The Walt Disney Company heads to South America to check out the beautiful landmarks and countryside in Argentina, Chile and Brazil for their sixth animated feature, “Saludos Amigos.” The film features four shorts giving the viewer a look at the South American landscape and introducing two legendary Disney characters, Donald Duck and Goofy.
This is one of three propaganda films Disney made during World War II. Like most other companies, Disney was struggling financially during the war, so Walt Disney took funding from the US Government to make some films to help with the war efforts. “Saludos Amigos” is one of two that focuses on relations with South American governments in an effort to get them to side with the United States and its allies.
From an animation perspective, this film is beautifully drawn. The images of Donald Duck, Goofy, Pedro the plane and Jose Carioca are wonderful to look at. The animators flew to South America and put in the work to learn about the region and try to represent it accurately. The film provides some live action sequences that follows the animators on the plane. I could do without the live action, but I appreciate the information involved letting us know they actually took the time to learn about the area rather than just relying on stereotypes.
Of these, I think my favorite segment is “El Gaucho Goofy.” Goofy has always been one of my favorite Disney characters and I love seeing this early iteration of him. It’s interesting seeing the comparisons between the North American Cowboy and the South American Gaucho.
I also, thoroughly, enjoyed the “Aquarela do Brasil” segment. We meet Jose Carioca who we would see again in “The Three Caballeros,” which is my favorite film from Disney’s Wartime Era of animation. I’ve also been reacquainted with him as he has appeared on “Mickey and the Roadster Racers,” which my son watches religiously.
This film is only 42 minutes long and I don’t think it could be longer. The connecting pieces of travel were a bit distracting. I love the animated parts, but don’t really care for the live action parts. It’s a decent film, but it’s obviously propaganda, so it’s hard to get fully behind it. That being said, I would like to see this film remade. Many of the countries of South America have beautiful landscapes that deserve an updated animation. And, maybe it can be made with a more established narrative rather than just a series of shorts loosely connected. It’s a film that has potential, but needs an update.