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Walt & El Grupo

Flávio Barroso , Lee Blair , Theodore Thomas    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD

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Product Description

It was 1941 -- a critical time for the world and for the Walt Disney Studio. When the U.S. Government asked Disney to be a cultural ambassador to South America, the stage was set for Walt's very own real-life adventure. With a group of handpicked artists, later called "El Grupo," Disney's WWII road trip achieved the impossible -- goodwill. And in the process, it paved the way for two classic Disney films, SALUDOS AMIGOS and THE THREE CABALLEROS. Brought to life through rare footage and enriched with unique bonus features, WALT & EL GRUPO is a story of inspiration, joy and hope you won't soon forget.

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  30 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-timed Latino excursion for a troubled studio Dec 8 2010
By Dave - Published on Amazon.com
In 1941, the Walt Disney Studio was not in a good place; "Fantasia" had floundered at the box office and a nasty strike had taken a toll on the animation team and especially Walt himself who was crestfallen at the rebellion. The U.S. government stepped in at a most opportune time, requesting that Disney & his team make a goodwill trip to South America. Not only did the trip produce two classic Disney films ("Saludos Amigos" and "The Three Caballeros"), it helped bolster the spirits of the animation team, added a new dimension of culture, and forged a positive relationship between South America and the U.S. that is still talked about to this day. It is touching to hear the interviews and see Walt fleshed out as a human who wanted to soak up knowledge and culture like a sponge. Rather than swoop in like the celebrity that he was, Walt & his team infiltrated the culture, the people (especially local artists), making a lasting impression. The example given was that nobody really cared about Bing Crosby coming during the same time; but Walt...THAT was a big event! Diane Disney (Walt's daughter) is interviewed, and shows a cherished doll that was given to her by her dad when he returned. One South American local tells of his father and how he met Walt and was taken under his wing, eventually culminating in a trip to the states. Many more tales like that are expertly told her, using current interviews and vintage footage.

As a bonus, you'll find a fold-out printed timeline showing what was occurring during World War II and what was happening at Disney during the same time. Very interesting piece.

Extras also include:

* Audio Commentary -- With director Theodore Thomas and historian J.B. Kaufman.

* Photos in Motion -- A demonstration showing the technical process of how rare photos from the original trip shared in Walt & El Grupo transcended time and literally came to life for a unique viewing

From the Director's Cut:

o Home Movies for the Big Screen-- The 16mm Kodachrome footage shot by El Grupo (the nickname given for Disney's team) was originally intended to be reference material. These "home movies" were eventually incorporated into the film; scenes that weren't shot were actually recreated at the Disney Studio and at the local airport (thus you'll note a difference in quality between some of the scenes in "Saludos Amigos").

o My Father's Generation-- Cecilia Acle, daughter of a Chilean passenger, and Cindy Garcia, daughter of Disney story man Ted Sears, discuss the return voyage from South America on the SS Santa Clara, framing their parents within the context of the times.

o Artists and Politicians--Conductor/music historian Roberto Gnattali takes a walk through the ruins of the waterfront Urca Casino, discussing the golden age of the samba and the Brazilian government at the time. It really makes one yearn for a restoration of what was once the entertainment palace where Carmen Miranda performed.

* SALUDOS AMIGOS -- This is billed as the original 1943 version; however, as another reviewer pointed out, the credit title shows Buena Vista, not RKO. Still, it clearly does show Goofy smoking in a cartoon sequence that had been previously edited out.

* Original Theatrical Trailers for "Saludos Amigos" and "The Three Caballeros"

As noted, there is some variance in quality of source material, but it definitely does not detract from this very well-made and informative documentary. 106 minutes, 1:78:1, Dolby Digital 5.1 English & Spanish with English and Spanish subtitles.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walt fans will love this DVD... Nov. 27 2010
By Backroad Junkie - Published on Amazon.com
"Walt & El Grupo", is one of three Disney History DVD's released in November 2010, along with "Waking Sleeping Beauty" and "The Boys, The Sherman Brothers' Story". All three are excellent chronicles of Disney History and worth a watch.

