Ranking Disney: #50 – Saludos Amigos (1942)
Saludos Amigos isn’t really a film. It’s more of a travelogue. See, in 1941, right before the war started, the State Department sent Disney animators down to South America on a goodwill tour. Sort of a, “Hey, we’re Good Neighbors” sort of deal. A lot of South America had ties to the Nazis (Boys from Brazil, anyone?), so they said, “Hey, what’s pure? Disney is pure. They love the mouse down there,” so they sent Walt as an ambassador. They went down, about twenty people in all — artists, composers, etc. — and visited Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru. Apparently the film did more to promote common interest between the U.S. and South America in the few months the trip lasted than the State Department had done in 50 years. Good old Walt.
But as I said, it’s not really a film. It’s mostly just a piece designed for ambassadorial purposes. There’s no plot, it’s just an actual tour of South America, with some Disney characters we know thrown in. That’s why this film is where it is. It does nothing wrong, it’s just that there’s not much of substance here either.
The film is broken down into segments, basically a series of, “First, we went here. This is what it’s like. Then, here. And here’s a fictional example of what it might be like if…” that sort of thing. Very 40s and 50s. You know those newsreels? “Come to sunny California…” This is kind of like that for South America, mostly showing people, “Hey, you know that idea you have of people living in mountains and shit? Well, they have buildings too.” And they also make it Disney, so people can enjoy it. It’s a mix of the animated stuff and actual live shots of places in South America.
The first section is a Lake Titicaca section. Donald Duck visits and has a comic bit with a llama. That’s pretty much it.
Then there’s a bit about a small airplane from Chile. He’s going on his first flight to pick up the mail, and almost crashes because he gets caught in a storm. And his mama and papa airplane (because, you know, airplanes can reproduce) are frightened, but then he makes it back okay, and it’s happy.
Then there’s a bit where Goofy ends up in Argentina and becomes a gaucho. Mostly, it’s a series of comic stuff, as you can see in the screenshot above.
And finally, there’s Aquarela do Brasil. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because that’s this song. It’s pretty famous. But, Donald Duck is taken around Brasil by José Carioca, a parrot, and he learns to dance the samba.
That’s it, that’s the film.
Easily one of the weakest of all Disney films. It’s just not particularly interesting. Only 40 minutes, so that’s good. Still, there’s not particularly much of interest here. (Though, for completionists like me, it’s nice that the weak films are also the shortest. It makes it real easy to get through them all.)
I have to rank it down here just because, again, while it was important in 1942, and while it’s not bad in any sense of the word, it’s just — what am I watching? Why would I want to watch this? It’s not that entertaining. I’d rather watch Fantasia for the 30th time. So I had to rank this where I did.
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Official Disney Number: #6
Run Time: 42 minutes
Release Date: August 24, 1942 (Rio de Janeiro)
February 6, 1943 (U.S.)
Budget: No budget reported. But it sounds like the government paid for a good portion of it since they went on the trip.
Box Office: I also have no idea how much money it made. Apparently it was popular enough to spawn The Three Caballeros, so it must have been reasonably popular.
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- “Saludos Amigos”
- “Aquarela do Brasil”
- “Tico Tico No Fubá”
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- The film was nominated for three Oscars: Best Original Song, for “Saludos Amigos,” Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, and Best Sound, Recording. It also won Best Documentary from the National Board of Review.
- This is the shortest of all the Disney features.
- The first Disney film screened in South America before being screened in the U.S.
- Apparently the shorts were going to be released individually, but then they said, “Well, only the people in those countries will give a shit,” so they built the film around their trip instead.
- The “Pedro” airplane segment led to Chilean cartoonist René Ríos Boettiger to create “Condorito,” which became one of the most popular comic strip characters around the world.
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I didn’t really notice any, but again, I wasn’t watching this as a typical Disney film. So, I’m sure there are some, I just don’t have any.