Who owns the copyright for Mary Poppins

How is Mary Poppins' sequel legal if the author refuses a sequel?

Disney was keen to succeed Mary Poppins as early as 1982, but the film fell into one because of legal clauses on both sides creative approval from Disney and PL Travers itself required a glorious legal mess.

Former Disney Production Vice President Marty Kaplan describes how that deadlock resulted in the follow-up film slipping into limbo for decades until her death (and the approval of her family and the trustee of her "literary estate") allowed Disney to exercise the rights regain full creative control.

It was 1988 and I was vice president of Disney for two years. When I got there, Studio President Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted to do a sequel to Mary Poppins, and I was hired to develop a script.

...

But as the new movie "Saving Mr. Banks" doesn't show, Mrs. Travers didn't like Walt Disney's 1964 version at all. And since she still controlled the rights to her Poppins books, my efforts to get a sequel off the ground were entirely theoretical. But in 1987, when Mrs. Travers was 87 years old, Walt's nephew Roy had been approached by the writer Brian Sibley, an acquaintance of his and a longtime friend of hers. Sibley told Disney she was open to a second film in the studio, and within a few months her agent closed a deal, but she pulled out a heavy creative price tag: unlike every other feature in the studio, this one gave control of the story Attitudes and characters to the author of the underlying material. To her.

...

We've tried in vain to convince them to reconsider their veto on our field of play, so this was the direction we were headed for. Five months later, Sibley's treatment of the film came into play. I returned to their living room for the second of five visits, wearing whiskey again so that I could hear their notes on Sibley's approach and they would hear the studio's notes. I was sure she wouldn't like our notes - they were all requests for changes - and indeed she did.

...

Seven years and many treatments, scripts, notes, and a few writers after starting my collaboration with Mary Poppins, the studio abandoned the project - it was just too hard to work within its confines

Mary Poppins is not coming back

Her last will and testament didn't specifically "forbid" Disney from making a sequel, nor did she have the legal reasons to do so. Her original licensing rights with Disney from the 1960s certainly included the right to make additional films based on her books, all of which were offered as options. Nobody else would make a movie and their goal seems to have been to make a movie rather than block it outright.

PL Travers published six children's books with Mary Poppins between 1934, 15 and 1982. In 1960, she and a family business entered into an agreement with Walt Disney Productions, according to which they agreed to grant Walt Disney Productions the right to make film adjustments to any of the Mary Poppins books (subject to the conditions for approving its content) and the only and exclusive film rights in the books , along with today's "merchandising" rights. The assigned rights did not include dramatic rights, radio or television rights, but PL Travers committed yourself, the dramatic rights, radio or television rights not in the books "To exploit or otherwise treat","Except through and by agreement with" Walt Disney Productions "Conditions that can be mutually agreed in the following"

[2013] UKFTT 436 (TC) THE TRUSTEES OF MRS PL FRAVERS TRUST (complainant) - and - THE PICKING FOR THE REVENUE AND CUSTOMS OF HER MAJESTY (respondent)

A quick look at their will (as discussed in the case law above) shows that they are doing so calculated that her other books would eventually be made into follow-up films, and make arrangements for the proceeds to be distributed.

Any payments my trustees receive in relation to or in relation to future commercial productions or exploitation in any form of books I have written ( including a sequel to the film "Mary Poppins" ), are held by my trustees distribute in the following ways:

... Etc.


So what did she specifically forbid?

The answer is that Travers firmly believed that any stage show should be based on an accurate retelling of her books, rather than the Disney movie (which she hated with a vengeance). Disney, in turn, insisted that due to a clause in its original contract (that any production that started in the West End or Broadway would be linked to the copyright of its original film after 21 days) that every production had to remain true to their loyalty to film .

Though she will repeat those concerns, Travers' death and a settled lawsuit between Disney and her trustees meant a production that will ultimately be a merger of the books and iconic images from the film was launched in 2004.