Walt Disney heads way south of the border, literally, with artists in tow for “Saludos Amigos,” which makes stops in a handful of South American countries. The format shows footage of his crew boarding planes (and using portable typewriters) and experiencing cities and their cultures. Their sketches and illustrations then inspire animated bits reflecting what they saw.
This installment of our Disney Plus reviews, presented in chronological order, takes overseas and back in time to before the U.S. entered World War II and Peruvian music is noted as “strange and exotic.”
The basics: Segments include Donald Duck visiting Lake Titicaca and encountering llamas; a little airplane struggling to deliver mail between countries; Goofy becoming an Argentinian gaucho; and Donald shaking his tail feather during a samba sequence set in Brazil
The legacy: “Saludos Amigos” received three Oscar nominations, but its claim to fame might be its running time of just 42 minutes.
The flashback: Not one scene sparked a childhood memory for me.
Adult art of animation appreciation: The final segment, dubbed “Aquarela do Brasil,” feels innovative as watercolors splash into place around Donald, who is animated in the traditional style. For humor’s sake, I liked Donald and a llama using a rope bridge to crossing between mountain peaks. What could go wrong? There’s a Roadrunner-Coyote sensibility here. (Oh, there’s my childhood flashback after all. What’s Spanish for Acme?)
Parental guidance / kid stuff: Once again, Disney Plus warns us of tobacco use, which appears in both animated and live-action format. You can spot Walt himself with a cigarette.
What brought me back to reality (a.k.a. coronavirus alert): Donald doubts the existence and the symptoms of altitude sickness. “Dizziness? Ah, phooey” he states … before getting dizzy.
Burning questions: It’s a shame that the Disney illustrators seen aren’t identified or speak. Among those on the planes are Mary Blair (artist behind “it’s a small world” and those dramatic mosaics in Disney’s Contemporary Resort), Norm Ferguson (creator of Pluto) and Frank Thomas, who started working with Disney in 1934. You might even miss Walt Disney himself if you weren’t looking for him (He’s around 40 years old when this was shot.)
Meanwhile, in Orlando: The film debuted in South America in 1942 and in the U.S. in ’43, but I could find no sign of it in Orlando until 1949. That’s when it was a double feature with the rerelease of “Dumbo” at the Kuhl Avenue Drive-In (west of the intersection of Kaley Street and Orange Avenue), according to the Orlando Evening Star newspaper.
The theme park angles: It has an Epcot vibe, almost like a pitch for World Showcase pavilions for Peru, Chile, Argentina and the always-rumored Brazil. The closest thing to a “Saludos Amigos” presence in the parks is the trio of animatronics on stage during the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros ride that’s inside Epcot’s Mexico pavilion.
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