Dec 02, 2010 10:22 PM EST

Disney's Walt & El Grupo Gives A Great Look into Walt Disney

Disney's Walt & El Grupo Gives A Great Look into Walt Disney
It is early 1941.  War rages through Europe, and it destroys one of the largest marketplace for Walt Disney and his movies.  Money is dwindling, and with it would be the ability to continue making movies.  Finally, some of his staff go on strike over their pay and working conditions. Is this the end of the Disney company?
Then what some would call a miracle occurred.  The United States government, in an effort to convince the countries of South America to stay on their side, rather than siding with Germany and Japan, made Walt Disney an offer he couldn't refuse.  Visit South America and learn about their cultures.  We'll pay for you and some of your staff to visit.  Make movies about them afterwards.  We'll produce the movies and pay you any profits you don't make.  This is the story of that trip.
Walt Disney selected specific employees of his staff from almost every division to accompany him.  Their group became known as "El Grupo" and that is why this story is called what it is.  The documentary however, is not as strong as it could have been.  The documentary is mainly modern footage filmed at the same locations El Grupo visited in 1941, with interviews of the children of people Walt met with, and some footage/sketchings from 1941 interspersed in.  The biggest problem with this documentary is the lack of empathy with the subject matter.  With another one of the documentaries released on the say day, "The Boys", you really get a feel about them as persons, and their emotions - something this documentary is lacking.  Almost like the trip was mainly for show, not for learning about the cultures.  Unfortunately later you'll learn that some of the historical footage was faked by Walt Disney by filming it in Burbank after his trip.  However, it does cover every country they visited, with some scathing criticism of the locals in Chile, a country that got less attention than the others as it was the last stop, and they only had five days.  On the whole it was nice to see some of the period photographs and footage, and that was more worthwhile than the "how it looks today" shots used to fill time.
There are a few bonus features on the DVD, such as the director's cut scenes, and audio commentary.  But the feature that brings the DVD up has to be the full original theatrical release of Saludos Amigos.  Apparently in subsequent releases of the movie the Walt Disney Company cut scenes of Goofy smoking; this version lets it remain and as such improves this disc.  But it doesn't change that this documentary is for people who are Walt Disney buffs and want to know more about his trip to South America back in 1941. 

Purchase Walt & El Grupo at

FlickDirect Movie Reviewer, Roger Longenbach
Roger Longenbach, Reviewer
Since he was very young, Roger has enjoyed going to the local theatre and seeing a good film on the big screen. Starting with the lines for Empire Strikes Back, Roger has especially enjoyed the Star Wars franchise, culminating with his attendance at the Washington, D.C. premiere of Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace. But in 1990, when the Little Mermaid came out on video, Roger experienced a resurgence in the Disney brand, something he hadn't felt since he got the "I love Gurgi" button in 1985. Roger has since seen almost every Disney and Pixar animated pictures during their runs in the theatres. He enjoys movie music, especially those from most Disney animated features.

Favorite Films: ClerksDonnie DarkoPearl HarborThe NegotiatorJohnny TremainThe Lion King,BackdraftTarzan, and many more.
Favorite Directors: Kevin SmithQuentin TarantinoMichael Bay
Favorite Actors: Amy AdamsKate BeckinsaleKevin SpaceySamuel L. JacksonGeoffrey Rush
Favorite Genres: Action, Animated, Historical Epics
Favorite Television: CSI, Robot Chicken


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