Walt & El Grupo
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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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Top Customer Reviews
all the people from the Disney Studio travelling to South America at the time.
I'm always scouring looking for footage and stories about Walt and all those
that worked at the Disney Studios when Walt was alive and this certainly
fit the bill. Definitely worth adding to a Disney collection.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
"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.
What makes this disc a must-have, though, is that it includes an UNEDITED version of SALUDOS AMIGOS. Bring on the cigarettes!
This special documentary takes us into the story of how Walt, accompanied by his wife Lilly and his group of writers, artists, and composers took a plane for the beautiful Latin countries South of the Border and helped to create two of his best loved films that reflected the cultures and lifestyles of places such as Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Chile. Included in the film is terrific commentary and historical anecdotes by friends, relatives, and historians of the Disney team. Provided are pictures, conceptual drawings, home movie footage, and films clips.
Much of the film contains wonderful editing and a terrific musical score, with footage of key locations that were of great importance for the Goodwill Tour. Many of the interviewees read over letters that the crew had written about their experiences in those countries. The bonus features are of great importance too, including the entire feature-length film of Saludos Amigos. This is truly a treasure for anyone interested in Walt Disney, Latin America, or history. A wonderful film.
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.