Saludos Amigos is the first film in Disney’s Package era (sometimes referred to as the Wartime era). The most obscure, often forgotten era of Disney’s history. Which can once again be blamed on World War II. As well as a Union strike. Both of which meant the loss of several animators. That coupled with the low performance of their previous feature film Bambi, meant Walt Disney would only produce short films until the end of the war.
Saludos Amigos was initially made as a goodwill film for Latin America. It’s basically just studio animators taking a trip to South America. Drawing what they see in a live-action documentary format. They came up with four shorts, but at a shockingly low 42 minutes, I’m not sure how Saludos Amigos counts as Disney’s sixth animated feature film.
Lake Titicaca – The first short is a Donald Duck cartoon. It features Donald as a tourist simply exploring Lake Titicaca. We learn about Latin culture, music, and wildlife. Specifically a llama that causes Donald some grief.
Pedro – The next short is about a forgotten little anthropomorphic airplane named Pedro. The Chilean plane stops at nothing to safely deliver the mail. It’s cute, but it was apparently offensive to a Latin cartoonist that created his own character in response.
El Gaucho Goofy – The next short is a Goofy cartoon. It was made as a response to native Argentinian horsemen known as Gaucho. Cowboy Goofy learns to dress the part, eat the food, and embrace the culture. He’s given his own anthropomorphic horse and plenty of hijinks ensue.
Aquarela do Brasil – The last short is easily the most memorable. As it introduces the Brazilian equivalent of Donald Duck. José Carioca is a green parrot with a passion for the Samba who enjoys a fine cigar. Apart from the smoking, the character endured mostly in Latin America. José then shows Donald around a painted Rio de Janeiro to the infectious beat of the music.
In conclusion, Saludos Amigos was probably the last Disney animated movie I saw at the time. I guarantee I didn’t see it until way later in my life. So it’s understandable that people forget it even exists. Still, with it’s appreciation of Latin culture, rhythmic music, and typical Disney standard, Saludos Amigos is a harmless way to spend 42 minutes.