thompson’s portrayal of the writer is one that ironically has her seen as endearing despite her shortcomings. She was careful to construct the character’s stern demeanor to be part of a defensive shield, one that she uses to be sure that men do not diminish her and also to feel that she is in control and relevant amongst society. Thompson is also sure to interject subtlety into the character by having Travers discreetly wanting to have fun and resisting the charms of Walt Disney, thereby indicating her humanity. Thompson represents Travers as a woman who wants to experience the joy and laughter that Disney represents, but finds herself at a crossroads where she feels that she ought to maintain elements of her past that she knows haunts her. This created a remarkable, well-rounded character that was truly captivating to watch on screen.
Emma Thompson was universally nominated with all precursors awards leading into the 2014 Oscars, having been nominated for the Golden Globe, Critics Choice Award, BAFTA, and the SAG. On paper, Thompson was the “guarantee” nominee in the Leading Actress category. However, due to the Academy Awards’ favoritism for Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson suddenly saw herself pushed out of the category in favor of Meryl Streep’s performance in August: Osage County. While Streep did offer a good performance, it didn’t come close to the complexity and careful construction Emma Thompson offered to her P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks.