“Walt Disney goes South American,” proclaimed the film poster for the 1942 film Saludos Amigos. It was an era when Washington called on Hollywood to help shore up relations between the Americas, and the film was the outcome of a trip Disney and a handpicked mini-studio made to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and other nations of the region at the request of the U.S. government.
It was also a time that Disney would later recall as “the toughest period I’ve had in my whole life.” His studio was going through great difficulties, the Roosevelt administration had growing concerns about Nazi and Fascist influence in Latin America, and the entire world was slipping further into war. On the trip, while gathering story material and befriending fellow artists, Disney and “El Grupo” as they were called, also embarked on a de facto diplomatic mission, and Saludos Amigos carried the expectation of being an offering of inter-American friendship.
It is a story that still resonates on both sides of the equator. Drawing from personal letters and artwork from the trip, remembrances by descendants and survivors, and archival footage that provides a candid and never-before-seen glimpse of Disney and his artists, Walt & El Grupo time travels through five nations to capture a story that is both a tale of making art in a time of war, and a geo-political saga that has pressing relevance to our own times. [Synopsis courtesy of film’s official website]