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Walt Disney’s covert mission in Latin America.

Walt Disney’s covert mission in Latin America. (photo)

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Last week’s purchase of Marvel Entertainment signified the start of a new era at Disney, but the studio has quietly spent much of this year commemorating their past with a series of feature documentaries that have not only provided insight into the nooks and crannies behind the Mouse House, but have been among the year’s most compelling docs, period.

This week is a particularly notable one for documentary fans, Disney devotees, and history buffs in general with the release of “Walt and El Grupo,” a recreation of Walt Disney’s trip to South America in 1941 when the U.S. government asked the animator to serve as a goodwill ambassador who could possibly stem the tide of Nazism that was beginning to creep into such countries as Argentina and Chile during World War II. The trip couldn’t have come at a more convenient time for Disney, who was facing a war at home — his animators went on a five-week strike for their right to unionize — and was unable to make the features he wanted at that time.

But despite the rough patch in history, director Theodore Thomas’ chronicle of this period unfolds as elegantly as Disney’s finest animation, with the film unspooling present-day footage of South America that is fleshed out further by the letters written home by the animators who traveled with Disney (nicknamed “El Grupo” after constant calls from the bellhops). As anyone who has seen the Latin-flavored “Saludos Amigos” knows, the diplomatic trip provided a creative jolt to those 18 animators, but more importantly achieved what is only imagined by Quentin Tarantino in “Inglourious Basterds”: cinema saving the world. (“Walt and El Grupo” will open on Friday in New York and Los Angeles and a full schedule can be found here. Jim Hill Media has also compiled the many events planned to coincide with the release.)

And lest one think that Disney is burnishing its history with those bloodless, self-congratulatory docs that usually emerge when Hollywood history is retold on film, they simply haven’t been paying attention. Earlier this year, the studio put out “The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story,” a criminally underseen doc about the fraternal songwriters behind such joyful classics as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” who were such rivals that they refused to let their families meet each other, despite living blocks apart in the same city. Likewise, the Toronto Film Fest will soon play host to “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” a more recent history of how the studio fell on hard times during the mid-1980s and rebounded with a string of hits like “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast,” but not before driving off such talents as Tim Burton and John Lasseter. (A sneak preview in Telluride provided positive notices from /Film and

It’s not surprising to learn via Thompson on Hollywood that Dick Cook, the current chairman of Walt Disney Studios who rose from humble beginnings as a monorail operator at Disneyland, has been supportive of these docs as a way of preserving the studio’s rich history, but the real credit belongs to “Walt and El Grupo” director Thomas (son of legendary animator Frank Thomas), “The Boys” co-directors Jeffrey and Gregory Sherman (the sons of Bob and Dick Sherman, respectively), and longtime Disney producer and “Waking Sleeping Beauty” director Don Hahn, who have traded on their insider status to peek behind the curtain, revealing Disney’s evolution, warts and all. For film fans, that can only be good news.

[Photo: “Walt and El Grupo,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2009]

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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