This is part of an ongoing series where we watch each theatrical Disney Animated Classic and review it. To catch up with previous ones, please start here.
First off, I had to pay $3.99 to rent this on Amazon. For a cartoon from 1943, this is way too much cash to lay down. But it is in HD, and you can tell from how clear the pictures are. So that’s cool.
Saludos Amigos opens with a catchy song that screams classic 1940’s Disney. Watching the opening credits, it was cool to see names we’ve talked about on the show, like Herb Ryman, Mary Blair, Ward Kimball, Yale Gracey and Claude Coates!
The film opens with the artists flying from LA to South America (it took them 3 days, by the way. 3!) to do some research into the culture of the residents. Today that sounds a bit ridiculous, but I suppose for 1940’s America, our world was a lot larger than it is today. It’s neat to see the animators drawing the locals in their Disney flair.
Enter Donald Duck as the “celebrated North American Tourist”, exploring Lake Titicaca. Seems like much of the story is just to show off the syncing of music and action. Which I suppose was the point in the first place.
Then we get the story of a little mail plane called Pedro, who lives with his Mom and Dad, carrying mail from Argentina to Chile. Sometimes you forget just how dark Disney cartoons can get.
Continuing on, we hit up Argentina, with some cool 16mm film footage of 1940’s Argentina. Then the animators are up, showing off what gave them inspiration for the next cartoon. It’s pretty cool to see how this trip came together and what sparked the imagination of these talented folks. This led us to be introduced to … Gaucho Goofy! Of course, he does just about everything wrong and ends up hurting himself and others in the process, but that’s his lot in life.
Off to Brazil, and the city of Rio. Not only did Brazil inspire a song and a pretty cool “music video” that transitioned into another Donald Duck vehicle, but we are introduced to Jose Caricoa – a talking parrot based on Brazilian lore. Jose does a spirited impression of Donald, which made me laugh, and they go on to get quite the tour of Brazil. This whole segment has a gag, and that is the artist is creating everything as it’s happening. So you have a giant cartoon brush creating the steps that the boys are walking down as they are walking down them, for example. It’s a great tool, and highlights the creativity of these cartoons. There are some really clever transitions in here, stuff you just don’t see any more.
This is probably one of the first Disney animated films that I’ve seen to stand the test of time. It helps that there is really no story here, just a few short animations that are thrown together with a common thread. At a 41 minute run-time, this is pretty easy for kids to sit through, and will give any Disney fan something to marvel at, including a young Walt Disney! They ended up making a real movie about this Disney trip called “Walt & El Grupo”, which I have to watch now. Apparently the US State Department put this journey together as a symbol of goodwill between the Americas, in part to sort of override the growing Nazi connections in Latin America. Pretty interesting stuff.