Disney’s just-released “Encanto”It is the studio’s 60th animated film. It features a special version the film to mark the milestone. “Steamboat Willie”-inspired logo that plays before the movie; the one that starts with the flapping of an animator’s pages and ends with Mickey Mouse, in velvety black-and-white, whistling on the bridge of a steamboat. (If it wasn’t one of the most iconic moments in animation history, that logo, seen before worldwide phenomena like “Frozen”It has been made possible by its sequel. But “Steamboat Willie”Only a portion of the 60th production is available. “Encanto’s” connection to the studio’s past – there’s a much more direct path between it and a journey that Walt Disney took. This isn’t a fairy tale, exactly, but it did take place once upon a time.
1940 saw South America as vulnerable to Nazi influence. Nelson Rockefeller, an oil-heir and businessman from South America, created the post of Coordinator of Inter-American affairs. His main goal was to boost positive support for South America via film productions that were released in the United States as well as abroad. Early efforts, like sending Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and, um, Yale Glee Club, were unsuccessful. Part of the initiative called for the distribution in South American cinemas of American films, with grants provided to American producers of South American content. (Disney was one such studio.
Distribution and production deals were two different things. They asked Walt Disney to come in 1941.
Disney normally wouldn’t have taken time away from work to go on a goodwill tour. Ambassadorship seemed like a great idea at that time. Walt was in turmoil after a number of professional and personal setbacks. This included the 1938 death of his mother (which he and Roy shared much guilt about as she died in a gas explosion in their home). The commercial and critical shortcomings of “Fantasia,”A groundbreaking artistic work meant to herald a new era in animation. It also featured an overseas market that had almost dried up because of the war. And a bitter dispute that led to a strike at the studio only a few weeks before.
Walt was willing to flee. According to Neal Gabler’s biography, “Walt Disney: Triumph of the American Imagination,”Walt referred to this trip as “a godsend.” “I am not so hot for it but it gives me a chance to get away from this God awful nightmare and to bring some extra work into the planet,”Disney stated. He was suffering from “a case of the D.D.s – disillusionment and discouragement.”Walt described the experience as “a” “combined ‘business and pleasure’ trip.”
Disney assembled a small band of artists (later called themselves Disney Artists). “El Grupo”), along with Walt’s wife Lillian. Their journey began in Rio de Janeiro in august 1941. This trip was documented in an interesting documentary called “Walt and El Grupo,”Theodore Thomas, Frank Thomas’ son, directed the film. It’s available to watch right now on Disney+.)
Together, they toured Brazil and Argentina together. Per the new deal, the team was there to gather material for features and short films that could be screened in South America. It was evident that there was a lot of sketching taking place. Artist Mary Blair, now viewed as one of Disney’s most incredible stylists, particularly flourished. Frank Thomas acknowledged that “mainly we were wined and dined all over the place, where it was real hard to do any work.”Although there were definitely discussions about potential projects and the artists did take inspiration from the locals, the culture (especially the music) and the people, the artist’s responsibilities to the community was clear. “goodwill tour”Walt was weighed down by every aspect of the trip. According to Gabler’s biography, he said to the group that he was leaving Chile as a result. “goddamned tired of being dressed up like a gaucho and put on a horse.”
One point, the group boarded an airplane for a leisurely trip to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru. This is the most important stop. This is crucial because the films that were made from this South American adventure (charming and music-filled) are not to be missed. “package films” “Saludos Amigos” “The Three Caballeros”) didn’t explicitly depict the culture of Colombia, it would be something that would come back years later, when the studio was working on “Encanto.”
Like Walt’s fateful trip, the filmmakers (including director Byron Howard and Jared Bush and songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda) took a research trip to South America. This trip was a catalyst for what they would do. “Encanto,”This added an element of cultural authenticity. The filmmaking team was supported by the Colombian Cultural Trust long after their return to Burbank. Like the films that were born out of Walt and El Grupo’s trip to South America, the music of Colombia had a huge impact on “Encanto.”The filmmakers are keen to share their unique Colombianness with the rest of the world. “I’m excited for the Colombian audience to see it,”Howard said that. “Our Colombian Cultural Trust and we have very close friends who are Colombian, who specifically asked us to put certain things in the film. When they, the Colombian audience sees it, I’m very excited to see them recognize themselves in the film.”You might also recognize some Disney history while you watch the film.