Mary Poppins Parrot Umbrella Build

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ChickenHaunt

Well-Known Member
I was reminded recently of one of the first movie props I really coveted: the talking parrot umbrella from Mary Poppins. When I started thinking about it, I realized it’s not all that complicated a piece (unless you get into the mechanics of making a talking version, which…maybe…). So why not have a go at it?

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In my research, it became clear that there are several umbrellas used in the film. There’s certainly a talking one and a static one, but there are also variations in the pole, tassel, and paint job of the parrot.


I came across an expired auction (https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/56572402_mary-poppins-original-prop-parrot-head-umbrella) for what claims to be one of the originals. I’m not so sure that it is. The paint looks unlike anything seen in the film (both in style and color), the eye is painted (rather than an inserted doll’s eye), and the treatment of the handle with wrapped cord doesn’t match anything on screen that I could find. But that’s not to say it isn’t an original that’s been restored, or at the very least a casting of the original bird. What it did give me was a scale to work off of.


Disney has offered three versions of the movie umbrella. It looks like Icons produced a prototype of the prop, as well, but I haven’t come across much info on that project. Two of the released Disney versions are derived from the original mold, and there are better pictures of these than of the prop in the movie. And while it looks like some detail was softened in the manufacturing process, these still provide a nice blueprint for where things line up on the sculpture.


Now the other component is, of course, the umbrella itself. I spent some time searching the web for a simple black umbrella to use as a base. It turned out to be rather difficult to find manual open umbrellas of the right size. Eventually, Target came through with one that nearly fit the bill, except the tip is all wood instead of wood and metal (https://www.target.com/p/shedrain-wood-stick-umbrellas-black/-/A-16858083). I cut off the hook at the handle, and that looked about the right length for the wider part of the pole.


I’m sculpting the bird over a pipe that’s close to the size of the handle, so I can slip it off and try it on the umbrella. This is a couple of short sessions in. I'll do a silicone mold of this and make the final piece in resin.


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Benjamin628

New Member
Hi there! I haven't been on this forum in a quite some time. My last post was on a thread about another umbrella replica prop from Harry Potter.
So hey, Poppins umbrella is the prop I have always been most interested in my whole life. It was my 'grail' as they say, my life's dream to own the original.
I have the 2 best props you've mentioned that Disney released. Sold my Broadway play version after seeing how terrible it is in person. I'm only missing the one with the London skyline inside.

Anyway, I have taken apart and modified the ones I've bought to make them more accurate or replace the canopy frames. I have my original hard resin handle from the first Disney collectible that was short and had no shaft on the handle, just had the head (it's solid and heavy!) and my wooden articulated beak version that was the most movie-accurate they made. They are currently in pieces as I am too busy with home projects and car repairs to get them done, but surely in the next few months I will.

As for my holy grail? I bought it a couple months ago! The one-off replica made my by ICONS! From the brochure it came with it appears to have been made in the 60's-70's?
It cost me a pretty penny and I am currently trying to find a suitable display case for it.
If you want some high definition close up photos of it I would be happy to provide you with them!
I want to see how your hand-sculpted version has come along?! If you need an accurate umbrella to put it on I can help you source one; to be accurate it needs to be the old/antique/Victorian style that has a deep canopy with high arches.
 

ChickenHaunt

Well-Known Member
As for my holy grail? I bought it a couple months ago! The one-off replica made my by ICONS! From the brochure it came with it appears to have been made in the 60's-70's?
It cost me a pretty penny and I am currently trying to find a suitable display case for it.
If you want some high definition close up photos of it I would be happy to provide you with them!
I want to see how your hand-sculpted version has come along?! If you need an accurate umbrella to put it on I can help you source one; to be accurate it needs to be the old/antique/Victorian style that has a deep canopy with high arches.
Yeah, I would love some nice reference photos of the Icons piece! With size reference if possible. Definitely interested in any help on a proper umbrella base, too. Thanks!

I had the shelve the sculpt for a while. I'll likely get back to it in the summer. The next bit of problem solving is how to accommodate the eyes in the casting, and whether to make the lower beak separate for a possible animated version.

When I last picked it up, I was working out the detail below the bird with my 3D printer, since I don't have a lathe. It's trickier than I expected to get the right proportions here. This is the third try, but I might give it another go, yet.

