Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Saludos Amigos (Various Directors, 1943)
I purchased Pocahontas on Blu Ray. This would be a very strange thing to do if I wasn't watching the entire back-catalogue of Disney animated features but, more importantly, I need to be writing faster if I want to reach Pocahontas anytime soon. Following Bambi, the Disney studios changed dramatically. First off, the world was at war. But before America joined World War II in 1941, the US Department of State funded the Disney studios to commit to a 'Goodwill' Tour of Latin America that adhered to a 'Good Neighbour' policy. Saludos Amigos was the first of six-films that were made during the 1940's - opposed to the previous three films which, though released in the early forties, were all animated and created at the end of the thirties. Indeed, Bambi had been planned shortly after Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The film is not exclusively animated either - as it shows live-action sequences that show the animators themselves on the plane... this is not the usual Disney film, thats for sure.
What is interesting - and at the time, must've been much more interesting for viewers - was the information about animation that was shown. The live-action sequences show animators on the plane and even the artists drawing and sketching. This, in and of itself, is fascinating to see. During the hey-day of Disney, it is great to imagine how fascinating this was to viewers to watch Disney artists and vocalists such as Pinto Colvig (voice of 'Goofy'), Norman Ferguson (chief animator of 'The Witch' in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves) and Walt Disney himself in more relaxed circumstances - especially seeing their dexterity and flexibility in creating characters.
The first story informs us about Lake Titicata (a lake on the border between Peru and Bolivia) with the (exceptionally famous) Donald Duck. There is a fascinating contrast in art-styles - and this is why I personally love watching these films in HD where possible. This then shifts to return to the animators trying to capture views from the plane, draw Calleberos, dancers and singers. This footage truly captures the culture of the country - and the position the artists are in trying to 'catch' the people in a cultural moment. There is a sequence whereby a narrator informs us of the similarities between the Texan Cowboys and the Gaucho - and this is creatively edited together as the horse is often pushed off-screen, and into the next frame. Our Disney pal 'Goofy' plays the Gaucho to much comedic effect.
One thing the Disney studio attempted to create with this film was a new, South-American character in a parrot named Jose Cariola. As a prelude to his introduction, we see an animated, colourful sequence showing the detailed plants and nature in South America before meeting with Donald Duck again. It is he who introduces us to Jose - a samba dancer. Jose became a South-American Disney-branded character that would go on to appear in the The Three Calleberos (another Disney animated classic) and appear moreso in comic-books and within Disney resorts.
The film is clearly weaker than the previous five - and it doesn't pretend to be anything more. But I would be interested in knowing the influence for the sequences at the start. The dancing in the clubs reminded me of a 2011 Oscar-Nominated animated-film Chico Y Rita, whilst the opening credits - alongside similar music - brings to mind the 'Three Blind Mice' opening of Dr No. I would not be so brash to say how Chico Y Rita and Dr No were directly influenced by Saludos Amigos, but clearly the artistic-influence may have been one-and-the-same.