Latin Baby ~ Disney’s Latin America Films

interviews and (more) reviews: Walt and El Grupo
August 7, 2008, 11:49 am
Filed under: reviews/opinions, saludos amigos, stories | Tags: , , ,

Today I discovered an interview with Ted Thomas, the director of the previously-mentioned Walt and El Grupo, a new documentary about Walt Disney’s trip to Latin America.

You can read the interview at Jim Hill Media.

I thought I would post some additional reviews of Walt and El Grupo as well, to provide some second opinions.

My review of the film.

Variety’s review (unfavorable)

A fan’s favorable review, posted on the Seattle Int’l Film Festival website.

Favorable review at Prost Amerika. It seems to summarize more than review, but ranks the film 8 out of 10.

Review at Musica Brasiliensis (a great resource for everything related to Brazilian music). The site’s author assisted the filmmakers.

And here’s the official website for the film.


Review – “Walt and El Grupo”
April 26, 2008, 6:26 pm
Filed under: fan stuff, reviews/opinions, saludos amigos | Tags: , ,

I was able to see the new documentary about Disney’s trip to South America, Walt and El Grupo, so I decided to record some of my impressions here.

First of all, the fact that someone cared enough to make this film about such an obscure little topic is marvelous. Also, the number of people from that time they were able to contact and talk to is pretty impressive. As I said before, the film had the backing of the Walt Disney Family Foundation.

Unfortunately, the film spends a lot of time zooming in and out of three-dimensionalized photos. Too much time, in fact. While these scenes made use of some of the great music, they were ultimately a little annoying. I feel like even with the paucity of material available to the filmmakers, they were stretching the said material a little too far.  The film spends the entire 2 hours-plus running time discussing only Brazil (and only Rio de Janeiro at that), Argentina, and Chile.  Nothing concerning the trip after Chile is discussed at all; the rest of Latin America, Mexico, and The Three Caballeros are completely ignored.

While it is very interesting to hear the stories of those involved and their descendants, I feel that the film spends too much time on talking-head interviews that could have been done in voiceover and they don’t seem to be edited down enough. As a documentary about the trip itself rather than the films that came out of it, it’s pretty good. However, it fails a little in that regard because it completely excludes the artists’ trip to countries other than the “ABC” (Argentina, Brazil, and Chile). While those three were perhaps the most important to Saludos Amigos, I felt disappointed that nothing was said of Mexico.

Very few clips from the films were also shown. I understand that the filmmakers probably didn’t want to repeat material used in Saludos or the “Disney South of the Border” documentary, but the few segments used were easily one of the best parts of the film.  Not to say that the filmmakers’ original material isn’t good – one scene in particular involving clips from Aquarela do Brasil was incredible: zooming out from a shot of the Urca nightclub, the film cuts to a live-action shot of the nightclub today.  Several shots of the inside of the now-abandoned and decaying Urca follow, a ghostly echo of a samba song playing….we briefly glimpse the filmed performance of “Carnaval Carioca” on stage superimposed on the scene, which disappears into silence as we see the rest of the club.

Despite all these complaints, I learned a few new and interesting facts from the film, got to see what many of the places Disney visited look like today, and saw some WONDERFUL shots of production artwork I’d never seen before.  As a big fan of Mary Blair’s work, I was very pleased to see lots of her and her husband’s drawings, and to learn that this trip was what drew Disney’s attention and made him hire her.  However, even as a HUGE fan of the Latin America films, I felt that this documentary was both incomplete and a bit lengthy.  Nonetheless, I would recommend it for those who really love Saludos Amigos.  If you don’t, or if you’ve never seen the film, don’t watch this movie, I don’t think you would appreciate it without having seen Saludos beforehand.

¡SUPER-GRANDE! review – The 3 Caballeros re-watched

phoenixme5My Three Caballeros DVD finally came in, or more accurately, I finally arrived back at the place where it was shipped to. So, I got to re-watch it in its entirety for the first time in about….10 years?

BUT ANYWAY….the review….
So, the opening few segments were quite educational and very much in the spirit of Saludos Amigos. I thought they were cute and well-done overall. Favorite moment here: when Donald starts imitating the flamingos.

The cold-blooded penguin obviously came straight out of the Saludos sessions, far more similar to that film than the rest of this one. It’s cute, but nothing too exciting.

José’s opening and bridge segments (Have you been to Baía, etc.) are top-notch, as I’ve no doubt said countless times before. The pop-up book is an inventive idea, and explains a lot of the surrealness of the Baía scenes *rolls eyes*. Favorite moment: the samba train, the little tune they use there is so wonderful.

“Baía” (my favorite song from the movie) may be a little boring for the kids, but the animation is SPECTACULAR, with the multi-layers and pretty sunset colours. Fave moment: all of it!

“Os Quindins de Yayá” is also a great song. This is the first blended animation we see in the film, and it’s done very very well, synchronized to the music and with some nice dancing. Fave moment: probably when Jose and Donald first walk down the street with Aurora Miranda, I like how they sort of bounce along to the beat.

Panchito’s opening segment features a Fantasia-like “sound track,”

which was really neat, with José and Donald dancing in front of it while he sings the mariachi song “Jalisco no Te Rajes” (from which the tune for “The Three Caballeros” song was taken).  Then of course, they sing the title song, which I’ve probably reviewed before. (Favorite moment: the whole thing!) Then we get to see….

Las Posadas the Mexican Christmas tradition, told by Panchito with adorable Mary Blair drawings. (think “Small World” adorable.) This is probably the only other part of the movie besides the first “bird film” segments that resembles Saludos very strongly: it’s clearly educational and travelogue-like.

