In 1941, Walt Disney and fifteen artists from his studio set out on a tour of South America. The trip was part of the U.S. State Department’s Good Neighbor program, intended to foster goodwill in South America to prevent the spread of Nazism in the Western Hemisphere. Walt and his artists visited several countries, finding artistic inspiration that would result in the films Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.
The above photo was taken in Argentina, where Walt’s group had been treated by local gauchos to an authentic Argentine barbecue. Walt posed for the photo in full gaucho costume, and with six-string in hand looked every bit the part of an Argentine cowboy.
This oft-overlooked time in Disney’s history is about to get some of the attention it deserves; a documentary film entitled Walt & El Grupo, from the Walt Disney Family Foundation and filmmaker Theodore Thomas (Frank and Ollie), has been making the film festival circuit for the last year. In October of 2009, Disney Editions will release author J.B. Kaufman’s South of the Border With Disney: Walt Disney and the Good Neighbor Program, 1941-1948, a title for which I am especially excited.