The new movie "Saving Mr. Banks" tells the story of Walt Disney's personal quest to get the rights from author P.L. Travers to make "Mary Poppins." The story was very moving, but I was especially interested in how the songs came about. Richard and Robert Sherman had quite a difficult time pleasing Mrs. Travers. She did not approve of "made-up" words and rhymes. And that was their signature schtick! Eventually, though, things worked out. Mrs. Travers softened to the ideas presented to her, especially after she heard the finale song "Let's Go Fly a Kite." Structurally, that song is simple and joyous, yet it reaches down to much deeper human emotions, those of love and healing. Little wonder everyone in the theater that day went out singing it.
The Sherman Brothers were one of the most prolific songwriting teams of all time. They wrote songs for many, many Disney movies throughout the 1960's and 1970's and wrote for more movies and stage plays after that. My generation, Disney fans of course, was raised on these songs. None of them were too musically complex or sophisticated, yet they resonated with truth and joy and humor. The most important barometer of the success of a musical show in those days was whether the audience would leave the theater singing the songs. In that respect, the Sherman Brothers were highly successful.
As a songwriter of Children's Theater material, I hope to fulfill that same goal. My aim is to create songs that make the children smile and go out of the theater singing! The songs need not be sophisticated or complex or even great art. They do need, however, to resonate with joy and love and fun. It helps, too, if they are CATCHY and SHORT! Believe me, there is nothing quite so fulfilling as to hear the audience go out of the theater humming or whistling your happy tunes!