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New Disney documentary - "Walt and El Grupo"


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  • New Disney documentary - "Walt and El Grupo"

    Hello Michechatters!

    First, a quick introduction. My name is Jon. This is my very first post to Micechat, but I'm a very long-time lurker (eww, I hate that term!). I first read Al's wonderful Disneyland updates on the old Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.disney (uh-oh, I'm dating myself!), and then followed him to Miceage from another "Planet." When Micechat started here I registered almost immediately, and I've read hundreds--no, make that thousands--of your posts since.

    But now, I think I have something from the Disney universe to share with all of you.

    Last night, I was lucky enough to see a wonderful new documentary about Disney's "Good Neighbor" tour of South America in 1941. It's called "Walt and El Grupo" (Spanish for "the group), and it was made by the husband & wife team behind "Frank and Ollie"--Ted Thomas (Frank's son) and Kuniko Okubo.

    It was shown as part of the Seattle International Film Festival, and Ted and Kuniko were in the audience. They took some questions after the screening, too.

    If you liked "Frank and Ollie" (and what Disney fan didn't?!), you'll love "Walt and El Grupo"! It tells the story behind the historic three-month trip (led by Walt himself, and including Frank Thomas), and the impact the "Grupo" had on South America on the cusp of World War II. This is of course the trip that led directly to the creation of "Saludos Amigos" and "The Three Caballeros." But, you'll also learn some of the surprising ways this trip impacted the Disney artists who participated (Mary Blair in particular).

    Sadly, none of the original participants are around to share their stories any longer. But during their long absence, they wrote many, many letters to loved ones back home. The surviving spouses and children share these letters during the film, and they're often funny and surprisingly touching.

    Diane Disney Miller is interviewed for the film, and she's actually the reason the film was made at all. She contacted Ted and suggested the topic, and the Disney Family Foundation provided some of the funding for it.

    The filmmakers retraced the steps of the trip, and found many locations where the group had been photographed. The art they created at each stop of the trip is prominently featured, including bits of final animation. They also interviewed many of the South Americans (or surviving spouses/children) who were hosts and colleagues during the tour.

    All in all, I thought it was terrific!

    If you're in the Seattle area, you have one last chance to see it. But hurry--it's screening today (6/9) at 4:30pm.

    You can buy tickets and watch the trailer through this page:

    The film is currently on the film festival circuit, so watch for it in your area. Here's hoping it will eventually be distributed on home video!

    Cleverly disguised as a grown-up
    Did someone say pictures?!?

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