Thursday, April 16, 2009

Good-Will Ambassador No. 1

The images in this post were originally published in the January 1942 edition of Movie-Radio Guide. The magazine featured a one-page article on Walt Disney's trip to South America and was illustrated with the following images. I have reproduced the captions verbatum with no alterations.

The caption on the first photo read: "Walt Disney (center) joins a group of musi
cians in Santiago, Chile, on his South American tour. This doesn't look like work, but Walt went to South America to gather material for 'good neighbor' cartoons. Mixing with Chileans, other Latins, he learned to know their music, their countries, them."

The funny thing about this photo is that Walt Disney didn't know how to play the guitar. While he may have played the fiddle in his youth, he had no formal training on how to play the guitar, nor did he ever play the instrument in his free time.

The next photo showed Disney on a beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The accompanying caption read: "Feted wherever he went as creator of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Disney learned how popular his cartoons are. On Rio beach he attracts much attention."

The third photo showed Disney with Argentine cartoonist Ramon Columba. The caption read: "Disney (second from left) and famed Argentine cartoonist Ramon Columba (bow tie) join other Argentine film notables in round-table broadcast."

During a meeting with Columba, the American and Argentine cartoonists took the time to draw the following caricatures of the other.

Image courtesy

The caption in the final photo contained in the article stated: "High-spots of Disney's trip were meetings with tiny movie-goers, who are his best customers, his most devoted admirers. Here are delighted Chilean schoolschildren at special matinee given in the cartoonist's honor."

I have dozens of newspaper articles in my clipping file related to Disney's South American adventures and chose the following to share. The first was published in the June 1, 1942 issue of The Times and Daily News Leader:

Chile Students Astound Disney

"Two Chilean university students who started out three years ago without any money but with a big idea gave become the budding Walt Disneys of the Latin-American screen.

The two students, Carlos Trupp, 23, and Jainoe Escudero, 27, are not merely imitators of the famous Disney. Their originality already has won praise from Disney himself who visited Chile late in 1941. The young men started from scratch, knowing nothing of the technique or problems of film making.

First they formed a company with half a dozen other cartoonists and then they persuaded the government's Production and Development corporation to lend them 5,000 pesos (about $160). Necessary supplies were obtained and credits established and the group worked without pay. Their progress was remarkable.

When Disney visited Chile last year in search of the material for his own studios, Trupp and Escudero were his hosts when he called at their studios. Fascinated, Disney remained two hours, inspecting their antiquated hand-made equipment and giving them much valuable advice. The American producer was astonished to find that Trupp and Escudero were producing first class films with the same type [of] camera with which he began his own career."

The second article I picked out of my files, if it can be believed, is quite funny. This story appeared in the October 23, 1941 issue of Las Cruzes Sun News:

"Hollywood - Poised in the Argentine town of Mendoza, just before an air hop over the Andes in to Chile, Walt Disney set other Hollywoodities [sic] an example in showmanship.

In his personal appearance before audiences of children in South America, Disney usually gave a 'chalk talk,' with Walt and a few of the boys drawing upon the stage.

But in Mendoza, they found themselves without paper, easels, chalk or anything, and out on the stage of a big theater with a couple of thousand kids in the audience.

Disney couldn't speak their language. Through an interpreter he told the children of his predicament. Under the circumstances, he said, the only thing he could do for them was to stand on his head.

Which he did, and it brought the house down."

The final gem I located in a much larger article detailing Disney's trip to South America. This quote was published on December 7, 1941, the same day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, heralding America's entry into World War II, and the same day an anti-aircraft unit moved in and took over several buildings at the Disney Studio:

"The South American way has hit Disney hard. 'You keep grinding out ducks and mice,' he said, 'and you get in a rut. You begin to get tired. But this thing - it's like a new lease on life.' "

For more info on Disney's South American adventure, please click here.

1 comment:

The Artwork of Christi Bunn said...

David, thanks for your comment on my Cinderella's Castle drawing. I am glad you came by there and left a comment because it spurred me to visit yours. I have really fallen down on visiting my favorite Disney blogs since I have been involved in doing some art shows these past couple of months. But, your posts are always so interesting and this one about Walt's trip to So. America was no exception. Thanks for taking time to pull all this together in one post and thanks again for stopping by mine!