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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Filmmaking > Industry > Music > Animation > The Boys – The Sherman Brothers Story + Walt & El Grupo – The Untold Adventures (Disney Documentary DVDs)

The Boys – The Sherman Brothers Story + Walt & El Grupo – The Untold Adventures (Disney Documentary DVDs)


Picture: B-     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Documentaries: B



Disney has gone back into their archives to create another round of documentaries and issued them for DVD.  We will soon look at Waking Sleeping Beauty about the fall and rise of the studio starting in the early 1980s, but begin with two pleasant surprises that will impress anyone who enjoys filmmaking and offer rare looks inside the studio when Walt Disney himself was calling the shots.


The Boys – The Sherman Brothers Story is a near biography on the two men who became the main songwriters for the studio.  Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman could have landed up in all kinds of work, but after a series of jobs that did not work out, they landed up working together and became songwriters.  At first, there was no guarantee that they would succeed, but writing Pop records for Annette Funicello and the Disney Records label led to the brothers having a fateful meeting with Disney himself.  Part of this was in his dream to make the book of Mary Poppins into a live action musical motion picture and continue to work for the studio.  Ads a matter of fact, Mr. Disney was so impressed, he put them under contract.


The result is that they became a hit machine for the studio as well as delivering much critical acclaim and songs that helped make movies for the company hits.  Their run at the studio was extraordinary and one of the last of its kind in Hollywood history as Disney was the last mogul of any type from the Classical Hollywood era.  When Disney passed away, the brothers soon left the studio, then were quickly picked up by James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli to make a score for a very different Ian Fleming book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, more than proving that they could thrive strongly outside of Disney.


There is also the long term uneasy relationship they had over the decades, not always getting along, getting on each other’s nerves, keeping their families oddly separate at special occasions and the like.  However, when they got to work on a song, extraordinary things happened and we get to witness this chemistry and genius often in this impressive documentary by Jeffrey C. Sherman and Gregory V. Sherman.  Hope they consider trying another documentary.


Then there is Walt & El Group – The Untold Adventures, another tale of the Disney Studios surviving tough times by taking risks and finding themselves taking a U.S. Government-sponsored trip to South America on a good will tour!  In 1941, the studio had outlasted its chief rival, The Fleischer Studios, but WWII was another story, hurting the company (which was not a major studio yet) by losing some very profitable markets to invading Axis Powers.  This goodwill trip resulted in a trip they would never forget that was a success and also resulted in informing the studios work, even to the extent that they created classic animated work as a result.


Writer/Director Theodore Thomas and company recreate the trip through stills, documents, audio, actual work from the studio, interviews old & new and tell the story of this trip that expanded the studio is many ways.  Walt Disney himself went all out and not only got to know the area thoroughly, but enjoyed it and the studio triumphed again because it was willing to get involved in real life that became a further inspiration.  “El Grupo” is the term the group of Disney employees became known as.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on both DVDs are just fine, with good quality footage, including new HD interviews and great archive film.  Boys has more film clips, but both are smoothly edited, which extends to the audio, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1.  The sound can be a little more towards the front speakers and center channel, but not as much in either case as expected.


Extras on both include featurettes.  Boys has Why They Are ‘The Boys’, Disney Studios In The ‘60s, Casting Mary Poppins, The Process, Theme Parks, Ray Williams, Bob’s Art and Celebration, while Grupo has Photos In Motion and three pieces from the Director’s Cut: Home Movies For The Big Screen, My Father’s Generation and Artists and Politicians.  Boys also adds a Jukebox function to hear some of their hits, while Grupo adds a feature length audio commentary track by Director Thomas & Historian J.B. Kaufman, the full-length 1943 animated classic Saludos Amigos and trailers for that film and The Three Caballeros.


Our DVDs came with extras include.  Boys had a music sheet from Mary Poppins, while Grupo contained a Disney Timetable.


Let’s hope Disney continues making and releasing gems like this.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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