Panchito’s tour of Mexico (“Mexico”) features a nice song and some well-integrated footage of the guys flying over various landscapes, visiting some dancers in Veracruz, and Donald going mad with lust in Acapulco:

It’s very educational for those of you who want to know all about 1940s bathing suits. While the song “Mexico” is sung, some illustrations of Mexican culture and places are shown. Favorite moment: the dance in Veracruz, it has some nice animation and a very catchy tune.  I also love Jose Carioca playing the bass there.

The cactus dance (“Jesusita en Chihuahua”) was awesome, and I don’t really believe the deal about phallic imagery here, it seemed innocent enough to me. The girl’s mariachi-cowgirl-riding outfit was very cool (I want one…) and this song always gets stuck in my head for days.

And here’s where it gets a bit odd…

“You Belong to My Heart” is a beautiful song, with some nice simple animations of Dora Luz singing (while Donald goes nuts over her). Then, he basically goes into a hallucination of surreal girls and sped-up versions of the title song. It’s not surreal in a cool way like the earlier Bahia segment either, it’s downright weird. HOWEVER, it pushed the limits of what could be done with combo animation back then, and if you look at it as a surrealistic sort of “test” experimental “wowee!” segment, you’ll really be amazed. I know that LOTS OF PEOPLE like to say that Disney and his artists did LSD…besides being historically not quite possible and totally against Disney’s strict codes regarding such things back then, this only proves that people who say that haven’t tried to look into these segments a little deeper. Don’t really have a favorite moment here.

The ending scenes: well, these are sort of a chaotic, disjointed ending to the equally chaotic “You Belong to My Heart.” They involve fireworks and bullfighting. I don’t really have a favorite moment here, I never really cared for the ending.

Gran Fiesta Tour and Donald’s voices.

<For all of you who don’t know – the 3 caballeros ride in the Mexico pavillion at Epcot center in WDW.>

The Trapped on Vacation Podcast recently did an audio ride-through of the Gran Fiesta Tour, which can be found here. It’s a nice way to re-experience the ride with very good-quality audio.I never noticed, for instance, that the characters give the send-off when you finish the ride. It sounds a little odd to hear them telling you not to forget your stuff….tee hee…. :P I wonder if it wasn’t “really” something like…

José Carioca: Please exit the boat as quickly as possible…**so that I may take the stuff you forget and sell it back to you for exorbitant prices at the store, hehehehe**
Attractive women should remain on the vehicle to exit at an unspecified future date. Please leave all tobacco products in the box at the gate. Thank you!

And I notice now (but didn’t when I rode it my first and only time) the big difference in voices (especially during the song). This is one of those “you know you’re a disney nerd when…” things but I can totally tell the difference between the original Clarence “Ducky” Nash Donald and the “new” Donald voices.

But back to the ride….Here’s a video of the entire thing if you want to spoil it for yourself or reminisce.

My thoughts? I had experienced El Rio del Tiempo before GFT and thought it was a pretty cute ride….for the 1980s. I distinctly remember it never had a wait and was quite well air-conditioned. But I can never say no to anything that references the 3 caballeros, especially in such a fitting way. And this has meant the introduction of 3 caballeros costume mascots to the park, though I didn’t get to see them when I was there. The ride is far more interesting now and has something “disney” and “cartoony” to it to hold the attention of the little ones with something QUALITY, not just a paper glitter glue mask. But enough comparison.

Warning: the following review contains spoilers.

The ride starts off going past the Maya/Aztec pyramids, a beautiful scene which I am glad is unchanged. It goes into the dark-ride-room where we find out Donald is missing and the three guys have a concert tonight so they have to find him. We see Donald and the guys in various hijinks around the city through videos in little windows throughout the ride, broken by a “Small-World” style animatronic scene of little Mexican kids celebrating *presumably* El Dia de Los Muertos in the middle. This is an unchanged segment of the old ride. We then go into a nicely-done scene of Mexico city with fireworks and a stage where the guys are singing a segment of “The Three Caballeros” (the following video only shows this finale):

The animation is great and the new version of the song is, too! The ride overall is quite enjoyable.

The “new version” of the song is different in that the three sing together in some parts (yes, Donald too >_< ) and the voices are all new. Fans of the original will notice this right away. They only sing the first part of the song. *yes, the “three gay caballeros” line is still there, but leave it be :P *, so overly-sensitive parents need not get upset about the last line’s “suggestiveness” (the line this blog takes its title from :D )

Nitpickers like to remind us that José Carioca is BRAZILIAN and shouldn’t be a part of this ride. Well, then, he’s as much of a tourist as Donald! If Epcot ever decides to throw in a South American country pavilion (Brazil, please….) it would be pretty awesome to see Zé hosting some kind of dark ride train/boat ride through Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, etc. or maybe even a Tiki Room-style musical deal with some nice animatronics and samba numbers. You could even port the idea over into a musical restaurant, rainforest cafe-style.

One last thing…you’ll notice the ubiquitous *cigar* is missing for the entirety of Gran Fiesta Tour due to the brand-new animation. Yup.

A little tangent: Rock-a-Doodle

Putting my Disney re-watched quest aside for the moment, I decided to watch Don Bluth films I’ve never seen. I made the horrid mistake of renting Rock-a-Doodle, which is (supposedly) based on Chanticleer the Rooster and was originally intended to be somewhat like Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Unfortunately, they had to tone down that movie’s version of Jessica Rabbit, Goldie Pheasant, to make her less busty. Which brings me to my point. Goldie reminds me a lot of Rosinha because she looks essentially human aside from the beak. Continue reading