Walt & El Grupo

Walt Dancing in Argentina

Walt Disney Dancing in Argentina

In 1941, Walt Disney and a group of his animation associates were convinced by the US government to take a goodwill tour of South America. Roosevelt feared the potential for Nazi sympathy on the continent and saw Disney and his group as a perfect vehicle for soft diplomacy. His proposition came at a time of labor unrest in the Disney Studios, as well as closing markets in Europe because of the war. Walt Disney saw this as an opportunity for his creative group to reboot with some new ideas, characters, and storylines inspired by Latin America. The trip lasted around three months, and the group had their longest visits in Brazil and Argentina, but at least some of the entourage also visited Peru, Uruguay, and Chile. This unique cultural exchange and political adventure is documented in the new film Walt & El Grupo. I was happy to see it this week…even though there were only two other people in the theater with me. I guess documentaries aren’t big draws these days. Nonetheless, I would recommend it.

The film is directed by the  son of legendary Disney animator Frank Thomas, mostly features the family of El Grupo in interviews, and has the Disney logo attached to it, so there aren’t any hard shots taken at Walt or the idea of the tour. Mostly it’s just a documentation of what the group of artists experienced during their trip. And what a trip! I wish the US government would pay me to tool around South America making films and drawings and meeting the artistic movers and shakers of the continent. And the Disney folks certainly got production out of the visit. In particular, two films were produced in the forties that directly related to their experience there, Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. (They are package together on DVD, if you’re interested. I currently have it in my Netflix queue.) The former even includes some travelogue moments from their trip…

The latter also includes a Disneyfied mexicano…


One response to “Walt & El Grupo

  1. Pingback: Disney’s Saludos Amigos « The Spanish Dilettante

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