Directed by: Norman Ferguson/Wilfred Jackson/Jack Kinney/Hamilton Luske/Bill Roberts
Written by: Homer Brightman/William Cottrell/Richard Huemer/Joe Grant/Harold Reeves/Ted Sears/Webb Smith/Roy Williams/Ralph Wright
This is the first of many “package films” that Disney made throughout the 40s. What that means is that they put a group of shorts together and called it a movie. This was done for a couple of reasons. First off, their movies had been losing money for a few years. Ever since the war broke out in Europe, the only place they made money was in the US. Europe was kinda preoccupied. (Sometimes, just occupied.) So, they weren’t really into seeing any films, much less cartoons.
The second reason was more personal for the company. Many of their animators had been drafted, so they were working on a skeleton crew. It was far easier to get the B-team to make multiple short films than it was to put the entire crew on one feature while still trying to release shorts on a semi-regular basis.
Saludos Amigos was sort of a trial run for the package film. At 42 minutes, it’s the shortest of all of Disney’s feature films. Hell, that’s barely a feature even by 1942 standards.
The movie was also the first of two films made at the behest of the US government to try to get closer to Latin American countries. At the time, some Latin American countries had close ties to Nazis and the Allies wanted to counteract that. We needed them as allies. (This was called the Good Neighbor Policy.) So they commissioned Disney, who was super popular down there, to create characters and movies based around life in these countries.
Enter Jose Carioca! Jose is named partly after the man who voiced him (Jose do Patrocinio Oliveira, a very popular singer and composer in Brazil) and partly after a nickname for someone born in Rio de Janeiro. (Jose Oliveira’s nickname, actually, was Ze Carioca.)
Jose Carioca became a foil/friend for Donald Duck in this and in semi-sequel that we’ll get to in a bit. Personally, I love Jose. I always have. He’s a nice, but mischievous guy who just wants Donald to have a good time and learn about his homeland. Before I started doing some (very, very light) research into Disney films a few years back I had no idea what movie I remembered seeing Jose in. Then, all of a sudden, Three Caballeros and this film came out on DVD and it all came rushing back to me!
Anyway, Saludos Amigos is made up of four short films. The first is called Lake Titicaca and involves Donald traveling to the region to meet some locals and see some scenery. It’s mostly travelogue, but the bit with the llama is pretty funny.
The second is about a little mail plane named Pedro who has to take his dad’s route over the highest point in the Southern hemisphere, Aconcagua. He gets caught in a storm and almost dies. Of course, as this is a Disney film (and he’s not a mother), he makes it.
Next up is Goofy! El Gaucho Goofy is all about Goofy as a cowboy who is taken to Argentina and turned into a gaucho. It’s a fun little film…but it’s Goofy. He’s always fun.
Last and probably best is Aquarela do Brasil (Watercolor of Brazil). This is where Jose is introduced! He takes Donald to Brazil, shows him around and gets him drunk! It’s always fun to see Jose and Donald interact. I kinda wish there were more films with the two of them.
Soludos Amigos is kind of a weak film, overall, but it’s absolutely worth seeing. I mean, it’s only 42 minutes long. And it’s Jose!