"Walt & El Grupo, The Untold Adventures", is the story of Walt, Lily (his wife) and "The Group" of 16 hand-picked artists and support personnel, during a relatively unknown trip to South America in 1941. It was the genesis of the two "Good Neighbor" movies, "Saludos Amigos" and "The Three Caballeros."

1941 was a particularly hard year for Walt. After the successes of Snow White and Pinnochio, he had a semi-failure with Fantasia in 1940,and as work was being completed on Dumbo in 1941, union organizers struck the Disney Company.

At the same time, WWII in Europe was raging, and he lost the financing of many of the European banks he was working with, leaving the studio (and Walt) over 4 million dollars in debt.

Also during the same time, the US Government was worried about the Nazi influence down in South America, especially in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru. They sent a number of "Good Will Ambassadors" to South America, to try and win over the people and away from Nazi Germany. Many weren't successful.

They asked Walt to do a trip, but declined, he didn't want to go down to South America just to shake hands. But then, this *was* the State Department watching a war in Europe, so they offered additional incentives, including taking a number of people to do research for future movies as well as the underwriting of those movies.

Add up those three events, and Walt was on a 10-week adventure below the equator. (Okay, mostly below the equator.) That's what this documentary is about.

The movie is directed (and commented on) by Theodore Thomas, son of Frank Thomas (not the baseball player) and follows Walt's trip through South America in present day. Some portions seem overly tedious, the film probably could have been a few minutes shorter...

It's produced by The Walt Disney Family Foundation Films, so there's a lot of private and archival film footage (including footage from Walt's 16mm movie camera), as well as correspondence from different members of El Grupo to family back home.

This is more in the vein of a talking head documentary, and Thomas takes you to locations in South America as they are today (with some *remarkable* present day to 1941 (and vice-versa) transitions), panning pictures using a multi-plane camera simulation and interviews with surviving people (or the sons or daughters in some cases) who Walt had an influence on.

I think it's the weakest of the three released. It does document Walt's life in the first half of 1941, right before the U.S.'s involvement in WWII. Both events would cause significant changes to the studio, so it's a story I suppose that needs to be told.

It's a must for Disney History and Walt fans.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful but Dull Travelogue with A Must-Have Bonus Feature Oct. 27 2012
By Jim - Published on Amazon.com
This is a beautiful film loaded with pictures, but it is rather dull. It's a travelogue of sorts that doesn't provide much insight into the personalities involved. If you are a Disney animation fan, there are a few tidbits which will let you see the germs of ideas for SALUDOS AMIGOS and THE THREE CABALLEROS.

What makes this disc a must-have, though, is that it includes an UNEDITED version of SALUDOS AMIGOS. Bring on the cigarettes!
5.0 out of 5 stars An unsung Disney adventure June 30 2014
By Joseph P. Menta, Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
"Walt & El Grupo ("The Group") is a great little documentary about Walt Disney and a group of his animators visiting several South American countries in 1941 at the the behest of the U.S. State Department. The idea was to tip the sympathies of those countries in the direction of the good ol' USA instead of the strengthening Axis nations of Europe. A visit by the popular Disney, it was thought, would be less heavy-handed (as well as more entertaining for the citizenry) than a typical diplomatic mission by US politicians. Walt agreed to go if he was permitted to spend the lion's share of his time working with the locals to develop story ideas for his cartoons, and no one had a problem with that.

Tons of color footage was shot during the course of the Disney visit, which is generously on display in the documentary. There are also many interviews with surviving family members of the original group that traveled with Walt, and they're often seen reading letters that the animators wrote home telling of their many adventures in South America (Rio de Janeiro was a particular favorite of the Disney employees).

Two successful animated productions came out of the trip: "The Three Cabellaros" and "Saludos Amigos". The latter is included among the bonus features, though I'm afraid it's the edited version that removes the sequence of Goofy- dressed as a gaucho- sucking on a cigarette for an extended period of time. No matter, don't let that dissuade you from enjoying this great DVD.
5.0 out of 5 stars It was a gift for a friend... June 7 2014
By Kindle Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
whose father worked on this and the other Latin America Disney film. The friend is now an elder with not much time left so I felt no compunction about spending the bucks on the recordings... And he was soooo over joyed when he received them that the value far exceeded the cost!!!

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