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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

Week # 8: "Saludos Amigos"

(Originally published on 2/20/22)


Saludos Amigos

Run time: 42 min

Release Date: February 6, 1943

Where/when I first saw it: First time watch

How I watched it today: Blu-ray, Saturday afternoon.

Commissioned by the State Department, Disney and his artists created this package of shorts as a way of building friendly relations with South America. Along the same lines as “The Reluctant Dragon” a few years prior, “Saludos Amigos” is another package film, interspersed with a behind-the-scenes look at what the Disney artists have been up to. Much of the film consists of documentary footage of them going all over South America and drawing what they see in hopes of using it in a future cartoon or feature.

The four shorts vary in value, either as entertainment or as an outsider’s view into what many at the time believed to be a continent that hadn’t yet caught up to the modern age (remember, this is 1943 and this film did help to dispel that myth). “Lake Titicaca” has the irresistible Donald Duck acting as a tourist and having to put up with a stubborn llama. “Pedro” concerns a baby airplane in Santiago, Chile whose father is a mighty mail carrier and how Pedro takes his first perilous flight. “El Gaucho Goofy” depicts Goofy as an American cowboy being transported to Argentina to learn the ways of the native gaucho. Finally, the best of the bunch, “Aquarela do Brasil” shows watercolors on a paintbrush coming to life and Donald Duck being introduced to a new character, a parrot named Jose Carioca, who introduces him to many dances and musical styles.

If one can ignore the political implications here and the propaganda nature of the 42-minute film (the shortest Disney film to be released in theaters yet), it is a mostly enjoyable and energetic treat. I’m a sucker for any Donald Duck cartoon, so it goes without saying the highlights–”Lake Titicaca” and “Aquarela do Brasil”--help the film begin and end strongly while the middle part sags a bit.

There’s not much more to say about this, except that it’s certainly a drop in quality over the astonishing features Disney had produced up to this time. It’s clear things are about to change as this movie acts as part travelog, part Silly Symphony. Still, the Disney artists had always strived to not repeat themselves and if taking a couple beloved stock characters to another continent to learn more about it is breaking new ground, then I suppose, mission: accomplished.


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