Cover Art and Menus: 5/10
This is a classic Disney cover with Goofy, Donald Duck, and two characters that are not as well known: Panchito Pistoles, and Jose Carioca. With a South American background, it is what it is. Not great, but not bad either.
The menus are a bit of the same also. They are not static though, and feature our favorite characters form the features with confetti streaming down on them. It should also be noted that like most Disney films, this one includes their Fastplay, which allows you to skip any annoying introductory shorts and previews, and jump straight to the film itself. Every movie company should be required to include something like this on all DVDs, period.
There are four extras included on the DVD, which are divided into two areas. The first is called Backstage Disney, which includes a 33 minute piece called South of the Border with Disney. This is a documentary about the actual trip that the Disney crew took to South America in order to create the animated pieced included in the DVD. Each of the main areas that were visited gets a bit of time, and the topics discusses are varied, and include native animals and cultural differences. It is dry, but informative nonetheless, and it was apparently released to theaters a few months before Saludos Amigos was released.
The second short included in the Backstage Disney section is a portion of an interview with Walt Disney himself in a CBC interview. This is a black and white interview in which he discusses the projects, but the short is just that – short. It runs at less than two minutes, and just seems a bit random.
The second section of extras is aptly titled Bonus Extras. This section sees two shorts of about 8 minutes each that include Don Donald and Contrary Condor. Both feature Donald Duck in his continued adventures in South America. In Don Donald, Donald attempts to win the affection of Donna Duck, who is a resident of South America. Donald rides a burro to her abode, where things get a bit complicated as he tries to win her over.
In Contrary Condor, Donald’s egg collecting expedition goes horribly wrong in the Andes Mountains. Both shorts are decent, but not great.
This DVD is a collection of two separate features that were basically around 40 minutes in length on their own. When added together, they make a respectable 113 minutes. These two features were created in the early 1940’s, and were wildly popular in their time, but they do feel dated. They are very interesting to watch, if for no more than to see the progression that has occurred since then in terms of technology. It is hard not to compare the shorts to modern animated films, but it is neat to see the Disney characters in their prime.
The first of the two features is Saludos Amigos, which is more like a travel video than a feature. It basically is a tour of South America, with Disney characters interspersed with live action shots. It is interesting to note that Disney was sent to South America for these two films by the U.S. Government, in an attempt to create a relationship between the U.S. and South America in the time of the Nazi threat. This explains the feel of the films, and explains the seemingly bizarre background.
Saludos Amigos is at times slow, and the piece is divided into four segments: Lake Titicaca, Pedro, El Gaucho Goofy, and Aquarela do Brazil. Donald Duck and Goofy appear the most in this feature, as well as a small airplane named Pedro. The segments feature the Disney characters learning about the different parts of South America, as they interact with actual video from the different areas.
The second feature is the Three Caballeros, which is almost 75 minutes in length, and therefore is a great deal longer than Saludos Amigos. Three Caballeros is a disjointed journey that is similar to Saludos Amigos in that the theme involves the journey to the wonderful and beautiful South America, but it is less focused. It is as if Disney simply couldn’t find a way to keep the stories together, so he just did not try. There are several characters that are introduced that are classic Disney, and they are presented in a unique way. Donald Duck receives a movie reel that he watches at his house. The movie reel presents different stories that make up our journey, and Donald is drawn into the story.
Three Caballeros starts off with a penguin who journeys north to the warm weather of South America, and a story about a flying donkey. As Donald watches each short he becomes more and more immersed in the journey, and he ends up entering the films themselves, and he becomes part of the story. Donald also receives a pop-up book that further allows him to experience the sights and sounds of South America, but the journey becomes strange as (and his guide Joe Carioca venture into Brazil, where the journey just becomes a visual mix of real video and animation, where Donald falls in love with a Brazilian woman.
The story is not a strong one, and the journey, while informative to a point, often times treads dangerously close to whim, as several parts of the film feel almost psychedelic. The tone of the feature is also a bit racy, considering today’s standards. At one point Donald is actually drinking and smoking, which in this day and age seems pretty hilarious. Try to imagine Mickey or Goofy lighting up and getting hammered in a modern day Disney movie – not going to happen.
Overall the two features are pretty similar, but they do show their age. It is interesting to see the background of Disney’s ultimate vision, and there are definitely moments where the visuals are indeed spectacular, but overall this is not what one would expect from Disney. It seems to lack a bit of the story telling aspect that we have come to love from Disney movies. Obviously these were created with a different motive, but in the end they are good, but not great.
Video & Audio: 5/10
These are cartoons from the 1940’s, and as such, they are not what you would expect in our modern era of crisp, colorful animation. That being said, these look really good for their age. The animated bits are very colorful and relatively clean. Not high definition quality mind you, but very acceptable for such an old set of features.
The audio is now presented in 5.1 surround sound, which is a big change from the original mono presentation. Of course, the age of the features again presents constraints. Even in 5.1, the sound seems flat. It is a far cry from mono sound, so I can’t be too picky.
If you are a big Disney fan, then this disk is worth the cost as it shows Disney’s history, and it gives glimpses of what Walt Disney was capable of. If you are a casual Disneyphile, or you have young kids, this one is maybe just a rental. I found that while the disk was interesting, it was not necessarily geared towards children. My own child seemed to lose interest as the stories unfolded, and while the cartoons were colorful, the story seemed beyond his grasp (He is only 2, but through most animated shorts, he is sucked in for the duration. This was a bit too “trippy” to be really aimed at young ones.
Overall Score 6/10