by D.W. Lundberg

Friday, May 27, 2011


My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. Again, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.

Title: Saludos Amigos (1943)

The Plot: A travelogue through Latin America, with Donald Duck as a tourist at Lake Titicaca, a family of airplanes in Chile, and Goofy as a gaucho in the Argentine pampas.

The Songs: "Saludos Amigos," "Brazil," "Tico-Tico no Fubá"

A Little History: In 1941, the U.S. Department of State sent Walt Disney and a small group of artists on a goodwill tour of South America, as part of the Good Neighbor Policy. They visited Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru, with Disney as acting ambassador. Animators were inspired to create a series of short subjects from their experiences on the trip, with the intent to release each of these separately. By 1943, however, most of Disney's staff had been drafted into the War effort to help create propaganda films, so he decided to "package" these short films together instead, in order to keep his feature film division alive. Disney then incorporated live-action footage taken during his goodwill tour as a framing device.

How It Broke New Ground: The first of six "package films" made by Disney during the 1940s, and the first animated Disney title screened in South America before its U.S. release. At only 42 minutes in length, it is the shortest Animated Classic to date. José Carioca, that rascally parrot, also makes his motion picture debut.

How It Holds Up Today: An odd addition to the Disney canon. There's no linear plot, it runs roughly half the length of the average Classic (how 42 minutes qualifies as "feature length" is beyond me), and while each individual short works well enough on its own, the movie doesn't hold together as a cohesive whole. (It's like Fantasia, set to Latin American customs instead.) Starts off like a documentary, with animators boarding a plane, suitcases in hand, as narrator Fred Shields gives us the 4-1-1 ("Here's an unusual expedition..."). We get a brief history of Lake Titicaca and its surrounding cultures, and then Donald shows up, entertains us for a few minutes, and it's back to another geography lesson – Chile, this time. A second animated segment follows, this one starring a trio of anthropomorphic Chilean airplanes. And so on and so forth. I hate to say it, but Amigos feels more like a travelogue, not a movie; production cutbacks aside, it's an obvious regression in quality from Disney's previous masterworks.

Grade: C+


Hold tight, Disney fans – there's more to come. Need to catch up? Click on the following for: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi. Please comment!

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