It was today (August 11) in 1941 that Walt and Lillian Disney and a few Disney artists took off on a trip that would lead to two of the most often forgotten about Disney animated features: Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.
It was midway through 1941. America was still four months away from entering World War II, but the war was already active in Europe. In an act designed to gain us some allies in an increasingly sensitive time, the US government asked if Walt Disney would go to South America on a goodwill tour. That wasn’t really Walt’s style and he politely declined. When he realized he could use that time to get subject matter for more films, he changed his mind.
This was a much needed break for Disney. Things were not only getting stirred up around the world, but his own studio was in the middle of a workers strike. Taking time to go on a nine week trip while his brother Roy Disney handled the strike was needed for lowering his stress.
The group of travelers, dubbed “El Grupo,” travelled through several South American countries collecting footage and stories that they could turn into animated features. They drew scenery and people in fun animated forms that later evolved into Saludos Amigos. This was actually a fairly popular film. It was released during WWII and reached an audience outside of the European market which the US was not allowed to ship films to. Having more stories to tell and still being in the midst of the war, the Disney studio followed with The Three Caballeros. It was not as popular, but still reached the market so vitally necessary for the studio in desperate need of income. The story of the trip is detailed in the 2008 documentary Walt & El Groupo.
Saludos Amigos featured the immensely popular Donald Duck and introduced a parrot from Brazil named Jose Carioca who is a big fan of Donald. The Three Caballeros also brought in a third character, a rooster from Mexico named Panchito.
Have you had a chance to see these films? Do they live up to the Disney standards of Bambi and Dumbo? What do you think of them? Comment me!