Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Saludos Amigos (Walt Disney Studios, 1942)


Any present-day viewing of Disney’s Saludos Amigos is likely to be preceded by a formal citing of the film’s “negative depictions and or mistreatment of people or cultures”, and accompanying acknowledgement of its harmful impact and of Disney’s commitment to learning from that. Indeed, the movie is not quite Song of the South (it’s still readily available for viewing after all), but carries a pervasive feeling of complacency and missed opportunity: the framing device has a group of studio artists heading off to South America for research and inspiration, but on the basis of what’s shown their interest is amply satiated by mere exotica and surfaces, and it’s a bit sad that one’s reaction to seeing (say) a strikingly colourful parrot would be to busy oneself with using it as the basis for a cigar-smoking caricature called Jose Carioca. The movie at least throws a load of local terminology at the viewer (albeit not of a kind that would have helped much in everyday life), especially in the sequence where Goofy is dropped into the role of a gaucho (bolas!). That’s probably the most straightforwardly enjoyable sequence; the least so is the tale of the little plane that could, which even allowing for anthropomorphic latitude is just too dumb to relate too (Poppa Plane and Mamma Plane?) Before that, Donald Duck visits Lake Titicaca, getting into trouble while traversing a rope bridge with his llama (admittedly, over-familiarity and repetition makes it easy to overstate the skill involved in such sequences). The film gives a big build-up to the final chapter, a for-a-while beguilingly lilting samba portrait of Brazil, even allocating the voice of the parrot a special voice credit, but it ultimately descends into more Donald-infused silliness. And after that the film abruptly ends, with no pretense of wrapping things up or of extracting some kind of overall message, without even an Adios. Oh well, maybe that was for the best…

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