Walt & El Grupo
Directed by: Theodore Thomas Cast: Walt Disney, John Canemaker Running Time: 1 hr 45 min Rating: PG Due Out: November 30, 2010
PLOT: In 1941, Walt Disney was asked by the US Government to go to South America and win the hearts and minds of it's people, many of whom were sympathetic with the Nazi party. So he collected a group of artists from his studio (the "El Grupo" of the title) and journeyed south to do just that.
WHO'S IT FOR? History buffs, fans of Disney history.
Using archival footage and interviews with those who were there and their family and friends, Thomas reconstructs Disney's trip through South America in 1941. According to those in the film, the trip was of great importance to winning the hearts of minds of the people, but unfortunately, it seems to have been a pretty dry trip. Disney and his artists went to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile, they met dignitaries, they danced and filmed and drew cartoons, and that's about it. It's a model goodwill mission but lacks personal drama. Letters that are read later just reveal homesickness. The main problem is that no one on the trip is still alive to talk about it. On one of the extras for Waking Sleeping Beauty, Don Hahn describes the Disney style of documentaries as one with an idealized story line, Disney would play himself as a benevolent father figure leaving out any negatives. It worked so well that he whitewashed anything about this trip that may have been interesting.
I did like the result of their trip though, the Saludos Amigos short included on the disc. It's meant to be educational, but the animated bits are pretty fun. It stars Donald Duck, who tries to be a good tourist, but ends up kind of acting like a jerk. Poor Donald, he has a bad temper that always seems to get the best of him.
If you love Disney, you may enjoy the film, but it's pretty dry for the casual fan.
MOVIE SCORE: 5/10
Audio Commentary with Director Theodore Thomas and Historian J.B. Kaufman Photos in Motion From the Director's Cut --Home Movies for the Big Screen --My Father's Generation --Artists and Politicians Saludos Amigos: Original 1943 Release Original Theatrical Trailers --Saludos Amigos --The Three Caballeros