Film Review: Saludos Amigos
In 1942, Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, and Bill Roberts released Saludos Amigos. Starring Lee Blair, Mary Blair, Pinto Colvig, Walt Disney, Norman Ferguson, Frank Graham, Clarence Nash, Jose Oliveira, Fred Shields, and Frank Thomas, with a narration by Fred Shields, the film had an unknown box office gross.
Interspersing between a documentary showing Disney artists traveling around South America and animated segments revolving around the continent's cultures, the film features Donald Duck as an American tourist, a small airplane from an airport near Santiago engaging on his first flight to pick up mail, Goofy learning the ways of the goucho and Donald touring South America with his cousin, José Carioca.
Saludos Amigos isn’t necessarily bad for a hybrid film, as the shorts in and of themselves have some decent stories. The first with Donald as a tourist is enjoyable and pokes fun at the stupid things tourists do, especially him blowing off the warnings about altitude sickness. It seems the llama he encounters knows just how much of an idiotic tourist he is too, refusing to do anything he says out of knowledge it's going to end badly. The second one, with Pedro, is funny in its anthropomorphizing mail planes, but also cute in it giving a plane who’s not ready a call to adventure it must follow, concluding in his overcoming the odds. The most humorous aspect of this segment is the ending showing he made such a perilous journey for a single postcard. Goofy's segment is entertaining as well, throwing him in Argentina to become a Goucho, only to have him hate it because of his horse. Additionally, the moment he is revealed to be lip syncing to a record, only discovered because the music starts looping, is pretty amusing. Likewise, Donald and José traveling around Brazil is interesting and includes a satisfying gag concerning José rattling off a long string of places he wants to visit. He continues speaking for almost a minute and it becomes hilarious when he translates it upon seeing Donald's confusion, stating the two of them should see the town.
Putting all of these together and infusing them with the documentary makes for a film that does have a valid existence. Many of the South American countries were allied with the Axis Powers in World War II and the State Department wanted them to be allied with the Allies. As such, a goodwill tour was necessary.Further, the fil had an impact the other way around, using footage of Latin American cities with skyscrapers and modern dress. It subverted expectations as American audiences didn’t believe Latin America had been progressing with the times. As a whole, the film seemed to work, building a community of interest between the two Americas.
However, despite the reasons for creating the film were valid and though the shorts themselves were quite good, it seems the end result felt out of place. Disney didn’t need to combine a documentary with animated shorts, due to it looking like the documentary aspect of the film accomplished all it needed to do in Pan-American relations. It feels like either Disney didn’t feel secure in just putting in live action or he put in the animation to make more money. None of the shorts are bad, they just kind of weigh the live action portions down and those were the more important parts. What's more is the film has a runtime of about 42 minutes because the filmmakers cut out unfinished scenes, making it the shortest Disney Animated Feature. Doing so hurt the film more than it helped as the cut scenes were a live action segment tied to an animated short, demonstrating the filmmakers felt the live action sequences only had weight if they were connected with animation which isn't really the desired effect while attempting to celebrate a region's culture in order to sway them to a positive line of thinking.
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National Board of Review
- Best Documentary
- Best Sound, Recording
- Best Music, Original Song (For the song "Saludos Amigos")
- Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture