He may've been a right-wing, union-busting bastard, but during the late Depression, with his studio in peril and World War II looming, Walt Disney took a lucky handful of his young animators and staff to South America. Collaborating with local artists in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile during the 1941 trip, Disney subsequently produced two animated works, Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, both of which are excerpted in this very boosterish, company-sanctioned documentary. But what's wonderful about El Grupo are the sourcing and archives: It's a film full of people who could draw and sketch and doodle (their letters home are affecting, too, particularly when read by their children and grandchildren). We get to see the rough drafts of the finished products, and the tour was extensively documented with home movies, photos, and newsreels. The prewar decorum will make viewers of any age feel nostalgic: Men wear suits and women gloves, and the spirit of pan-American friendship seems sincere. (Something we could use more of today.) In one letter home, an animator writes admiringly of the locals, "Their tastes are more boisterous and lusty than ours."
Señor Disney (third from right) and his animators arrive down south.