We now arrive at Disney’s 6th animated feature-length film, “Saludos Amigos.” And when I say feature-length, I mean it BARELY makes it with a runtime of 42 minutes! (A feature-length film by definition is 40 minutes.) Heck, even when I say animated, I don’t mean fully animated, because this film has a good amount of live-action in it!
Released in 1942, this is the first of 6 consecutive animated Disney films that will be known as his “package films”. Package films, or anthology films, are movies that are just a bunch of shorts, unrelated mostly, put together to make a movie. Arguably, “Fantasia” and its sequel can be considered package films as well as the “Winnie the Pooh” films, but generally the term is used to refer to these 6 films during the ’40s. There were a number of reasons why Walt had to make these package films instead of a usual story-driven coherent film. Some include that these were inexpensive to make and hopefully would cause the studio to regain their money from previous flops; these films were made during WWII and many of his animation studio were drafted; and that the American government wanted Walt and other animation companies to focus on making nationalistic cartoons rather than waste time and money on films. Whatever the main reason, let’s talk about our first package film, “Saludos Amigos.”
This film not only was made because of the above reasons stated; but this was also part of the American government’s “Good Neighbor Policy” with Latin America. They told Walt to visit South America and get ideas for new animated films, all while strengthening ties with these countries. So, the live-action scenes of this film are somewhat of a documentary of the trip that Walt and his animators took. The animated sequences however are four: “Lake Titicaca”, “Pedro”, “El Gaucho Goofy”, and “Aquarela do Brasil.” And in my personal opinion, this film is the least known and least viewed of the Disney canon; so I figured I could really choose any of these characters as my forgotten/minor candidate. So, I sought my candidate in the “Pedro” segment.
“Pedro” is an 8-minute or so segment about a young boy airplane who has to take over the mail route between Chile and Argentina after his parents get sick and are unable to do it. A Chilean cartoonist named René Ríos Boettiger, aka Pepo, was actually disappointed with this segment and thought it portrayed Chile badly; so he decided to create a cartoon character that would portray Chile in a better light and ended up creating the extremely famous Latin American character called Condorito.
Anyway, as Pedro flies via his mail route, he happens upon the highest mountain of the Andes, Mt. Aconcagua. The mountain is portrayed as an antagonist with an evil, sneering, rocky face. The mountain doesn’t really do anything; but storms and gusty winds occur around its peak; so the planes are always warned not to go near it, but to follow a special safe route. Our hero of course, gets distracted and falls into the wrath of Mt. Aconcagua, but due to Disney magic, survives and returns home to a happy ending.
Like I said earlier, I could have picked anybody from this movie and it would have sufficed as a forgotten/minor character. But, I decided to go with the mountain because it’s somewhat of a villain and does absolutely nothing; yet everybody who knows about it fears it. And the scarier thing about it is that the mountain is REAL and DOES EXIST. But sadly, most people haven’t seen this film or heard about the mountains of the Andes, so that’s why I gave the forgotten/minor character trophy to it.