Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Three Caballeros (1945)

The Three Caballeros

Donald Duck’s second big performance in two years, The Three Caballeros spins directly from Disney’s previous release, Saludos Amigos.

Donald wakes up on his birthday to find a giant box of presents. The presents, it turns out, are a tour of attractive South American cities and an exploration of some of their surface cultural experience. It amounts to an hour of Donald and his friends ogling women and dancing badly to local music.

The film was presented and reviewed by the New York Times early in 1945 that “the juxtaposition of humans and cartoon creatures is a cunning novelty which still leaves one feeling vaguely as though he is watching animated tattoo work.” But they hit the mark in noting that while Walt’s team had pushed the line of cinema by combining dancing humans with dancing cartoons — something that had never been seen before — “his film is flashy and exciting — and no more.”

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Saludos Amigos (1943)

Goofy learns to ride.

Saludos, amigos! So begins Disney’s war-time feature efforts, more propaganda work than pushing the boundaries of animation and storytelling. Compared to classic, boundary-pushing works like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi, Saludos Amigos falls far short of those high bars.

At a mere 40 minutes, Saludos Amigos is a series of four 10-minute shorts that follow Disney animators as they explore four South American tourist hotspots: Lake Titicaca, Mendoza (Chile), Argentina and a mash-up of several South-American locales set to the music of Brazil. Each segment is strung together with home movies shot by the crew while they were exploring.

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Bambi (1942)

"You didn't hop far enough." Test animation of this scene was reportedly enough to convince Walt to make the film.

“Hiya, Bambi. Watch what I can do!” Thumper’s excited boast as he launches himself across the frozen pond might as well have come from Walt himself in reference to the calibre of animation his fifth feature film achieved. The film is, quite simply, an artistic masterpiece.

I’ve said it before: Animation and high definition were made for each other. Thanks to a stocking stuffer this Christmas, we were lucky enough to watch this film on Blu-Ray. And if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear the film came out yesterday. The animation and attention to detail is just exquisite.

Indeed, Walt was obsessed with accuracy when it came to animating Bambi. He was determined his animators capture the movements of deer and other forest animals with as much realism as possible, while adding vaguely human facial expressions to show emotions. Disney bought the rights to the film in 1937, intending it to be the studio’s second animated feature. The animation challenges proved too ambitious at the time and animators were soon pulled off the project in favour of the studio’s other projects, including Fantasia. By 1939, production resumed in earnest, but animation difficulties drew out the production process by several years.

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Walt Disney’s war effort

This is the first in a planned series of supplemental posts that we’ll write occasionally in between our regular film updates.

Disney at warDumbo was released in late fall 1941. Little more than a month afterward, though, Japan attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor and the United States immediately joined the Second World War. Walt Disney, sometimes at the request of the U.S. government, was prepared to use the considerable force of his studio to help the Allied Forces. The studio’s characters quickly appeared on posters and in films to promote war-related causes and to help spread propaganda, uniting the country against the Nazis and the Japanese.

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