Asked to be a cultural ambassador, Disney assembled his team and make the trek to South American in 1941, spending three months traveling, researching and most importantly, playing a part in keeping the South American countries on the side of the United States during World War II.
While Disney and this team were spreading their goodwill, the team soaked up the culture and amassed the research for what would become two classic Disney films -- "Saludos Amigos" and "The Three Caballeros."
As with its counterpart "Waking Sleeping Beauty," "Walt & El Grupo" uses archival footage to put the viewer side by side with Mr. Disney as he stood on the brink of failure and then his triumph following his trip. Family members read letters that accentuate how important the trip was to the creative team and to the survival of the studio itself.
In 1941, the Disney Studio was in debt due to lackluster performance of "Fantasia" at the theater and that's when Uncle Sam stepped in, willing to underwrite the trip and bankroll the films that came from it to help pull the studio back from the brink.
One very effective element of the film was how the director used original photos and either superimposed them over the existing landscape or used them as a point of reference. The trick was not only a cool effect, it achieve another element of putting you at that moment in time.
The disc has a nice assortment of goodies when it comes to extras. In addition to a commentary with director Theodore Thomas and historian J.B. Kaufman, there's also "Photos in Motion", a look had the photo manipulation, and the "From the Director's Chair" featurette.
Also included is the original 1943 release of "Saludos Amigos" as well as trailers for "Amigos" and The Three Caballeros".
Final Cut: Based on historical significance alone, "Walt & El Grupo" is an achievement beyond compare. Seeing Walt Disney and crew in action and to hear them tell what it was like at the time is amazing. A rare treat for film fans.
5 out of 5 Stars