Film: "Saludos Amigos"
Release Date: 24 August 1942 (Brazil), 6 February 1943 (USA)
Director: Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts
History: "Saludos Amigos" was the sixth Disney Animated film, and first of the "package film" era. It was the culmination of a bunch of different things going on at the same time. World War II was going on, and while at the time that this film was made, the US had not gotten into the war yet, but worried as many Latin Nations were forming ties to Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, the same war was hurting the Disney Studios financially and in May of 1941, the studio had a strike during the production of "Dumbo." All in all, this lead to many worries for the studio, as well as for the country.
It was after the Disney Studio strike that future New York State Governor and US Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, who at that time was head of the Latin American Affairs office in the State Department, suggested to Walt a goodwill tour of Latin America of behalf of the US Government. The US Government was happy as it meant that they would be sending down arguable one of their most popular citizens to Latin America as an ambassador of sorts, in hopes of it leading to ties being broken with Germany and forged with the US instead, and Walt was happy as the film he would make would be paid fully from government subsidies and tensions at the studio would ease while he was gone. Walt and the group from the studio that went with him, visited Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile. The film was first released in Brazil, but finally show in the states in early 1943. It had mixed reviews, but was popular enough that the Studio made one more Latin film, "The Three Caballeros."
My Reaction: To me, the "package film era" was a very bleak moment in the history of Disney Animation. It was for the most part an out come of World War II and really acted as more of a flotation device for the choppy financial waters the studio was in as a result. The first two films in this series, of which this was the first, acted as more of a propaganda film then anything else. It was meet with mixed reviews when it came out for a reason. Instead of the single, traditional story telling Disney was starting to be know for with his first five film, this was essentially a bunch of short subject cartoons, strung together with live-action footage of Walt and his group in Latin America. It defied the image of what a Disney Animated Film should look like, and most likely even angered some in 1943. But, it very much has to been seen with historians glasses, as again it was a direct result of World War II, and like many things, the War interrupted much of what was normal, everyday life in the United States, and even the whole World.
I think for what it was though, it was a good film. It is not a film I reach for when I want to watch Disney movies and is more of something I watch when I'm doing something like this marathon or for more historical reasons. It very much feels like just what it is, a series of Disney shorts staring Donald Duck and Goofy. The shorts themselves aren't even necessarily Donald or Goofy's best work, but still fans of either character will find enjoyment here.
Modern day releases of this film on DVD find a most confusing situation. Several seconds of animation depicting Goofy smoking were cut. Now while I can understand the thinking behind this, but feel there is room in this World for a DVD of both versions, the thing I don't get is why Disney didn't feel the need to cut scenes of smoking in this film from Joe Carioca or even Walt Disney himself! Then when you take into consideration that later, they did the same thing in "Melody Time" to Pecos Bill, but leave the smoking that once again Joe Carioca does as well as the smoking Pinocchio does in his film intact and the smoking Goofy does intact on the "Walt Disney Treatises" release of his shorts, you start to scratch your head. It slightly baffles why they chose to edit somethings but not others. Don't get me wrong, personally I've VERY anti-smoking and will argue for "family friendly edits" of film to the death, but the logic in this instance leaves me wondering what were they thinking? I think once again, there is room in this world for both versions.
My Wife's Reaction: She seemed ok with it, but it didn't seem to hold her attention as much.
My Final Grade: (C-) It is hard thinking of this film as a film in many ways and the shorts that make up the bulk of the film are not necessarily the best. In fact in many ways, this film felt more like a documentary mixed with Disney Animation and I'd guess would have better shelf life seen as something to show a history class in school then as family entertainment at home. But, for what it is, it was fine and there are many interesting facts about life in Latin America.
All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.