Two Academy Award nominated animated adventures are available together with The Classic Caballeros Collection, which packages together a pair of 1940s Disney curios, Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, on one DVD.
Blending animated and live-action footage, and preceded by a card which announces Disney’s “sincere appreciation for the courtesy and cooperation of artists, musicians and friends in Latin America,” Saludos Amigos is a sort of pre-chewed cultural investigatory piece, in which Disney artisans embark on thrilling adventures to Mexico and South America with Goofy, Donald Duck and Walt Disney himself. After showcasing some 16mm footage captured in narrated, newsreel-type fashion (“Lake Titicaca is eight thousand square miles of water, two miles above sea level…”), the roughly hour-long title segues into a quartet of whimsically animated escapades which span from the Bolivian Andes to the Argentine pampas, and find Donald and little airplane Pedro exploring the countries and customs of the area. The movie earned three Academy Award nominations in 1943, including Best Musical Score, Best Sound and Best Original Song.
It also a spawned a sequel of sorts, the slightly longer The Three Caballeros. After he watches a lengthy filmstrip about a penguin, Pablo, who longs for tropical shores (part of the inspiration for Surf’s Up, it seems), Donald teams up with talkative, energetic parrot José (or Joe, to Donald) Carioca, and takes a fantastic journey through these colorful lands. Full of lighthearted dance and lively music, The Three Caballeros in particular set the stage for future live action/animation blends. This interplay, and the animation in general, is hardly dazzling by modern standards — though there are some nice touches, like Donald’s hat ducking into the light of a projector — but it nonetheless does hold up fairly well. It’s easy to see how and why audiences of its time were wowed by the material — as much for its blend of affable, kid-friendly song and dance as the glimpses of far-flung culture it afforded them.
Overall, The Classic Caballeros Collection is a curious thing, which its supplemental features serve to highlight. Professionally packaged in a regular Amray case with snap-shut hinges, and stored in turn in a glossy cardboard slipcover, The Classic Caballeros Collection comes presented in 1.33:1 full screen, with a Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound audio track in English, French and Spanish, and optional subtitles for each language. DVD bonus features are anchored by a 33-minute newsreel featurette, “South of the Border with Disney,” that includes footage of Brazil’s September 7 Independence Day parade, and much more. There are also two bonus cartoon shorts starring Donald Duck, “Don Donald” and “Contrary Condor,” each running eight minutes. It’s an old, one-minute-40-second CBS interview with Disney himself, however, that provides the most illuminating back story on this material. He talks about being asked by the government to embark on a goodwill tour of “the ABC countries” (that would be Argentina, Brazil and Chile), and initially declining. When pressed, however, he said he could do some movies, and despite Disney’s statement to the contrary, one has to assume these short films are, to a certain extent, federally underwritten peeks into the cultural ruminations of countries with whom we had complicated, if quasi-friendly, relationships. Interesting, the power and reach of capitalism, entertainment and, more specifically, “the Mouse House.” To purchase the disc via Amazon, click here. C+ (Movie) B- (Disc)