Pollack-Pelzner’s article comes as “Mary Poppins Returns” picked up four Academy Award nominations last week. He calls the new film “an enjoyably derivative film that seeks to inspire our nostalgia for the innocent fantasies of childhood, as well as the jolly holidays that the first ‘Mary Poppins’ film conjured for many adult viewers.”
Pollack-Pelzner cautions, however, that the new film is “bound up in a blackface performance tradition” that persists throughout the “Mary Poppins” genre.
The professor, who graduated from Yale University with a history degree in 2001 and earned his doctorate in English from Harvard University nine years later, also notes that “minstrel history” associated with blackface and racial commentary is not limited to “Mary Poppins.” He says it is “a mainstay” of Disney musicals, including the jiving blackbird in the 1941 film, “Dumbo,” and a 1933 Mickey Mouse short, “Mickey’s Mellerdrammer,” which parodies “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
"Disney has long evoked minstrelsy for its topsy-turvy entertainments," Pollack-Pelzner writes. "A nanny blacking up, chimney sweeps mocking the upper classes, grinning lamplighters turning work into song."
Pollack-Pelzner's opinion piece caused several fans of the movie to kick their knees up: