So much has been said about Walt Disney the man, many true, a lot false, so itís always refreshing when we can see an aspect of his life that hasnít been much discussed. Walt & El Grupo is a feature length documentary that tells the story of Walt and some key artists traveling to Latin America to research story materials for future concepts in 1941 as a message of goodwill. These artists became known as El Grupo for the duration of their travels. The results of this ten-day journey are the films Saludos Amigos (1943) and The Three Caballeros (1945).
The film, put together by Ted Thomas and Kuniko Okubo, is a remarkable journey recreating the steps that Walt Disney and his artists took using rare archival footage. We see where they were before the journey, what they encountered along the way, and what came after. Itís so interesting to see this journey take place while the rest of the world was at war.
The film speaks with folks who were directly affected in positive ways in Latin America from Waltís visit from both sides of the Equator. For fans of Disney the company and of the man himself, this is a gem of history that can be appreciated till no end.
The DVD, released in November, will sure to please even further, with a great selection of bonus features.
* Audio Commentary - This commentary with Director Theodore Thomas, whose father was among El Grupo, and author/historian J.B. Kaufman offer further insight to the making of the film. For those who need even more information about this time period, they will surely appreciate this.
* Photos in Motion - What makes this documentary more visually captivating is their use of still photography, giving them more dimension and life. This small behind-the-scenes featurette explores some of the techniques used for the film.
* From the Directorís Cut - Three scenes no longer in the film can be seen here: Home Movies For the Big Screen, My Fatherís Generation and Artists and Politicians explore even more of story.
* Saludos Amigos: Original 1943 Release - Why else should you pick up this DVD? Because it includes the feature Saludos Amigos, the first film released as a direct result of this trip. What makes this even more celebrated is that the film is being shown in its original unedited state. Recent DVD releases of Saludos Amigos had removed a cigarette being smoked by Goofy. That is all restored and part of this DVD.
* Original Theatrical Trailers - Trailers for both Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros can be enjoyed here.
Also included in this is a collectible Disney Timeline of the film events.
Walt & El Grupo is now available where movies are sold. Itís a must-see for all Disney fans and film historians alike. This is an incredible story and itís finally here to be enjoyed.
In addition to this documentary, a companion book is available: South of the Border With Disney: Walt Disney and the Good Neighbor Program, 1941-1948 written by J.B. Kaufman.