On August 9th 1942, Bambi had its world premiere in London. 15 days later saw the world premiere of Saludos Amigos in Rio de Janiero. There’s no real point that I want to make here, other than just how incredibly different these two films from the same studio are despite being premiered less than three weeks apart.
In this journey through the Disney Animated Canon one thing I have been consistently wowed about is how three of the first five films were box office misses. This, combined with the unionisation of the Disney animators, meant that Disney Studios were very much in need of a cash injection. Enter the U.S. State Department – who stepped in with money to make films to promote the USA to South America, where many governments were sympathetic to the Nazi Party.
So in essence, Saludos Amigos is a propaganda(-lite) film. It is also the shortest film in the Disney Animated Canon at just over 40 minutes. This is the first of the six package films that Disney would make between 1942 and 1949 – meaning films composed of smaller films grouped together.
With Saludos Amigos we have four animated shorts and some live-action documentary footage, the latter depicting the trip that the Disney animators made to South America in order to gather material for the film. Each country on the trip got their own short (in order: Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil), two of which had Donald Duck in a starring role.
On the whole, Saludos Amigos is fine for what it is – but it’s a real come down after what Disney had produced as their five previous pictures. Thing is, films like these and propaganda shorts like Der Fuehrer’s Face is what kept Disney afloat until the war ended and the European markets were once again open for business. It’s easy to judge this as being sub-par for their standard, which is why some historical context (like that provided by watching these films in order) is so important.
Despite being so short and having no narrative structure, Saludos Amigos was so popular that it spawned a pseudo-sequel with The Three Caballeros – which I will be watching next. The gap probably won’t be as short as that between this and Bambi, but I do think this list may be one of the quickest I’ll ever complete for this bucket list blog.