Release Date: August 24th, 1942 (released February 19th, 1943 in the USA)
Domestic Gross: N/A
Worldwide Gross: $1.135 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%
IMDB Score: 6.2/10
Storyline (per IMDB): Live-action segments show members of the Disney staff touring South America and recording their impressions in sketches. These segue into four animated sections: “Lake Titicaca” depicts tourist Donald Duck’s troubles with a stubborn llama; “Pedro” tells of a little mail plane’s adventures flying over the treacherous Andes; “El Gaucho Goofy” transplants an American cowboy into the Argentine pampas; and in “Aquarela do Brasil,” Jose Carioca shows Donald the sights and sounds of Rio de Janeiro.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We now hit one of the more interesting periods in Disney history as we have the first of the 6 upcoming films known as “package films”, which means these films are just a collection of shorts put together to make a film. This was done as most of the animators were either drafted to serve in World War II or to create propaganda films, and in addition this film was based on a trip that Disney took to South America. These films are commonly ranked on the lower end of the canon in terms of popularity and I can honestly say I have never seen this or any of the package films, so it will be interesting to see how I enjoy them and if they can hold up with the previous 5 films released thus far.
Voice Cast: After having pretty much a full cast of actors for the previous films that we saw, we are stripped down to the barest of bones as we only have a grand total of four voices in the film with one pretty much dominating the amount of screen time. That voice belongs to Fred Shields who plays the narrator of the film and he does a good job in setting the scenes as well as doing the voiceover for the animated scenes. We then have Disney regulars Pinto Colvig and Clarence Nash voicing Goofy and Donald Duck though they are kept pretty short even though we see Donald twice, and finally we have Jose Oliveira voicing Jose Carioca as he speaks in Portuguese for the whole film until the end. In the end, it was pretty much a one-man show by the narrator as we were basically watching 4 animated shorts surrounded by some live action scenes.
Other Characters: So aside from Donald Duck, Goofy, and Jose Carioca, we didn’t have many other characters and no, the animators that are featured don’t count and they are not animated as well. However, we do have the family of planes that appears with the main focus being on the young plane named Pedro, and none of them speak so it is up to the narrator to carry the short which he does very well. Considering this film was only 42 minutes, there was only so much they could do and this was more about putting over the culture of Latin America than introducing any memorable characters.
Songs: This is an interesting film as they were putting a lot of focus on the culture of Latin America, but there weren’t many songs in the film even though they did touch on the music towards the end. That being said, we did get a few songs for the film as we had “Saludos Amigos” during the opening credits which was a fun, upbeat song to lively up the mood, and then we close with the combination of “Brazil” and “Tico Tico no Fuba” which was used by Jose Carioca to introduce Donald Duck to the world of Samba. While these songs probably will not rank high against many of the other songs in the Disney canon, they fit the theme of the film and were a good representation of Latin America.
Plot: As mentioned earlier, this was the first of what would be several package films released by Disney which means that it is just a series of shorts edited together into a film, and they clearly were running a bit short on time since this film is only 42 minutes. The main plot of the film is to highlight Disney’s trip to Latin America with his animators and how they came up with the inspiration for the four shorts included, and each short was focused on one certain aspect of Latin American culture. While it would introduce the character of Jose Carioca into the Disney canon, there was nothing much here as we got some interesting shorts that took the aspects of the culture and tried to make them entertaining which did work though I wonder how many were not that impressed with it.
Random Watching Thoughts: This is the first film I’ve watched during this run that doesn’t have the Radio RKO logo at the beginning even though it was released through them; Interesting they mention there will be live action scenes along with the animation at the very beginning; Not often we see a behind-the-scenes feature in the main film; The over-animated map is back; I wonder if any children were upset to see these live action sequences when they were promised an animated film, and also if parents thought this was just a documentary on Latin American culture; It is pretty cool seeing how the trip did influence the animators when they were making this film; How often do you hear a llama being called dignified?; Donald Duck making his big screen debut in a film; I wonder if places featured in this film saw a spike in tourism following this film; Clearly that boat was not indestructible in the hands of Donald Duck; How does that lady not realize that Donald landed in her dough?; So llama handlers are similar to snake charmers in that the llama moves in time with the flute like a snake does?; That llama was having none of Donald’s bad flute playing until he got good real quick; So llamas can apparently walk on air briefly too; Donald being told not to lose his temper is a classic “pot calling the kettle black”; Ahh, the days of animating verbal puns; The animators have great memories if they can make pristine pictures of the environment just by memory; So airplanes have families just like animals; Could they have picked a more Latin name than “Pedro” for the young plane?; Planes apparently go to school too and also get colds; They wasted no time in throwing Pedro out there into a dangerous flight; To think it would be nearly 70 years later when we got a film about planes made my Disney and Pixar; That was very anticlimactic when Pedro went past the tallest mountain, but it came back with a vengeance when he was going home; I love the narrator telling Pedro to forget about the mail when it falls, does he not know that it’s Pedro’s job to deliver the mail?; I love how the narrator was so somber when he thought Pedro had not made it before changing his tune when he survived; Buenos Aires looks like a beautiful city back in the 1940s, one could only imagine what it looks like now; Very nostalgic seeing Walt Disney on screen with his staff as they watch the gauchos in action; Of all the characters to use to symbolize the cowboy, they would of course pick Goofy; I wonder if they released the short with Goofy as a separate short; This is about as typical a Goofy cartoon in that the narrator makes everything seem so simple, but Goofy makes it more complicated that it has to be; Only Goofy could manage to eat part of his knife while eating the rest of his meal; I never thought I would see a horse dressed up like a farmer’s daughter; Rio de Janeiro is another place that looks like it would be fun to visit, especially during Carnival; We get the debut of Jose Carioca who will become more prominent in the next film; I wonder if anyone in the audience were like Donald when they were having a hard time understanding Jose; How many foreign language books does Donald need?; Funny how Jose was talking in his native language that whole time only to reveal that he can actually speak English; So Donald getting the hiccups shows that he has the spirit of the Samba.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, this film ended up being a fine enough film though it was easily the weakest of the films I have watched to this date. It’s hard to fault them for this film because they were hurting after losing some of the animators to the U.S. government for World War II, and I get the idea of wanting to use a film to make the US audience familiar with a culture they didn’t know a lot about. It was also smart having at least two familiar characters in the film as Donald Duck and Goofy were popular enough that many would like seeing them, and it was jarring to see the film end up being so short at only 42 minutes. Given the track record they had established to this point, they were allowed to have at least one mulligan though it would be interesting to see if the upcoming package films are better than this one. As for this film, it is a pretty decent film to showcase Latin American culture, but one that ultimately can be passed over unless you are a completist.
Final Grade: 4.5/10