My next article is going to be a rather odd one about a very unique film. I will be looking at the 1943 film Saludos Amigos which at only 42 minutes is the shortest film ever made by Walt Disney Animation Studios. I’ve discussed the film a little in a Masterpiece Monday, but in my next article I will go much more in depth into the film’s history. The film is actually a series of four shorts pasted together with some 16mm documentary footage. The running thread keeping these segments together was Walt Disney’s trip to South America as part of FDR’s Good Neighbor program. The point of the program was to use film and film stars to foster a good relationship with South American countries in order to prevent them from allying with Nazi Germany. No part of this program was as successful as Walt Disney’s tour of South America and the film Saludos Amigos.
Walt Disney’s trip to South America was not just a hand-shaking political tour. It was also a research trip. He brought with him animators, visual development artists, musicians, and other staff from the Studio. There they were set lose to sketch, photograph, and record what ever aspects of the various South American cultures and countries that inspired them. This research was then brought back to California at the end of the trip and used as inspiration for the making of Saludos Amigos. From this research Disney animators came up with four short cartoons based on four of the countries they visited, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brasil. The home movies they made during the trip were used as connective tissue in the film, bringing the audience from one country to the other and introducing the inspiration for each short. The film even shows many of the artists making the very sketches that inspired the film. With this Saludos Amigos becomes one of the most unique films in the Disney canon, as it reveals it’s own conception in a research trip. So in my next article i will give an in depth look at Walt Disney’s research trip through South America and how it lead to the creation of Saludos Amigos, one of the oddest films ever made by Disney during one of the most complicated periods in the Studio’s history.