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.

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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.



NEW DOCUMENTARY about Disney’s trip to Latin America
April 6, 2008, 12:30 pm
Filed under: promotional, videos | Tags: , ,

A new documentary about Walt Disney’s trip to Latin America (the inspiration for the Latin America films) is going to be premiered at this year’s San Francisco International Film Fest. It is called Walt and El Grupo, and was directed by Kuniko Okubo and Ted Thomas. You can visit the film’s official website here. The film is being supported by the Walt Disney Family Foundation (the same organization behind the Walt Disney Family Museum set to open in the San Francisco Presidio next year).

I’ll definitely record my impressions here right after I see the film. If you can get to SF in late April, check out the film and let me know what you think! The venue is the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in San Francisco’s Japantown. Here are the show times:

Sat. Apr. 26th 1:15 PM, Mon. Apr. 28th 6:00 PM, Wed. Apr. 30th 12:30 PM

If you’re looking for a place to eat before or after the show, I highly recommend Takara in the Japantown mall (on the side nearest the hotel). There are many other restaurants in the mall as well. Don’t forget to get some mochi ice cream :P

(Thanks to Loosetoon for this exciting news!)