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Mary Poppins Returns: How to Add a ‘Spoonful of Sugar’ When Expanding Old Content

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Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.

When the news of a sequel to the timeless classic family film was first confirmed, a lot of people did not react in a positive way. Many argued that Walt Disney Studios was taking an apparent love for rebooting and remaking its own content a little too far. However, others at least felt curious when it came to the chance of seeing just what the studio would do with the story after a 54-year hiatus.

Fast forward to Monday, September 17th – the day that the first full-length trailer for Mary Poppins Returns essentially broke the Internet. Those who had doubts in the past were finally able to put them to rest after witnessing Oscar-nominated actress Emily Blunt diving into the role to grab the baton left by Julie Andrews all those years ago. Perhaps you were one of the people who helped make the Mary Poppins Returns trailer go viral with over 2 million views in less than 24 hours after it was first posted online – quickly becoming the #1 video on YouTube the same day.

You may have even marked your calendar with the theatrical release date and shared your excitement over the Rob Marshall-directed movie with your friends and family members.

Even if you have no plans to watch Mary Poppins Returns at all, there are still several key lessons that content marketers and developers can take away from the overall film and specifically its now-viral trailer.

A Complete Rewrite or Remake is Not Always the Answer

In today’s age of recycled content on the big-screen and small-screen alike, it seems to be the normal routine to just remake stories that have already been told. Perhaps the team responsible for the content will keep a few key elements – characters, storylines, etc. – and try to “spice it up” with modernized concepts and dialogue. However, the core of the story is the same as its predecessor and it is quickly referred to as a “remake” of the original film.

If you pay close attention to the Mary Poppins Returns trailer, though, you will see it is not the same story that has already been told. In this new film – starring Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place, The Devil Wears Prada, Sicario) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) – Mary Poppins has apparently decided to return to help the Banks’ children. On paper, it may seem like the exact plot of the original movie. However, the original spin is that Michael and Jane Banks are now grown-up and Michael (now a father and recent widower) needs help with his three children.

With just a simple concept and an original spin, Mary Poppins Returns can breathe life into content that many fans and critics agreed was better off left alone after making waves in the 1960s.

Here’s the Lesson

What is the lesson that content developers can take away? Instead of trying to recreate popular content that may have performed well for you in the past, simply find a way to build on the content that you already have. Since a nice-sized crowd of people were captivated by your content the first time around, the odds of them at least being curious to see what you create next are substantially high. This does not necessarily mean that every follow-up piece must be a “sequel.” The key is to make sure that there are still unanswered questions from the previous content that your audience will want to answer right away.

Find a Creative Way to Blend the Old with the New

Another important lesson is that you must find a way to blend the old content with the new content. Think about the vast number of people who saw Mary Poppins years ago – perhaps as children – who are now interested in sharing the movie with their own children as they anticipate the highly-anticipated sequel to be released. Chances are that those former children/current parents will enjoy seeing homages that honor the original content intertwined within the newer content.

For instance, there are times when you may think that the Mary Poppins Returns trailer is just a remake of the original film – especially when you see how the live-adaptation was blended with the animated birds and imagination sequences as in the first movie. Another way that Rob Marshall was able to blend the old with the new was by enlisting Dick Van Dyke – the only actor from the original movie who will be appearing in the follow-up sequel. The legendary actor is reportedly playing the son of the character that he played in the original film!

Here’s the Lesson

Even if you have a new topic or subject matter that you have not covered yet, it is still imperative to connect the dots and make it easier for your audience to do the same. They must be able to tie their associations with the original content to their connection with the secondary content. Moderation is key.

  1. If you connect too many dots, then you essentially just have a full remake on your hands.

  2. Hop over to the opposite end of the spectrum and you will see that if you do not connect enough dots, then you are branching off from that original content all together to pave your own way without that “safety net” of familiarity.

Fortunately, the list of movies that have successfully pulled off this blend seems to be growing with each passing year. For instance, think about Tron: Legacy or even Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Both movies were based on and highlighted valuable elements from their predecessors. At the same time, though, they were able to create new stories, new characters and new adventures that flowed well within the same universe.

It’s Never Too Late for Great Content

Are you one of the skeptics that feel a 54-year break is just a little long for a movie franchise to grow? Perhaps you feel as if Mary Poppins Returns could possibly tarnish the legacy and reputation of the first movie. If you took the time to honestly enjoy the full-length trailer, then you more than likely did not react that way at all.

The bottom line is that it is never too late for great content if it’s strategically developed and marketed to your target audience after you have captivated their interest to reel them in. High-quality content will always have layers that can be examined closely. You could even pick those layers apart and expand the content into different directions to build the content as much as possible within the relatively short period available.

The key is to just make sure that you have high-quality content. Not everything needs or should even have a follow-up sequel. If the decision is made to create a follow-up for any type of content that you have posted or published, make sure that you take the necessary steps to get it done right the first time around.

Remember: A spoonful of sugar may make the medicine go down, but only supercalifragilisticexpialidocious content will make your online traffic go up!

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