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Benjamin628

New Member
Wow! It looks spot-on! Excellent work sir!
The only umbrella on the website mentioned above that has the right style/look of Poppins umbrella is this one: https://www.james-smith.co.uk/product/umbrellas/gents-umbrellas/fit-up/malacca-cane-fit-up/
If I were you I would have someone make me the wooden section of the base of the parrot, where the tassel is to be tied around. I have a sketch somewhere of the whole handle section that I drew up when I was planning to have a wood worker make me one for one of my re-built replicas. I'll post that as well for you.
I would recommend against making the beak animated on your first attempt at making this umbrella. It would most likely be fragile and prohibit you from wanting to carry it and show it off. That is why I am re-building my replicas, to make them more sturdy (as well as accurate) so that I can actually use them. The ICONS replica being the exception of course. It has never seen rain and I'll keep it that way.
 

ChickenHaunt

Well-Known Member
Thanks, all!

Yeah, even that umbrella appears to have partly brass instead of silver metal tip pieces, so I couldn't really justify the cost. There are at least 4 different umbrellas I can ID in the film, so unless the perfect one comes along, I'm okay with being in the ballpark on a budget.

My plan is to cast the round base in the same piece of resin as the head. I'd still be interested to see the designs you drew up.

I don't see much rain where I live, so this is meant only as a display piece. What I'll likely do is treat the sculpture as one piece (except for the upper eyelids, which will have to glue on after in order to install the eyes), then modify a hollow casting for movement.... Then again I may still separate the lower beak to allow for easier molding with some concavity in the beaks. TBD.
 

Benjamin628

New Member
I have studied every scene closely where the umbrella in prominent in the film, and I can only see 3 distinct different ones: the original, the 'automatic' spring loaded one she uses to parachute down from the chimney, and the animated mechanical version at the end. Not counting the Jolly Holiday flamingo parasol.
This ICONS replica was made in exacting detail to the movie prop borrowed from Disney to make it, and is as close as we could hope to ever see in person.
That being said, here are my pics showing measurements. It is hard to tell from my picture angles but they are exact. It's clear to see in person.

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ChickenHaunt

Well-Known Member
Buch, you can never have too many!

Fantastic pictures! Thank you Benjamin!

So the total length is about 35.5" to the top of the head? Could I trouble you for a wide shot of the whole thing with the tape measure so I can pick out sizes of the top, fabric portion, etc?

The umbrellas I can spot are:

The standard hand prop
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This darker paint job (see the white eye area is blue). I'm leaving this one as a maybe because it could just be one of the others repainted
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The wide shot flying umbrella (no graduation in the pipe, different/offset canopy
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This one in the rain with a border around the canopy
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And the puppet version (which you can se here full length with the cables out the bottom!)
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I haven't got a reference saved for the automatic one you mentioned, so it may be one of these?
 

ChickenHaunt

Well-Known Member
Progress!

I finished up the sculpture the other day and threw it in some silicone!

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First cast is pretty good. A few problem areas I'm troubleshooting bubble-wise. The eyelids are molded separately so the eye can be inserted.

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I've got plans for a mechanical version that are starting to seem doable in my head, but it made sense to get it finished off as the static prop first so that
1) there's a starting point to work from for the animated version
2) I've got something complete to show for my time before embarking on that adventure.

I'll be able to cast up a hollow version to modify for movement down the road.
 

trilanth

New Member
how much for a resin cast of the umbrella head , i have been trying off and on to make one, is it possible to get a recast of yours???? this is fantastic work.......
 

ChickenHaunt

Well-Known Member
Because of the variations in paint on the real parrots, I had some decisions to make when it came to painting mine. I played around on the piece a bit, and ended up following the basic color scheme of the talking version, as it gets the best close ups in the film. I tried to approach it with a washy, watercolor-like thought process, as I thought that best matched the feel of the film's design principles, looking in particular at the matte paintings of a dreamy London cityscape, and the actual prop snowglobe. Not too clean and polished, but not overly heavy handed, either. A lovingly handmade piece.

Here's where I ended up!

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ChickenHaunt

Well-Known Member
Thanks guys!

I don't think it'll happen for a while, but I've been thinking about how to do the talking version, so I picked up another umbrella to convert. I picked up this Totes umbrella last week for the base. It has a proper metal ferrule on the tip. The downside is it's automatic, but I'll be hiding electronics in the folded canopy anyway, so I can just disable the umbrella mech. The other nice thing is it's got a metal tube for the main pole, so it's ready to run wires through.
 

nickytea

Sr Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Thanks guys!

I don't think it'll happen for a while, but I've been thinking about how to do the talking version, so I picked up another umbrella to convert. I picked up this Totes umbrella last week for the base. It has a proper metal ferrule on the tip. The downside is it's automatic, but I'll be hiding electronics in the folded canopy anyway, so I can just disable the umbrella mech. The other nice thing is it's got a metal tube for the main pole, so it's ready to run wires through.
If you need any reference of the mechanism used on the wooden talking parrot umbrella Kevin and Jody did for Disney a while back, let me know and I can bust mine out.
 

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