Saturday, September 19, 2009

Walt & El Grupo - Documentary

"With the world on the brink of war and Nazi influence growing in South America, the U.S. government sought help from a bunch of artists." So reads the poster for this new documentary film, coming soon to a theatre near you, if you live on either coast or in Milwaukee or Chicago.

In 1941, Walt Disney was commissioned by the State Department to visit Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru with his staff of artists, composers, etc. as part of Franklin Roosevelt's Good Neighbor policy, an early version of "soft power" influence. Disney would be (along with Mickey Mouse) an ambassador for the United States during the 10-week tour and later make two animated films using the local cultures and scenery.

Directed, written and produced (in five countries) by Ted Thomas (son of Disney animator Frank Thomas, who made the trip) and Kuniko Okubo, the film shows artists at work, in one instance creating the cigar-smoking animated parrot, Joe Carioca, while using a real parrot as a model. The film travels in Walt Disney’s footsteps through the use of personal letters, artwork from the trip and remembrances by descendants and survivors.

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