Once again, we have a month of 5 Thursdays, so once again, it's time to visit the deep, dark reaches of the Disney Vault. And man, oh man, do we have some obscurities this month. This may be the only Disney Month that consists entirely of films I could just as easily do an 'Under the Radar' month on.
First up, we have the Disney Animation Studios record-holder for shortest film; the 42-minute 'Saludos Amigos'. Though this is part of the DAS collection, in truth, it plays much more like a Disney Special I'd have seen one Sunday evening. The film is short, and consists of sketches, sometimes featuring old Disney favorites like Donald Duck and Goofy. In fact, it's probably safe to say that Donald is the main character in this, acting as a tourist as he travels to different destinations, but not in every sketch. Much like I did with 'Fantasia', I'll break it down bit by bit.
The brief synopsis of the full film has to do with representative animators from Disney Studios travelling to exotic locations, and finding inspiration for their animation. Of course, as we all know, that has the potential to be a bit controversial. It's fun, but I often wondered if it bordered on insensitive. It stands as educational for its time, but I do wonder how much they got wrong. It's very much a product of its time.
Lake Titicaca: This is one of the segments featuring Donald Duck as a tourist. For this one, he visits Lake Titicaca, and learns about some of the local culture, which includes riding a very stubborn llama - which is by far the best part of the sketch. 3/5
Pedro: While flying high above the mountains, one animator is inspired to create a story about an anthropomorphic plane who is engaging in his first mail retrieval flight, from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza. It's cute, but mildly entertaining at best, seemingly very aimed towards children (which is fine). 3/5
El Gaucho Goofy: Here we take a look at cowboy life, the way only Goofy can do it. It places Goofy, as an American cowboy, in the Argentinian pampas (lowlands) so he can learn the ways of the gaucho (South American cowboy). The scene pictured above of Goofy smoking a cigarette was later removed for the Gold Classic Collection, the Classic Cabelleros Collection, and even on Disney+, despite it being advertised as "unedited". Despite perhaps some dated cultural depictions, it still got a good laugh. 3/5
Aquarela do Brazil: In Portuguese, this means "Watercolor of Brazil", and it's probably my favorite of the sketches. In this finale, Donald returns as a tourist, this time in Brazil. He meets José Carioca; a Portuguese speaking, cigar smoking parrot from Rio, who shows him around, introducing him to the samba, and cachaça - a distilled spirit created from fermented sugarcane juice. This one's stylish, has catchy music to go with it, and even teeters on being a bit adult with the drink. For whatever reason, that wasn't as controversial as Goofy's cigarette. 4/5
I'm a bit torn on this one because there's something about it that I'm not quite getting. So much about it is saying that I should find the conroversy in it, as it does depict different nationalities in what is perhaps a dated way. But at the same time, nothing about it felt overtly racist, like jive-talking crows, or a certain centaur from 'Fantasia'. I really felt like this was trying to be cultured, and educational, and it never truly felt insensitive to me. But honestly, if I need my eyes opened, please do educate me.
I can only speak personally, and I can say that in many ways this one took me back to childhood. Particularly, seeing a couple of old Donald and Goofy skits that were new to my eyes was a fun, nostalgic treat. I think one could look at this film as completely dated, and maybe even a bit insensitive if they look hard enough. But for myself, nothing really made me cringe or reel, it was just always on that edge where it could have crossed a line, but just did enough not to. It's a quick, easy watch, and just kinda there. I woudln't even really count it as a movie, myself, but it is on the list, so here we are.