The Babbitt Diary: Animating in Argentina – part 2

Walt and “El Grupo Disney” in South America, late 1941.  Animator Frank Thomas is pictured far right.

As previously posted, in the summer/fall of 1941, Walt Disney and a group of some of his most trusted staff went to South America as part of the U.S. government’s “Good Neighbor Program”… and just a few months later, Art Babbitt took his own solo trip to South America, where he met Argentinian cartoon studio head Dante Quinterno.

Dante Quinterno

February 10, 1942

Worked all day with [Quinterno’s collaborator] Tullio Lovato.  He speaks no English at all… so it was a wonderful experience to understand and make myself understood with my meagre vocabulary and lack of construction knowledge. My dictionary was in constant use[…]

February 19, 1942

Met Bergman Today – Quinterno’s musician – and judging from the sound track he made – he’s a damn good musician.

He’s Dutch – but has traveled widely – speaks many languages, including an excellent English.  He was connected with the British Broadcasting Co. in London for 2 years and lived in the U.S. for one year.

When Disney was here – Bergman met him – and evidently Walt let down his guard – because Bergman told me Walt’s characteristics, evils and weaknesses — just as though he had known him as long as I have.

I don’t know who Walt fooled here – certainly not the people I’ve met. […]

February 28, 1942

Quinterno was so anxious to get back that he drove from Mar del Plato at 140 kilometers per hour and arrived early this morning.

I went over the continuity of his pictures with him — arranging for cuts and shifting of sequences to tie the story together.

He made it clear that he would give me a partnership in his business if I’d come on down.
My terms were these:

1) Guarantee of transportation to and from the states.
2) A part interest in the profit.
3) A two year contract.
4) The equivalent of my present salary at Disney’s – which is a great deal of money – in Argentina at 4.25 to 1.
5) He was to furnish the capital – supplies, space and distribution.
6) I was to supply my talent and train new men.

But intriguing as it all is, I’m still determined to finish with Disney and follow through with my law suits. […]

March 2, 1942

[…] Dante made a very flattering offer- and should my business in the states permit me to do  so – I may come back to Argentina in about 6 months and plan to stay about 2 years.
March 3, 1942

The main points in Dante’s contract are these:
1) the equivalent in pesos of $100 American   per week – which is the same as $200 American in Hollywood plus.
2) 16% of all net profit up to 300,000 pesos and 20% of all profit over 300,000 pesos, which means that with any luck at all I could clear $30,000 American besides my salary in 2 years.
3) 1st class passage round trip guaranteed
4) 2 years of salary even if nothing is produced.
5) He is to furnish all the capital supplies – location and equipment.

I checked with Ray Joshipo[?] of the Rockefeller Committees in Argentina and he things we might get some help in our release arrangements.  Through Nelson Rockefeller and Jock Whitney.  At any rate there’s much to think about in the next few months.

March 9, 1942

[…] Just recalling the South Americano reaction to some of our good-will ambassadors – I found that Bing Crosby was constantly drunk and surely to newspaper men and haunted the whore-houses.  Tyrone Power picked his nose as he walked on crowded Avenida [Calle] Florida in B[uenos] A[ries].  Stokowski was a flop and his supposed temperament angered the people of Montevideo.  Douglas Fairbanks Jr. + Lily Pons were disliked – but Disney, Toscanini and Clark Gable were popular.

However, Disney made a terrible faux pas in Argentina.  In his smart alecky way – he was dressed in a “gaucho” costume when he was invited to a home of a very aristocratic family.  The hosts stood by and watched his antics but were so annoyed they didn’t even sit down to eat with Disney. […]

Walt Disney as a Gaucho in South America, late 1941

I don’t honestly believe Walt embarrassed himself that much – – an occasional  faux pas is far outweighed by the good he did as an ambassador, which even Babbitt admits.  What’s more likely is that Art’s new friends wanted to get on his good side, and if that meant pointing out Walt’s flaws, so be it.

a frame from “Upa en Apuros”

The culmination of Babbitt’s trip in Argentina was the bits of quality animation in Quinterno’s one and only animated film, Upa en Apuros.  After returning to the U.S. that April, Art Babbitt began serving in the U.S. marine corps, where he remained until the end of WWII.  Returning to civilian life, he went back to Disney’s, where he spitefully and unhappily animated for about 2 years.  Then he went to Paris to work with Lou Bunin on his Alice film. … but why Babbitt didn’t return to Argentina is a mystery.

***********BREAKING NEWS!!! **********

After I publishing my previous post about Dante Quinterno, I was contacted by an Argentinian animator named Ignacio Ochoa!  He said,

“I posted a comment in Oscar Grillo´s Blog (Oscar Grillo is a legendary Argentinian animator based on London) and I did a question to Oscar about ‘Upa en Apuros’

“Ignacio Ochoa:
‘Just a few days ago mentioned something about the similarity in the animation of “Upa in trouble” with the Popeye shorts in my blog. It seems that Quinterno traveled to the U.S. and formed with Fleisher in the production of cartoons. Do you have any information about that Don Grillo?’

“Oscar Grillo:
‘Ochoa. About the seventies I met the great Disney animator Art Babbitt, Quinterno had told me he had been a consultant in the movie and I confirmed this but added that he had been sent by the State Department to investigate U.S. Nazi penetration culture in Argentina (his words).’

Hmmmmmm…….  This begs further research…

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1 Response to The Babbitt Diary: Animating in Argentina – part 2

  1. Pingback: The Babbitt Diary: Animating in Argentina – part 1 | babbittblog

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