And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for:
The Package Films.
From 1942 to 1949, six films were released that contain several vignettes, or short films, packaged together to fulfill a runtime.
Strangely enough, this is the shortest film in the Disney Animated Canon to date.
Disney Animators flew to South America to study the geography and culture of the continent. They came back to North America with video and sketches of the places and locals, and along with musical accompaniment, produced films inspired by their trip.
I really like the presentation of this film from the start. An immediately catchy song, narration, and live action film. It’s really refreshing. The film goes in a pattern: live action footage giving background to the next animated segment. The plots mostly consist of somewhat predictable stories, (Donald and Goofy get into some hi-jinx, Pedro completes his mission, and Donald dances the Samba) and it’s a good start to the package films. The Donald and Goofy gags are pretty fun despite the predictable plot, and you find yourself rooting for Pedro the Plane near the end of his segment. The film ends abruptly though, with no narration closing us out.
My PLOT Rating is 6 / 10 (3 / 5).
The Narrator (Fred Shields) is, interestingly enough, the same actor that played The Great Prince of the Forest from “Bambi” and he does a really good job here, interacting with the characters onscreen, passively or not.
Donald Duck (Clarence Nash) is Donald Duck here. Pure fun and petty rage, all while looking out for number one. I enjoy his different outfits in these vignettes, donning his classic sailor’s outfit, tourist outfit, and switching clothes with a local. He is the butt of many tourist jokes throughout, such as mispronunciations, lack of understanding the language, and taking photos of everything in sight.
Pedro the Plane (unvoiced) is adorable and dogged in his mission to deliver the mail. While he doesn’t really have much character, I appreciate his tenacity and drive to complete his task.
Goofy (Pinto Colvig) plays a Cowboy transported into the role of the Gaucho, and while he is basically a puppet of the Narrator, being forced into different situations, they are all in character and reminiscent of the classic Goofy shorts that feature him in a situation being narrated. It’s perfect.
José Carioca (José Oliveira), while his appearance is short, is quite memorable, appearing in the next film “The Three Caballeros” as well. Fast-talking, clever, and smartly dressed, and friend to all. He interacts with Donald and shows him how to Samba, using his umbrella as a flute and dancing up a storm.
My CHARACTERS Rating is 8 / 10 (4 / 5).
The dialogue is a nice call-and-response between the narrator and the players on screen. There isn’t much to it in complexity, yet it is a welcome change from the antiquated dialogue of past Disney films. There is a timeless feeling to the script, and this will probably hold up pretty well. Respect is also given to pronunciation of words and place names with correct accents and inflection.
My DIALOGUE Rating is 8 / 10 (4 / 5).
The use of color is beautiful in this film. Bright, booming primaries and secondaries, and the live action film quality is surprisingly good for the time. The sketches made by the artists are also beautiful and a great window into the creation of an animated film. Canyons, vistas, and the local people are sketched and colored with finesse. In the animated segments, animated paintbrushes bring the world to life, and, for example, transform bananas into toucans.
The frenetic energy of the Donald and Goofy segments are spot-on, and the Pedro segment features screenfuls of weather effects and flowing camera movement. The slow motion effect during the Goofy segment is beautifully done, and the transitions pushing the characters away is an unobtrusive moment of breaking the fourth wall. The silhouette effects at the end of the film look great, and allow for more detailed movement while sacrificing detailed design.
My EFECTS Rating is 10 / 10 (5 / 5).
“Saludos Amigos” is quite the memorable track, recurring throughout the film. It sets the stage for the calming tone of the film and doesn’t get tiring when refrained. Most of the music in the film matches the action well, with the orchestra keeping a good pace with the art. “Aquarele do Brasil” (“Watercolor of Brazil”) by Ary Barroso is awesome, calling in maracas, horns, and bongoes to the forefront. It’s an incredibly catchy Samba hit that celebrates his love of the country.
My MUSIC Rating is 8 / 10 (4 / 5).
One thing I must mention is that the cultural depictions feel respectful towards South America, and not really racist. Personally, I find it funny that the tourist is made fun of instead of the South Americans, and this is a nice flip compared to previous films. Disney seems to be getting better at depicting different races. Thank you, Walt.
While this film is the shortest of the Disney Animated Canon, it is by no means forgettable. “Saludos Amigos” has the most timeless script out of the early films, and a playfulness to the artwork that lets the artists out of the box. The characters are fun to watch, the music is very well done and quite catchy. The plot is the weakest point of the film, however, with the framing device being dropped in the last five minutes.
My OVERALL Rating of “Saludos Amigos” (1942) is 80%.
Next time, Green and Blue are joined by Red in a most memorable trio!