Vying with Nazi Germany to create ties in South American countries during World War II, the U.S. government guaranteed Walt Disney federal loans to produce animated films celebrating South American culture. Saludos Amigos is the first resulting film from this strategic effort (the second would be The Three Caballeros). It would also be the first of Disney’s “package” features — combinations of short subjects slapped together under a feature-length title. Saludos Amigos has a live-action documentary wrap-around story, outlining the Disney artists’ trip to South America and what inspired the film’s four animated segments.
Donald Duck stars in the first segment, a comedic travelogue piece, and returns along with a new parrot character named Jose Carioca in the final piece, a Fantasia-esque musical celebration of samba music. Goofy takes center stage in the third short, playing an Argentinian cowboy. All of these segments failed to entertain me. The comedy involving Goofy and Donald is so obvious and expected, their pieces are almost painful to endure. The final piece about samba has a nice beat and some nice explosions of color — but is otherwise an exercise in mindlessness. Only the second cartoon, about a little airplane named Pedro, is any good here. Pedro is tasked with flying mail past a scary mountain in a bad storm. The bit musters a surprising amount of tension and suspense.
But one good act in a four-act potpourri does not a recommended movie make. Saludos Amigos is a disjointed experience, too geared toward children to hold the attention of most adults.
Oscar Nominations: Best Score, Best Song (“Saludos Amigos”), Best Sound Recording