The peculiarity of a child’s mind is that two contradictory beliefs can coexist comfortably with no ill effects or feelings of hypocrisy. When I was little, I loved Mary Martin’s Peter Pan. I knew that Mary Martin was a full-grown adult, and therefore was flying by some practical means, but I also knew that if I jumped just high enough, I would get stuck in the air and start to fly. When I watched Lamb Chop’s Playalong, I realized that Lamb Chop must not be a real sheep. But since Shari’s hands were always visible, then Lamb Chop couldn’t be a puppet either (my theory was that she was a robot). Likewise, I loved watching this scene in Mary Poppins, because while I understood there was a practical explanation, to me it looked like magic:
I recently watched Peter Pan and Mary Poppins in a marathon of misguided nostalgia. This is what I discovered: Growing up means seeing the wires in Mary Martin’s costume. Growing up a film geek means seeing spliced special effects. To some extent, knowing the practical effect has killed the magic of the moment. But seeing the mouse-eared man behind the curtain doesn’t make me love Mary Poppins any less. In some ways, I love it more because I know the effort and detail that go into special effects and recognize that this film is a labor of love. (Even more of a labor than previously thought, if Saving Mr. Banks is true.) That being said, I’ve stayed away from The Neverending Story since then. No sense in ruining all of my childhood memories.