The Roosevelt Administration was worried about the growing influence of Nazi Germany in Latin America, and so sent Walt Disney, his wife Lillian, and other colleagues from his studio to make a tour of South America, visiting places like Brazil, Argentina, and Chile in 1941. For ten weeks, Walt and his team traveled the land, facing the influences of possible war as well as being inspired by the local culture. This trip resulted in two films, Saludos Amigos and Three Caballeros, and later led to a documentary called Walt and El Grupo, which details the trip Walt and his team made.
The tables have turned just 75 years after Walt’s trip to Brazil – Brazilians are now coming to the U.S., and many of them choose to visit Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. In 2012 CNN reported that 2011 saw the largest number of Brazilian tourists at Walt Disney World, resulting in Disney hiring an increasing number of Portuguese-speaking “super greeters” to meet the needs of these guests. Quartz furthermore reports on these continuing trends, and even points out that both President Obama has noted the close relationship between Walt Disney World and Brazilian guests.
Today The Walt Disney Company and Brazil continue to have a positive relationship: the first Walt Disney World Resort-themed plane debuted in Brasília, Brazil just this past February, and ESPN is, of course, reporting on this year’s Olympic games in Rio.
The rising number of Brazilian Disney fans visiting Walt Disney World and Disney’s presence within the country’s media represents, hopefully, a continued, positive relationship between Brazil and Disney. Many, in fact, have speculated in the past about a new Disney park to be created in Brazil, and while nothing has been confirmed yet, the strong relationship between the country and the company many point to possible future plans.
In the meantime, however, the devotion of many Brazilian fans and Disney’s efforts to cater to them indicates the company’s respect of different cultures, and reflects the original hope for peace and cooperation that founded Walt Disney’s first visit to the country in 1941.