Saludos Amigos (1942)

The tagline on the poster really says it all for this movie.  Saludos Amigos is essentially Walt Disney going South American.  The concept of introducing an American Audience to an exotic locale, providing them with glimpses into the daily life of various South American towns and cities is a good one, to be sure.  The execution in this supposed “full length motion picture” leaves something to be desired, as this movie has a number of flaws.

When the movie began, I worried at first that this wasn’t, in fact, an animated film, as it shows live-action shots of gentlemen boarding a plane and flying to South America.  After all, my goal is to watch every animated Disney film, and exclude any live-action films (at least for now).  I was a bit thrown by the live-action sequence, but I figured it was just a brief introduction to the movie and would quickly switch to a cartoon.

As it turns out, this live-action scene lasts for over ten minutes, with the film’s narrator explaining in exhaustive detail how and why the Walt Disney animators traveled to South America to study the culture for this movie.  Not only are we given a history of why they chose to go there, but we are also shown exactly what they saw on their little adventure.  Only after that do we get to see a short about that particular locale.  Quite literally, we are shown a live-action scene which is immediately followed by an animation of that exact same thing.

There are four shorts in this film, each with a live-action prologue.  Watching the movie with me, Mistah J observed that he thought these animations felt more akin to those you would see at the beginning of a full-length feature film (think the shorts that precede the modern-day Pixar movies).  This is true of all of the shorts in the film, but especially those that feature some of Disney’s key figures, such as Donald and Goofy.

These scenes were filled with pratfalls and physical comedy, the M.O.s of basically every Disney cartoon short ever made.  They weren’t bad per say; in fact, they were quite funny.  They were just lacking that certain magic that characterizes so many other Disney films.

This movie felt rather disjointed, and doesn’t really fit into the idea of what feels like a true Disney film to me.  Whereas Disney is capable of uniting short segments under a larger story umbrella (think Fantasia), this film just didn’t make that happen.  The stories have little in common other than that they all take place in South America.  There was never enough of a story in any of the animated shorts to create any real tension or feeling for the characters. Instead, I felt like I was spending my time watching Saturday morning cartoons.  While I spent countless hours doing just that as a kid, the lack of a broader story is noticeable.  There’s nothing wrong with this movie, but it doesn’t really fit the criteria in my mind of what constitutes a classic Wald Disney movie.  It was okay, but it’s not one I’ll be rushing out to watch again.

-Jess

 

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