It all started with a shoebox.
To be specific, a shoebox full of old travel photos from the
“I was talking with Diane Disney Miller,” Ted Thomas
remembered. “And she told me that J.B. Kaufman – while he was doing research
for this book
that J.B. was writing about those Good Neighbor films
that the Studios had produced during the War -- has come across this shoebox full of photos of
Walt and that group of artists that went down to South America in 1941.”
Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved
“Diane told me ‘You should see what you can do with that.’
Which is just what her Dad used to tell the people he worked with at the Studio
when Walt thought an idea was worth pursuing. ‘You should see what you can do
with that.’ “
“So I got a hold of that shoebox. And then I found the
letters that people had sent home while they were away on this trip. And then I
found all that 16MM color footage that the Studio had shot while this group was
away in South America. And the movie kind of grew out of all that.”
The movie that Ted is talking about is – of course – “Walt
& El Grupo.” The documentary that explores the enormous impact this trip had on
the Company’s founder as well as a select group of artists & animators at
"Walt & El Grupo" producer Kuniko Okubo and director Ted Thomas. Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved
To help kick-off the roll-out of this film, there’s a
special event being held this evening at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood at
7:30 p.m. The evening’s festivities kick off with a panel discussion led by animator
/ historian Tom Sito. Sito will talk with Thomas, Kuniko Okubo (i.e. this
documentary’s producer), composer James Stemple and director of photographer Shana
Hagan. This discussion will be followed
by a rare theatrical screening of “Saludos Amigos.” Which is one of the Good
Neighbor films that was inspired by this trip to South America.
Then – as kind of a prelude to the D23 EXPO – "Walt & El Grupo" will begin
screening at the AMC Downtown Disney 12 tomorrow afternoon starting at 12:30
Now what’s kind of intriguing about the Anaheim engagement
of “Walt & El Grupo” is that … Well, all of those Disneyana enthusiasts who
are in town to attend the D23 EXPO will actually get to see this Walt Disney Family Foundation
Films production ahead of the folks of NY & LA. You see, this new documentary won't actually open at the Regent Theatre in Westwood and NYC’s Quad Cinema until Friday,
What’s more, if you do catch “Walt & El Grupo” at the
AMC Downtown Disney 12 … Once you purchase your ticket, you’ll then receive a
specially-designed “Walt & El Grupo” collectible pin. Which (I’m sure) will
make this Theodore Thomas production seem that much more appealing to all you
Disneyana pin enthusiasts out there.
Mind you, the folks who check out this new documentary at
the Regent & the Quad won’t walk away empty-handed. For – with the purchase
of their ticket – they’ll receive a “Walt & El Grupo” mini-poster.
Now please keep in mind that this is a while-supplies-last situation with these "Walt & El Grupo" collectible pins & mini-posters. So if you really want to add these items to your Disneyana collection, you'd best make plans to see this film over the next few days.
And if you'd like Ted to autograph your mini-poster, you should probably plan on attending the Saturday-at-6:30-p.m.
screening and/or the Sunday-at-3:30-p.m. matinee at the Regent. Where Thomas will be on hand to answer any of your shoebox-related questions.
Getting back to the D23 EXPO now ... After you've seen "Walt & El Grupo" at the AMC Downtown Disney, plan on coming by the Anaheim Convention Center this Friday night. Where – just as they're doing tonight at the Egyptian Theatre -- Ted, Kuniko and J.B. Kaufman will be taking part in a panel discussion about Walt's trip to South America in 1941. And just like with tonight's event in Hollywood, the evening will conclude with a screening of "Saludos Amigos."
The only real difference between tonight's panel discussion at the Egyptian and Friday's festivities at the convention center is that -- instead of the learned Mr. Sito -- D23 EXPO attendees are stuck with some fat guy from New Hampshire (Well, nobody said that life was fair ...).
For further information on “Walt & El Grupo,” be sure
and check out the official website for this Walt Disney Pictures release
I'm not very happy that D23 is not allowing photography in all but a couple of the presentations. Outside of the fact that people will still be sneaking photos with their camera phones, people are going to be reporting on what is said, so why prevent photos?