Walt & El Grupo (2008) - Rotten Tomatoes

Walt & El Grupo (2008)

Walt & El Grupo (2008)

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Theodore Thomas, son of the late Walt Disney Studios animator Frank Thomas (1912-2004) and director of the acclaimed 1995 documentary Frank and Ollie, helms this second foray into Disney history, Walt & El Grupo (2007). The subject this time lies somewhat outside the boundaries of Disney animation and rests on an unusual footnote: in 1941, Walt Disney personally led a "goodwill tour" and research expedition of South America, with a team of animators in tow whom he collectively christened "El Grupo." The voyage transcended passing personal interest on the part of the animators; its residual effects can be seen in several Latin-themed Disney projects -- notably, Saludos Amigos (1942) and The Three Caballeros (1945), both of which won Oscars, and other efforts designed to support the Good Neighbor Policy of the United States. With Walt & El Grupo, Theodore Thomas and his wife, Kuniko Okubo, combine rare, unseen 16 mm home movie footage of the original trip (held in the Disney vaults for years) with footage from their own trip through South America that retraces the Disney animators' original journey -- contrasting 1941 footage with glimpses of the same locales, shot 60 years later. On the soundtrack, Thomas and Okubo overlay reminiscences by the original travelers, taken from journals and letters and read by family members.

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Critic Reviews for Walt & El Grupo

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (11)

The production values are first rate. But you will wait in vain to hear a good reason for this movie's existence.

October 30, 2009 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

At a time when Hollywood doesn't remember last year, is obsessed with the bottom line and is run by men who often have no sense of history, Walt & El Grupo evokes a better time.

October 22, 2009 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

While skimming over the troubled waters of impending war and ongoing labor unrest, it's both a vicarious vacation and a crash course in animation.

October 21, 2009 | Rating: 3/4
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

[Thomas] may need more distance from the subject -- Walt & El Grupo could shed about 20 minutes -- but there's no questioning his sincerity or his instinct for revealing anecdotes.

September 24, 2009 | Rating: 3/4
Seattle Times
Top Critic

This may be the first documentary that contains not a single American, living or dead, who is anything but merry of disposition. That cheer carries over to the on-the-spot gusto of el grupo's sketchbooks -- a more accurate tribute than the final cartoons.

September 21, 2009 | Full Review…
New Yorker
Top Critic

A relentlessly upbeat vanity project destined for the Disney family archive.

September 11, 2009 | Rating: 2.5/5
New York Times
Top Critic

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