Disney/Buena Vista .
R4 . COLOR . 40 mins .
G . PAL
Ah, that Donald Duck. What an actor!
Not that he gets a lot to do here mind, in what essentially amounts to a loose travelogue of South America. Dating back to the early 1940s, a combination of live action with animated inserts serves as our guide to an inspiration junket of sorts for Walt and his gang; with the sights and sounds of the western hemisphere serving as fodder for the odd Donald Duck and Goofy animated sorties, along with the creation of some new characters in parrot Joe Carioca and a family of little aeroplanes.
Ain't love grand?
As such we’re privy to the inept Donald’s inept travelling exploits (including a trip to the delightful Lake Titicaca), whereby he befriends (well, kinda) a llama along the way. We then pop off to catch up with Papa, Mama and Baby aeroplanes and a tale of the young'un (Pedro) getting the mail from (cue McBain voice) Mendoza through to Santiago; witness Goofy doing the South American cowboy thing (or “El Gaucho”) and finally encounter more Donald as he meets up with Joe Carioca for a bit of samba action.
A DVDnet community service announcement: Drinking gasoline is bad, m'kay?
While an interesting document of times long gone, the stories are quite feeble and twee, lacking any of the bite the Disney Studios’ contemporaries over at Warner Bros. were churning out with alarming consistency at the same time. The animation, however, is top notch, and a glowing tribute to the effort once put into an artform which nowadays, for the most part, seems to see more effort put into cutting corners than the actual artistry of the medium.
While not perfect by any means, obvious effort has been lavished upon this full frame presentation of Saludos Amigos in order to restore it to what must be close to its original glory. The filmed pieces show their age much more than the animated segments, the latter of which burst to life with vibrant colour, and little in the way of ickiness save for a bit of grain at times and the odd intrusion from the usual animation-related gremlins.
The original mono soundtrack has been given a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, and whilst signs remain of its origins both age and single output wise - notably a lack of fidelity at times as well as the odd spot of hiss or smidgeon of distortion - it does a reasonable job. There are even some slight whimpers from the subwoofwoof at times, however aural gymnastics are hardly the order of the day – not that they’re to be expected.
The only extra present almost clocks in at the same length as the feature presentation. South of the Border with Disney is pretty much a travelogue without the cartoon bits interspersed, delivering much more behind the scenes footage than the main show. The same basic rule applies, the Disney team travel about South America sketching, composing and concocting, theoretically inspired by the exotic scenes which surround them. While it does offer the odd intriguing peek behind the scenes, the picture quality is excruciatingly bad, serving only to further demonstrate what a great job has been done with the feature.
Despite a superb restoration job, Saludos Amigos is just plain not particularly amusing by today’s standards, and way too short for what is heralded as “Disney’s sixth full-length animated film”. It will probably prove an interesting curio for spotty nerd animation fans, but offers little for the kids or indeed anybody looking for an engrossing animated experience - unless you’re a sucker for the old travelogue, of course. And now it’s back to Buenos Aires…
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "