Monday, June 24, 2013

Movie Review: Saludos Amigos

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: The four cartoons are mostly fun
Cons: Very short; glorified travelogue
The Bottom Line
Yes, a travelogue
But the animations makes
It entertaining

Join Disney Animators and Stars on a Trip to South America

With World War II raging around the world, Disney and some of his animators set out on a strange journey.  They went down to South America as sort of good will ambassadors.  Their trip also turned into two package films, the first was Saludos Amigos.  Originally released in 1942, it also had the distinction of being released first in South America.

This is more of a travelogue with animated shorts instead of a true movie.  It also clocks in at just under 42 minutes (despite my DVD packaging claiming it was about 75 minutes), so it’s very short.  But if you are in the right mindset, it is fun.

The movie starts off with a brief description of the trip the animators took to reach South America, although once we get to Lake Titicaca in the mountains of Peru, we get our first short.  This one finds Donald Duck filling in for the typical American tourist.  As he learns a pit about the people who live in that region, he also gets in some pretty sticky situations.  Naturally, he handles it with his usual grace and calm – you know quacking up a storm and making things worse with his temper.

As the animators travel over the Andes Mountains, they begin to envision the life of a small airplane who would have to fly over the mountains.  The result is the second short, “Pedro.”  We join the title character as he must brave his first flight over the mountains to get the mail when he dad is sick.  Along the way, he faces a huge storm and a fearsome mountain.  This is the weakest segment because the idea just never gels for me.  I like the plane, but I just never fully got into the story.

Goofy takes center stage on the next leg of our trip as we learn the differences between an American cowboy and an Argentina gaucho.  He brings his normal perfection to the job – he’s perfectly inept.  The result is easily my favorite part of the movie and looks like one of the many “How to” shorts they did with him over the years.  I especially love it when we see his attempts at “roping” an Argentine ostrich.

Finally, we land in Brazil.  Donald returns and meets Brazillian parrot Jose Carioca as he tries to teach Donald how to Samba.  We don’t get much of Donald’s temper, but we do get some funny shots of the poor guy showing how poor his timing is.

As I said, each short has live action around it showing the animators (and in one case Walt himself) looking at the local art and observing the people of the land.  We also get to see some of them sketching.

Kids will naturally be drawn to the cartoons, and they will find them all entertaining.  It’s not quite as educational as it would like to be, but it is a fun way to introduce different cultures from 70 years ago.  It is very short, but I think that might be a strength.  After all, I can only watch someone else’s vacation pictures and movies for so long.

What really saves this are the four animated shorts.  True, the movie is lacking an overall structure and narrative other than travelogue, but those shorts are so much fun you might find yourself pulling out the disc to see certain parts again.

I suspect that most people would view this as a passing curiosity, but true Disney fans will delight in watching the movie.  Either way, Saludos Amigos is entertaining if you sit down to watch it knowing it is a glorified travelogue.

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