Sunday, October 16, 2011

#6 & #7: Saludos Amigos & The Three Cabelleros

Saludos Amigos, 1942 & The Three Cabelleros, 1944
watched October 2, 2011

The next few movies (and blog posts) are going to be a little less exciting, now that we're out of the Golden Age and in World War 2 Era. I hope you'll stick with me until we get to Cinderella, one of my favorites.

Since both of these movies were very short (one was less than an hour! I guess Dumbo isn't the shortest after all...) those of us who had gathered to watch that night decided to watch them together. It's just as well since they are very similar and not much really happens in either!

You may wonder why these movies are so different from the other features included in the list of Disney animated films. Well, I didn't know either until recently. :) These two movies came out of a "goodwill tour" of South and Central America on which the US government had sent Walt Disney and his team of animators/artists during the war. According to my sources (aka wikipedia), the US was attempting to counteract ties between Latin America and Nazi Germany. Well, I don't know how successful this was, but that doesn't have much to do with what I typically write about anyway. But now you know something about the origins behind these 2 Latin-themed films.

Neither film has really any story. Saludos Amigos has an educational/informational tone to it, narrated in an almost documentary style. Using a combination of live action footage and animation, it describes the customs and people in South American countries including Chile, Argentina and Brazil. The Three Cabelleros stars Donald Duck, along with Brazilian parrot José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles, a Mexican rooster. It's loosely based around the premise of the opening of 3 gifts that Donald Duck receives, each serving as the introduction to a couple of different short segments. There is some rather fun Brazilian samba music throughout, but towards the end Donald Duck falls into a mad stupor over a beautiful woman and it all becomes a little Pink Elephant-ish. That's when I gave up on trying to figure out what the point of it all was.

What is most disappointing about these films is the clear lack of artistry compared to what we've seen so far. After having watched Bambi and The Lion King so recently, these films seemed cheap and hurried. The minimal time and resources put towards these movies resulted in underwhelming products, with simplified animation and unimpressive shallow backgrounds. It makes one more fully appreciate the amount of work it takes to achieve truly beautiful works of art that so many of Disney's other animated films embody.

But perhaps there is yet some redeeming quality to Saludos and Cabelleros (I'm grasping at straws here, people...) Although to my 21st century point of view the short segments in these films appear rather biased (describing South and Central American way of life as "strange" and "exotic"), I wonder how they would come across to a 1940s audience. Most Americans at that time probably had never traveled to Latin America or even seen pictures of those places or people. No doubt as a result they had many misconceptions or even prejudices of those cultures. And while Disney films have clearly not been known for being the most culturally sensitive form of media, the overall feel of these movies is generally positive and celebratory. So, while the aim of these films may have been to make ties with people in South and Central America, it's possible that Americans also gained a more accurate perspective of our neighbors to the south. If that's really the case, then perhaps making these movies was not such a waste of time.

On the other hand, I suppose one could also argue that war does nothing good, especially when it comes to Disney animation.

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