Destinations, Inspirations, South America

It’s a Small World Afterall: Walt and El Grupo in South America

August 17, 2011

A true kid of the Americas, I grew up with Disney influences woven through my imagination.

In fact, now that I think about it, “It’s A Small World” was indeed my very first RTW trip.
(Thank you, mom and dad, for taking a three year old on such a grand adventure!)

Quick to write off most newer Disney features in adulthood, I found a surprise treat for my grown up tastes in the form of a random Netflix moment. We were searching for South America documentaries and inspirations and stumbled across Walt and El Grupo.

The fascinating 2008 documentary follows the politically motivated 1941 Goodwill Tour made by Walt and a number of company associates and artists. The film features interesting observations about the relationship of art and politics as well as beautiful glimpses into the cityscapes and social scenes of 1940s Argentina, Brazil, and Chile and their surrounds.

My great grandmother, an artist in her own right, trained with the Disney Studios back in her day… There is a charm and flavor to the old sketches and cartoons, a human touch that seems missing from mainstream modern entertainment.

The beauty of the documentary is the blending of old video, photos and sketches (including footage from Walt’s own 16mm camera) along with modern day glimpses of the region.

Ethnic caricatures and political messages provide food for thought, as do the tales of group travel and outings and business meetings and of long, handwritten letters home before the time of digital updates and instant communication.

I’m spending time this week sorting out our Brazilian visas and Servas applications, glad for the fanciful glimpse of the South American past.

Our own mini-goodwill tour is unaffiliated with film studios or departments of homeland security and (thankfully!) quite without political motivation, but I’m anticipating an equally beautiful season of touring the regions, connecting with people and place, growing from the encounters, and eventually returning home with inspirations from art and culture woven through my imagination for the rest of life…

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