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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Disneyear: Saludos Amigos (1942)

First, a history lesson: this was made around World War II, and the Nazi's had a good grip on a lot of smaller European countries. They had their eyes on South American countries like Argentina. so, to keep the Nazis at bay, America decided to endorse a policy on South America called The Good Neighbor Policy, where America wouldn't get involved in the domestic affairs of Latin America. It also reinforced the idea that the United States would be a “good neighbor” and engage in reciprocal exchanges with Latin American countries. This is where Walt Disney comes in: Disney characters, especially Donald Duck, were extremely popular in South America. So, Walt decided to make a film to show that America wanted to be in good relations with Latin America. The result was today's film, Saludos Amigos. (By the way: in a sense, this counts as WWII propaganda)

Like The Reluctant Dragon, Saludos Amigos was a Disney film that I never saw as a kid. Hell, I never heard of it before I started getting into animation! It's another obscure film that slipped under my radar. After watching it... well....there's a good reason why it's obscure. Not that it's god-awful (there's still some things that I like about it), it just could have been better. Much better. 

Well, the best synopsis I can give is that the Disney artists take a plane over to South America for ideas for new films. They visit different parts of the land down below like Lake Titicaca, the pampas of Argentina, and Rio de Janero and show you the cartoon they came up with after each trip. That's. About. It. 

So what are the cartoons? Like what I did with Fantasia, I'll analyze each little segment of the film.
Let's start with Lake Titicaca, where...

...How did they get here? Anywho, where Donald Duck visits the highest lake in the world and observes some aspects of the Andean culture. The trip ends quick when Donald and a llama get in trouble on a suspension bridge. Well, I think I analyzed it earlier in the blog and I think I praised it only for Milt Kahl's animation on the llama character. Looking at it again, the short is kind of boring. The llama scenes are actually the only entertaining part of the short. There's funnier Donald cartoons out there.

Then there's Pedro, the only short here with a coherent story. It's about a baby plane taking over his father's job of delivering the mail when he calls in sick. He succeeds and gains respect by braving the highest peak in the Andes mountains. It's a cute short, but it's the dullest short in the whole movie. 

Next up is in the Argentine pampas, where we meet up with Goofy demonstrating the art of being a gaucho, or coyboy. Like a lot of the Goofy cartoons of the 40's and 50's, it has some great slapstick comedy and is easily the funniest short in the movie. But again, there are better Goofy cartoons to watch. 

Last, but definitely not least is Aquarela do Brasil, or Watercolors of Brazil. We see an artist paint Brazil to the tune of Brazil, my all-time favorite song. Donald later appears and meets a green parrot named José Carioca. He shows Donald around Rio de Janero and introduces him to samba music. This is probably the only short that I really enjoy. The whole scene with the paint creating the Brazilian world in perfect harmony to the song Brazil is just awesome to me. It's really showcasing some of the best of Disney's art. There's also some scenes where the artist paints some things but it turns into something else, which is again really cool. Like you think he's painting a tree, but it's really a bird. Maybe if the whole movie was like this, I'd enjoy it more. 

To sum it up, Saludos Amigos, well, kind of dull. The animation is still good as usual, but it's their short cartoon animation. Don't get me wrong, I love the short animations, but after seeing Bambi before this, this film seems like a downgrade.But as far as the short animation goes, this is some of Disney's best, even if not even all of the film is animated. My biggest problem with it is the presentation. The narrator is really, really boring. I'm sure he's trying, but he just didn't help make it entertaining. On top of that, this feels like someone's vacation videos slapped together with the short cartoons the artists came up with. Does that really count as a movie? Maybe as a featurette, but not a whole movie. But's it's far from being awful. On the bright side, it is educational, as in you get a little culture out of it and they do show different languages, dances, songs, ect. That's pretty cool, I guess. The music is also fun to listen to. 

But this isn't very groundbreaking as a film and comes off, to me at least, very mediocre compared to the other Disney films. If I could improve it, I would have the whole film presented like the last short, Aquarela do Brazil and have  José  and Donald show the audience around not only Brazil, but also other parts of South America and maybe bump into some of the characters along the way. If you want to see Saludos Amigos just to see all the Disney movies, go check it out. Otherwise, just have it as a matinee for your kids on a Saturday afternoon or just skip it.

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