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Azusa Pacific University Professor Tony Bancroft Animates Mary Poppins Returns

Published: December 18, 2018

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Written by: Rachel White, Associate Director of PR, Azusa Pacific University.

More than 15 years after working on Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, and The Emperor’s New Groove, Tony Bancroft, head of Azusa Pacific University’s new Animation and Visual Effects program, revisited his animation career with Disney to animate on the upcoming feature film, Mary Poppins Returns.

In an effort to recapture the traditional, hand-drawn animation style of the original Mary Poppins, Rob Marshall, director of the new film, called upon veteran animators, including Bancroft. The team of animators meticulously drew every frame, perfecting the characters by hand and animating them using paper and pencil just like in the time of Walt Disney.

“To produce authentic, traditional animation, we actually went a step back in time,” said Bancroft. “The resulting product lends a hand-crafted look and classic feel to the performance.”

After receiving choreographed footage of actors Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the animation team gathered together to create a 17-minute-long sequence that blends together live action with vibrant animation. The familiar four dancing penguins from the original Mary Poppins make a reappearance, among two dozen other new animal characters. After more than six months of choreography study and perfecting the animated characters, Bancroft and the animation team completed the task.

“The sequence revisits the original film, while also introducing a unique style and new story,” said Bancroft. “This nostalgic retelling through animation will be the iconic scene of the film the part everyone remembers when walking out of the theater.”

As an animation professor at APU, Bancroft brings his work on the new film into his classroom. Short film clips and drawings provide the foundation for analytical discussions, as Bancroft asks students to share what elements were successful and what could be improved. Many times, Bancroft plays the role of the director, asking students to complete similar, smaller-scale assignments to recreate a realistic studio atmosphere.

Currently, Bancroft is working on the animated film Animal Crackers, as well as hosting a popular podcast with his twin brother, also an animator, called the Bancroft Brothers Animation Podcast, available on iTunes.

APU’s Bachelor of Arts in Animation and Visual Effects trains students to become creative and competent storytellers and animators. The comprehensive cinematic arts curriculum includes animation and drawing classes as well as courses in storyboarding, character design and visual development, ensuring that graduates are competitive candidates for positions in industries such as film, television, and video game design.


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