Saludos Amigos

Walt Disney (1942)

Disney animators tour South America and present four animated shorts inspired by their trip.

Saludos Amigos is a 1942 American live-action animated anthology film produced by Walt Disney and released by RKO Radio Pictures. It is the 6th Disney animated feature film. Set in Latin America, it is made up of four different segments; Donald Duck stars in two of them and Goofy stars in one. It also features the first appearance of José Carioca, the Brazilian cigar-smoking parrot. Saludos Amigos premiered in Rio de Janeiro on August 24, 1942. It was released in the United States on February 6, 1943. Saludos Amigos was popular enough that Walt Disney decided to make another film about Latin America, The Three Caballeros, to be produced two years later. At 42 minutes, it is Disney’s shortest animated feature to date.

Directed by Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Norman Ferguson, and Bill Roberts.

Story written by Homer Brightman, William Cottrell, Richard Huemer, Joe Grant, Harold Reeves, Ted Sears, Webb Smith, Roy Williams, and Ralph Wright.

In early 1941, before U.S. entry into World War II, the United States Department of State commissioned a Disney goodwill tour of South America, intended to lead to a movie to be shown in the US, Central, and South America as part of the Good Neighbor Policy. This was being done because several Latin American governments had close ties with Nazi Germany, and the US government wanted to counteract those ties. Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters were popular in Latin America, and Walt Disney acted as ambassador. The tour, facilitated by Nelson Rockefeller, who had recently been appointed as Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), took Disney and a group of roughly twenty composers, artists, technicians, etc. from his studio to South America, mainly to Brazil and Argentina, but also to Chile and Peru.

The film itself was given federal loan guarantees, because the Disney studio had over-expanded just before European markets were closed to them by the war, and because Disney was struggling with labor unrest at the time (including a strike that was underway at the time the goodwill journey began).

The film included live-action documentary sequences featuring footage of modern Latin American cities with skyscrapers and fashionably dressed residents. This surprised many contemporary US viewers, who associated such images only with US and European cities, and contributed to a changing impression of Latin America. Film historian Alfred Charles Richard Jr. has commented that Saludos Amigos “did more to cement a community of interest between peoples of the Americas in a few months than the State Department had in fifty years”.

The film also inspired Chilean cartoonist René Ríos Boettiger to create Condorito, one of Latin America’s most ubiquitous cartoon characters. Ríos perceived that the character Pedro, a small, incapable airplane, was a slight to Chileans and created a comic that could supposedly rival Disney’s comic characters.

Leave a Reply