And now we reach the first movie in my Great Disney Rewatchathon that I’ve never actually seen before. This movie and the next few are all collections of short animated sequences rather than full stories, and for whatever reason, I’ve never seen any of them. This should be interesting.
Saludos Amigos is only 42 minutes long and is made up of 4 animated sequences joined together by live action scenes of the animators traveling through South America–kind of like a making-of special within the movie itself. For the first five minutes, I was utterly confused as to why I was watching a live action travelogue of South America rather than a Disney animated feature. But then Donald Duck made his first appearance, and all was well.
The first sequence is of Donald Duck exploring the area around Lake Titcaca (heh). For all the weirdness of the first five minutes, this animated short totally won me over. There’s a llama involved. It’s adorable. Since I’ve been bitching and moaning about the plotlessness of these early Disney movies, it’s a nice change to have mini-stories rather than 60-90 minutes of episodic adventures disguised as plot. Not that I don’t love the early Disney movies in my own way, but they sometimes lack…direction. These shorts are, well, short, so we avoid things like pink elephants or cloud dancing.
Anyway, the second short takes place in Chile, and is about a plane named Pedro, who must make the perilous journey to deliver the mail. He faces wind, rain, and a scary anthropomorphized mountain, and for a while there, it looks like he’s not going to make it. The best part of this sequence is the narration. The narrator of the whole movie is a guy named Fred Shields. He’s the narrator of those Goofy-learns-how-to-play-sports animated shorts, too. He’s also the voice of Bambi’s dad, apparently. When Pedro is fighting to make it, the narration gets wonderfully melodramatic and worried. “Drop the mail, Pedro! Save yourself! Climb, Pedro, climb!” and so forth. It’s delightful.
Third is a segment about gauchos in Argentina, represented, of course, by Goofy. It’s cute, and it also taught me some Spanish words. I don’t really remember any of them right now (except for poncho), but at the time, it was very educational. And now that I think about it, this is the first Disney movie that looks at a non-European, non-US American culture. The movie actually premiered in South America before it premiered in the US. Of course, it’s not even remotely a full representation of South American culture, but it’s not at all trying to be. The frame story of the animators is the real story–a bunch of Disney animators having fun while using a South American backdrop.
The last sequence brings Donald back, this time in Brazil. We also meet Jose (or Joe) Carioca, a parrot who will come back in The Three Caballeros. Jose teaches Donald about the samba, and there are a lot of pretty colors and dancing. And that’s kind of it. Saludos Amigos is short, but entertaining, and more importantly, it’s the first of a series of Disney movies to use this group-of-short-sequences formula (Fantasia is just a bit different) until they remember how to incorporate plot and proper villains into their movies again. I’m talking about you, Cinderella.
Favorite scene: The first short with Donald and the llama.
Because I love that llama. It’s so cute! Especially when it dances in a disgruntled manner!
Next time: The Three Caballeros!