Disney's Banking On "Saving Mr. Banks"

Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) is no stranger to putting out a movie that it can milk on more levels than the obvious. Remember the Country Bear JamboreeThe Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion movies that connected viewers with existing theme-park attractions? Well, the family-entertainment giant may have its biggest multifaceted winner in play when Saving Mr. Banks hits theaters next weekend.

The movie details the challenges that Walter Elias Disney had in getting Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers to buy into his vision of how her literary work should be portrayed on the silver screen. The movie stars Emma Thompson as Travers and Tom Hanks as Disney.

Hanks is no stranger to Disney. He was the star of Splash, the movie with which Disney introduced Touchstone Pictures as a brand to put out live-action releases for older audiences. Hanks is also the voice of Woody the sheriff in the Toy Story movies.

A movie in which Disney himself is a pivotal character may seem like a big gamble, but the studio knows what it's doing. Several scenes were filmed in Disneyland, giving the film the mother of all product placements. It's also not a coincidence that the release happens to coincide with what will next year be the 50th anniversary of the 1964 cinematic debut of Mary Poppins. Disney even introduced an anniversary edition of the movie for the home video market on Tuesday, including its first release on Blu-ray.

Nice timing, Disney.

There's also the nature of the release. Putting out a movie this late in December isn't just a play for holiday audiences. Disney is probably hoping that the sentimental feel-good flick helps catapult Hanks or Thompson toward an Oscar nomination. 

Fans of Mary Poppins know that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but a theatrical release that will enhance several of Disney's media pursuits is even sweeter.

Disney wants to win in your living room
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