Disney has released a new look at upcoming musical Mary Poppins Returns (via EW). The still sees magical nanny Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt, taking over from Julie Andrews) hoisted in the air during a cheery musical sequence.
The magical musical moment comes from "Trip a Little Light Fantastic," a musical number crafted by veteran songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (Hairspray), which Mary performs alongside street-smart lamplighter Jack (Broadway's Hamilton star Lin-Manuel Miranda).
25 years after the 1964 Walt Disney-produced original, Mary doesn't return to only feed the birds and fly kites: she once again flies into the lives of the now-grown Banks children, Michael (Ben Whishaw) and sister Jane (Emily Mortimer), after the death of Michael's wife, leaving him and his three children in despair.
"We felt it was important to not only reflect the depression era [of the books], but that there had to be a very important reason for Mary to come back," director Rob Marshall said of crafting a sequel that draws on both one of Disney's most beloved creations and the follow-up adventures told in author P.L. Travers' eight-book series.
"It had to be something true and real, and so in our film, Michael's a young father who has three kids and has not only lost his wife, but because of the time period, has also lost his whole sense of wonder and joy and optimism."
Also drawing inspiration from Travers' novels is leading lady Blunt, who sprinkled in dashes of Rosalind Russell's Hildy Johnson from His Girl Friday.
"She's just such fun to play," Blunt said. "I'm so different from this character, but I do know a lot of people like her, so it does feel familiar. The dancing is the thing I really had to learn. Lin and I are not trained dancers in any way, so that was the most arduous part. You see why dancers have the best bodies on planet Earth. You just pour with sweat all day."
The Oscar-nominated Marshall, best known for musicals Chicago and Nine, is familiar with the Disney touch: he steered the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean blockbuster for the studio, following it up with fairy tale-inspired musical Into the Woods. There Marshall teamed with Blunt and acting legend Meryl Streep, who in Mary Poppins Returns plays Mary's eccentric cousin Topsy — just one of the many new additions separating the 54-years-later sequel from its predecessor.
"There's never been a moment when I've felt like I want to in any way re-do the original," Marshall said. "The thing that's so mortifying is when people say it's a remake. Never. No one could touch that. But can we continue the tradition of that storytelling with our own cast, with our own world, with our own sensibility? There's so much more story to tell, and it's because the character's so great."
Mary Poppins Returns opens December 19.