PRACTICALLY PERFECT IN EVERY WAY

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Illustrator Jim Schaeffing rendered this charming drawing for production designer Tony Walton for the Walt Disney movie Mary Poppins.  After making his name in commercial illustration on the East Coast, Schaeffing moved his family west, where he landed a job at the Disney Studio.  His first assignment was Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959) before he was put to work on the studio’s adaptation of P.L. Travers’ novels.

Disney’s film went into production in 1961. Among many changes from the novel, the setting was moved from the 1930s to the Edwardian era.  Working for Walton, Schaeffing envisioned a sitting room replete with the staid trappings of that period. Whirling at the center, the children are dancing with maids and a certain chimney sweep and nanny.  Likely created before the actors were cast, Schaeffing’s rendering managed to set the tone for the cast’s exuberant spirit and high-stepping choreography.

This drawing is one of many production design drawings in the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library. Such images allow the film’s creative team to develop their ideas about a scene and imagine how a set would look. Of course, bringing a scene from paper to film is a highly collaborative process, with many steps and changes along the way. Production design drawings offer a privileged peek into the beginnings of this complex process.  

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