Yes, NoFake, I feel almost embarrassed to say that Mr. French (or was it Toddy Baesen?) and I saw WALT AND EL GRUPO two years ago at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
WALT AND EL GRUPO is a carefully tailored documentary produced and financed by The Walt Disney Family Foundation as a tribute to "Uncle Walt," but for even someone like myself who knows far less about Hollywood History than Mr. French, the film would have been of more interest had it given the real story behind the trip and its results, rather than the cartoonish hagiography presented to us. Too bad!
A film about how and why Walt Disney "sold out" has yet to be made. Also too bad.
Disney, who in just a few years produced at least two American masterpieces of animation, had set up a company of artists which might have been in form a model for the Mercury Players in Hollywood. But beset by financial, political, and labor problems there, Disney found it convenient to take some of his top production people not yet infected by unionism upon a State Department supported "Good Neighbor Policy" junket to South America, It was not unlike in projected purpose the mission which Orson Welles and his troupe would undertake a few months later, after America had entered the War, at the urgent behest of Under-Secretary of State Nelson Rockefeller.
Despite PR to the contrary, other than his protean Mickey Mouse, Disney had created few of his famous cartoon characters himself, but he was a beacon for artisans, and a founding member of the Society of Independent Motion Picture Producers, of which Welles was also a founder.
Forgive me if I once more cite a brief history of this important, now forgotten organization: http://www.cobbles.com/simpp_archive/do ... ls1947.htm
The tragedy of Disney, never expressed in WALT AND EL GRUPO, is that, handsome and in his prime, as we can see from the cryptic trailer, he somehow ceased to be a creative force in American Film during the time he was gone. Upon his return, he converted his studio into a meretricious business operation, which produced little of real merit from there on out, becoming instead another corporate film empire; and by the time of his death in 1966, an entertainment and real estate conglomerate.
Anyone who ponders the two State Department projects, one by Disney and the other by Welles, may note that the former was politely hailed while the latter was derided and condemned. One marked the rise of a corporate media giant, the other a crucial failure for one of the most original artists of the 20th Century. Disney brought out the financially highly successful SALUDOS AMIGOS, based on his travels, just the sentimental propaganda our State Department was looking for. Welles' gritty study of the joys and degradations of what would later be called the Third World, IT'S ALL TRUE, was abandoned, seen only in fragments or bowdlerized versions during the next fifty years.
That fact points up a tragedy of American culture for us all. By the 1980's when Welles died, we were deeply into the Age of Trivialization, which has brought us to the catastrophe we face today.