Monday, February 9, 2015

Disney's Saludos Amigos: Second thoughts

I hate homework so much. It's just the worst thing. Well, poor circulation due to whacktons of medications over the course of eight months plus surgeries plus damage which caused the surgeries plus it's friggin' freezing in here plus it's even more well you all get the idea. Icy fingers, not on board. Just not a great thing. Hey, maybe I should take a trip down to South America!

See? There was a valid segue after all. Bet you thought there wouldn't be. Joke's on you :D

Seriously I swear my hands are changing colors. And they were already way too many colors in places. Also really really dry. Ah well. Let's talk movie.

Obviously this is no step forward on the Disney roster. More of a step sideways, really. A lot of the comments that I've gotten to read mention how during the war, lower manpower meant cheaper films with less investment were a safer bet, and Saludos Amigos definitely shows that. Parts of it, of course, aren't animated at all, which I'm not really a fan of (if you call it an animated canon... you know). None of it competes with Bambi in terms of animation, or even Dumbo. It is crisp and clean and everything's bright and stylized, so this ends up being not a thing to dock it points for. It's not bad, it's just not advancing. Of course, I really like the advancement, but eh. I'll live.

This is a short short short movie. I don't think it took us even an hour. I thought Dumbo was short but holy smokes there's nothing to this one. Five segments of movie, the first one not even animated, isn't enough to satisfy. I didn't mind the format itself, which I guess surprised Roomie. I don't know, it's a fun little movie. Donald Duck, Pedro, Goofy and... well, more Donald Duck with Joe - they're all bright, peppy and fun. I feel like I'm over a barrel here since I can only really compare Saludos Amigos to sort of complete and realized what's the word I want here... unitary...? Unitary films. Like, movies where the movie is This Story with These Characters in This World. Obviously it can't stand up by that measure, but does it have to? I'll say yes and no.

Yes, it does have to, because it's part of this series of movies that, obviously, advertise themselves as movies (or did this one? I can take back that charge) which strongly suggests a certain amount of time and a certain kind of presentation format. Obviously all movies aren't like that, and I'm asking myself why I would condemn Saludos Amigos where I'd let Fantasia off, and I guess it would be that Fantasia is quite upfront about its premise. Saludos Amigos I could have mistaken for actually I did mistake it for a documentary at the start, and then I thought I had a Donald Duck movie. Fantasia is very clearly art with an artistic goal and a concrete, unitary purpose and also shitty shitty dinosaurs. Saludos Amigos feels like they wanted to poke around in South America and developed some cartoons after the fact to celebrate it. There's a lack of consistency or structure even in so far as which segments are placed where (why is Donald Duck in two separate parts of the movie? Because he couldn't not be, or else the effect would be even worse).

No, it doesn't, because consistency isn't Disney's strong suit by any means and we're all of, what, six movies in? There's no stability to the format. There might have been if Fantasia hadn't been third, but it was. and the best Disney's managed so far in terms of consistency has been "passive protagonist gets chivvied through plot by loudmouth supporting characters." Technically if I count Deans Taylor, that sort of happens in all of them. Saludos Amigos is a different bite at the Fantasia apple, going with characters and countries instead of classical music (I'd love to see more of Pedro, he's chipper!) but essentially having that same "this is the way we'd like to entertain you today" kind of quality. And it's entertaining! Like its predecessor, Saludos Amigos could easily sit on in the background and I'd look over and smile.

So there you have it. This being a short movie, I'm going to go after a few points:

Goofy. What a character.

Donald Duck. Holy flipping bazookas that voice. I cannot believe that's his voice. That was the funniest goddamn thing. Every time he opened his beak (bill?) I started laughing. It's like they hooked up a wine press to a muted trumpet and told someone to talk through the apparatus. Squishsquawks all around! :D

Seriously, that voice. The character is just so... I mean he'd be amazing as it is, with his complete inability to keep on top of a situation and how the universe (and rope bridges... and llamas) just seems to want to dick him right in the eye. There's something about the character design too, where like... Mickey Mouse I think looked natively bashful and I think some element of that would always come through. Goofy looks natively... goofy. Donald Duck, and I don't know why but it could be just the size of the bill or the ridiculous facial expressions, but he just looks ripe for a hilarious slapstick fail. It was a real treat to see it happen, especially with his angry nonsense mutters. :D

Pedro is an adorable character design - on a plane! Seriously, can Disney just do that with anything? Obviously the lack of speech would hinder the character a bit, but the expression and body language were a big help and I'd like to see more of his cartoons.

Joe... that segment had some fun, obviously, with the music, which I'm now remembering and dancing to like an idiot. Joe himself is like a... not older brother, but you know how there's like the cool kid you've just been introduced to and he wants to show you things and you're like "hell yes I want to see your burn deck oh man it stomped my face" and you come out of it being like "oh man I need more interests like those he is so cool" (later you realize he is an enormous geek). Joe is that guy for Donald Duck. Cool kid, more laid back, showing the ropes, introducing him to crazy doom spiced liquor and the magical music of the paintbrush king. On the other hand he talks about like 70 things at once and I don't understand him. Ever. Soooo that was annoying.

Anyway. That's enough on this one. There's not a lot to say, and you know it as well as I do. Also I've got crap to do of a scholastic variety, which is much suck. Looking forward to keeping up the pace I've managed so far, though.


  1. Since you seem so enamoured, here's some more Donald for you:

  2. I recall The Three Caballeros is more consistently about Donald Duck, but it also gets strange in a few places. Had you only seen Donald in comic books before?

    Oh man, Anonymous, that gif is so much more than I expected! I haven't seen that cartoon, so until now I only saw that kind of room-trashing on Red Letter Media.

  3. If you'd like, Jeremy, I'd be happy to curate a few Donald Duck cartoons for you. Or even some Mickey or Goofy, if you like.

  4. For the record, the voice of Donald is one Clarence "Ducky" Nash, and he performed the character (plus most of his extended family) for over 50 years.

  5. If you're curious about the history of this project and the Good Neighbor Policy, maybe check out WALT AND EL GRUPO, a 2008 documentary. The best bit is two Peruvians complaining that Brazil got cosmopolitan smoothie Jose Carioca for a mascot and all they got was a mail plane.