Robert Sherman dies at 86; songwriter best known for 'Mary Poppins'
At the Academy Awards ceremony in 1965, Robert and Richard Sherman already had accepted their Oscar for best score for "Mary Poppins" when they returned to the stage to pick up another statuette for best song, "Chim Chim Cher-ee."

Having already thanked everyone, Robert Sherman told the audience that all they could add was "Supercalifragilistic...." Then, as often happened when they spoke, Richard Sherman completed his brother's sentence by saying, "expialidocious."
Robert Sherman: In the March 7 Section A, the obituary of songwriter Robert Sherman, who with his brother Richard wrote music for Disney films and other productions, said they won three Grammy Awards. In fact, they were nominated three times but won only once, for best original score written for a motion picture or television show, for "Mary Poppins."

The tongue-twister of a song title from the blockbuster 1964 Disney musical powerfully reminded viewers that the brothers wrote irresistibly upbeat songs that spoke to everyday people.

As film critic Leonard Maltin told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday: "You can't help but smile when you sing or hum a Sherman brothers song."

On Monday, Robert Sherman, who grew up and lived most of his life in Beverly Hills, died at the London Clinic of an age-related illness, his family said. He was 86.

The Shermans were Walt Disney's songwriters of choice, their music for "Mary Poppins" including the jaunty "A Spoonful of Sugar" and the somber "Feed the Birds." For Disneyland attractions, the brothers wrote such instantly familiar tunes as "It's a Small World" and "The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room."

"My brother Bob was a poetic soul with limitless imagination and talent," Richard Sherman said in a statement. "He was my loyal friend all through the years."

"A piece of our childhood has been taken away," film music historian Jon Burlingame said. "They wrote some of the most resonant songs of our childhood, and that doesn't apply only to those of us who grew up in the 1960s but also to those born ever since."

Their career milestone came with "Mary Poppins," the tale of an English nanny and her unruly charges starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

The Shermans already had done work for the Disney Studio, including writing the 1959 hit "Tall Paul" for Annette Funicello, when Disney handed them a small book by British author P.L. Travers in 1960.

He told them to read it and tell him what they thought.

"We said it would make the greatest musical fantasy of all time," Richard Sherman recalled in a 1993 joint Houston Chronicle interview with his brother. "Of course, that book was 'Mary Poppins.' So we underlined some chapters that we felt were really musical. And when we showed Walt our notes and played the song sketches, he pulled out his book, and he'd underlined the very same chapters."

It was, Robert said, "one of the greatest feelings we've ever had."

Van Dyke recalled that the Sherman brothers were "deeply involved" throughout the filming of "Mary Poppins."

"They were always on the set helping Julie and I with our interpretation of the songs," he told The Times on Tuesday. "They had a lot to do with the atmosphere, the lightness."

The two brothers, Van Dyke said, "were opposite ends of the pole as far as their personalities were concerned. Robert was the somber one. He kept within himself. Dick was gregarious and outgoing and loves to perform.

"As songwriters, they were a perfect combination. The emotion was Robert and the fun was Dick's part. They were made by God for Walt Disney. They somehow managed to convey Walt's meaning in those songs."