Disney faced a daunting task remaking the classic ‘Mary Poppins’ film, beloved by audiences worldwide. ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ had to honour the original while feeling fresh for modern viewers. With William Sugg’s help, Disney aimed to recreate the original heritage lanterns’ unique look and feel, while updating them to match the new film’s creative direction. These special effect heritage lanterns would feature heavily throughout the production.

The customer

The Disney Corporation was faced with an exciting but daunting task when they set out to remake the classic film ‘Mary Poppins.’  The original film, released in 1964, is loved by many across the world and considered an iconic blockbusting family movie, even today.

The pressure was on to ensure the highly anticipated remake, ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ was true to the original, yet also fresh and new for a modern audience. 

Disney needed to find a way to replicate the unique look and feel of the original heritage lanterns.  The newly created lanterns needed to reflect the era of the original but ensure that they were fit for the new film’s creative direction. These special effect heritage lanterns were set to feature heavily throughout the film.

The challenge

During the process of making this exciting new film, there were several challenges to overcome. 

The lanterns needed to be a true reflection of the street lighting of that time, and replicate those that featured in the original Mary Poppins film.  Traditional handcrafting techniques were required to ensure the final products were manufactured to the highest of standards. Attention to the little intricate details and knowledge of heritage lantern manufacture and design was critical here. 

If there’s one thing that can make or break a scene in a movie (other than the acting), it’s bad lighting. The way a scene is lit helps to create the mood, atmosphere and sense of meaning for the audience. Each lantern needed to be individually modified to enhance their ‘look’ on camera under dark lighting. 

A substantial quantity of lanterns were required and the lead time was short.  In total, over 200 lanterns were required and the production time was only 10 weeks from start to finish. 

The solution/product

As world leaders in heritage lighting, William Sugg & Co. Ltd’s expertise and ability to meet the exacting standards required meant that we were the perfect choice for this project.

Historical designs that had been originally manufactured by Sugg since the 1800’s were adapted to create the timeless backdrop of the original movie, but with a subtle modern twist.

Specialist components were sourced from Europe and the US to create the lighting effects that aimed to wow the audience.  This enhanced the lanterns’ appearance on camera and these special lighting effects were achieved safely and sustainably.

Sugg’s team of heritage lighting specialists worked tirelessly to meet the tight deadline, running the factory seven days per week to achieve delivery within the tight deadlines required.

The results

The heritage lanterns shone brightly and safely throughout the busy filming schedule and their incredible detailing helped create Disney magic in the form of gaslighting.

The traditional lanterns were heavily featured in the film, particularly in the scene showcasing an original song and dance routine ‘Trip a Little Light Fantastic’. Undoubtedly one of the most notable scenes in the new film, ‘Trip A Little Light Fantastic’ pays homage to the iconic ‘Chim Chim Chur-ee’ from the original 1964 motion picture. However, rather than focusing on the sooty chimney sweeps of the Edwardian era, the remake pays tribute to the many ‘Leeries’ that once lit up the streets of London.

A “Leerie” is the name given to the people who lit lamps in Mary Poppins. Historically they would be in charge of maintaining and lighting gas in the streets of towns and cities across the country. Seeing as this was the only way people could see at night, a Leerie was an important and well-respected job position.

The film’s director and production team were extremely pleased with the authentic and high-quality lanterns provided, further establishing William Sugg & Co. Ltd’s reputation as a world leader in heritage lighting.

The film grossed $349 million worldwide and received positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances of the cast (particularly that of Blunt and Miranda).  Also receiving praise was the direction, visuals, musical score, musical numbers, costume design, production values, visual effects (especially the animated segments), and sense of nostalgia. It was chosen by both the National Board of Review and American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of 2018 and received numerous award nominations,

“William Sugg & Co. Ltd manufactured a range of special effect gas lanterns and cast columns for the Mary Poppins motion picture. We required an authentic historical design as the lanterns were central to an important scene (and dance routine). We required large flames to ensure a film appropriate lighting effect on camera so the lanterns were adapted specifically for this requirement. The team delivered an exemplary service within the tight timelines we demanded and are clear specialists in heritage gas lighting. The hand crafting and expert finish was excellent.”

Dan Pitts, Production Buyer.  Cherry Tree Productions

William Sugg & Co. Ltd are proud to have been a part of this iconic film and are always excited to work on projects that require authentic and high-quality heritage lighting. If you have a project that requires traditional lighting and exacting standards, please do not hesitate to enquire with us

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