If you are a Mary Poppins fan, as I am, you were probably as excited as I was to check out Saving Mr. Banks, which is based on Walt Disney’s long-time efforts to bring Mary Poppins to the big screen. As chronicled in the film, that proved to be quite the challenge given that the author, P.L. Travers, (after having Disney jump through hoops for 20 years to win the film rights) was prone to such antics as insisting that Disney eliminate the color red from the film and avoid any type of animation. If you are paying close attention, you may also notice some interesting details in the film, including its subtle treatment of Disney’s smoking habit.
Disney, who ultimately succumbed to lung cancer complications, was a chain smoker for much, if not all, of his adult life. However, he was careful not to smoke around children, and there is a studio-wide ban on smoking in Disney films. In Saving Mr. Banks, you will see some hints to this habit in Tom Hanks’ portrayal of the animator and producer. More specifically, Hanks stubs out a cigarette in one scene and there are also references to Disney’s incessant cough.
With the growing number of areas banning smoking and the new trend with e-cigarettes, the film got me thinking about tobacco in the workplace. Depending on what state you live in, you may be surprised to learn that certain states provide specific protections for smokers and other tobacco users. For example, a South Carolina statute makes it unlawful to base personnel actions (including but not limited to terminations, demotions, etc.) on an employee’s use of tobacco products outside the workplace. Some states go even further and prohibit employers from basing personnel decisions on employees’ lawful nonworking activities–smoking, drinking alcohol, recreational activities, etc.
If you happen to be watching Saving Mr. Banks this weekend, take note of this little bit of film trivia. That’s not a frog caught in Hanks’ throat, but part of his efforts to portray the beloved animator more realistically.