Jab’s Reviews: Disney’s Collections of Shorts

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Here’s something a little bit different- these reviews will more or less sum up and review the “Collections of Shorts” era of Disney features.

The Story:

Falling fortunes and World War II put a lot of studios in dire financial straights, and Disney was no exception. Therefore, some cost-cutting measures were taken with the next handful of pictures, starting with Saludos Amigos. These are the World War II-era films that Disney had to settle for after the war cut their funding and most people’s access to movie theatres. I’d never seen a damn one of them, to be honest, because Disney seems hesitant to re-release any of them, and they appear in about zero of the advertising. Hell, even in DISNEYLAND you won’t find any merch related to these films. The most I know about them is that the Parrot from Three Caballeros ended up becoming a super-popular character in Brazil, gaining an ongoing comic book series that portrays him as one of the elite Disney Canon characters- thank you, TV Tropes.

I did end up managing to see the Latin American duo of films a half-decade ago, thanks to the local video store, at least.

I’ll mostly dump all of these into one review, as there’s not too much to add. Hell, I’ve only seen two of the five, so these “reviews” are often more like “notes”, in this case.


SALUDOS AMIGOS (1942):

Written By: Homer Brightman, William Cottrell, Richard Huemer, Joe Grant, Harold Reeves, Ted Sears, Webb Smith, Roy Williams & Ralph Wright

Translated as Greetings, Friends, this one was the first in the “Collections of Shorts” era, as Walt Disney sent his animators on a “Good Neighbor Policy” visit to Latin America during the second World War (an attempt to re-convince various countries to stay on the Allied side during the war, as some nations were quite close to Nazi Germany). It features four sections- Donald Duck stars in two segments, and Goofy stars in one, while the fourth stars Pedro, a tiny “Little Engine That Could” airplane. The film debuts Jose Carioca, a Brazilian cigar-smoking parrot, as a friend to Donald, and is a shocking FORTY-TWO MINUTES LONG. Completed during the infamous labor strike at the Disney Studios, the movie is largely ignored in the canon today, but did well enough.

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Reception and Cultural Impact:

Basically zero, though the movie did well enough that Disney promptly greenlit a similar movie, coming out two years later, called The Three Caballeros. Nowadays, you’re likely to see the two movies released simultaneously (two of the four home video releases were like that). Carioca remains very popular in his “native” Brazil, where he’s still starring in comic books to this day! The movie’s bit with the airplane caused one cartoonist to create Condorito in response, and that character ended up becoming a “ubiquitous” (apparently) character in Latin America.

For many years, it was the hardest Disney Feature to find anywhere- a legal copy wasn’t released to home video until *1995*, contrasting the more popular and well-known Three Caballeros.


 

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THE THREE CABALLEROS (1944):

Written By: Homer Brightman, Ernest Terrazas, Del Connell, Elmer Plummer, James Bodrero, William Cottrell, Richard Huemer, Ted Sears, Webb Smith, Roy Williams & Ralph Wright

A sequel of sorts to Saludos Amigos, this one is also a series of Animated Shorts made on the cheap, this time featuring Donald Duck in a starring role. He and Jose Carioca are now joined by Panchito Pistoles, who represents Mexico. The three become “Caballeros”, giving us the semi-iconic shot of the three of them each holding up three fingers in unison. I remember seeing this A LOT back in the day, but never actually WATCHING the damn thing- it was either during a big advertising push, or because my family had the VHS and I just happened to see it sitting around all the time. The feature consists of seven shorts, some of which feature live action actors (the first time the two styles of film had intermingled in a feature production). Some are just documentary-style features, while others are cartoons.

Neither of these two pictures are terribly great, especially when compared to any of the films surrounding them. Disney’s animated shorts are always less humorous, more boring versions of Looney Toons stuff anyhow. They usually have great scenery and mood-setting establishing shots, but… bleh. Boring.

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Reception and Cultural Impact:

The movie retained a bit of popularity, but wasn’t otherwise that notable to most (some critics boo-hooed its emphasis on flashy gimmicks and zany animation over concentrated storytelling). It was easier to find on video than Saludos Amigos, however, and the characters feature a bit in the Mexican Pavilion of EPCOT’s World Showcase, as they were the sole Disney thing to focus on Mexico until Pixar’s Coco was released in 2018. An actual Dark Ride, though Disney’s most boring and obscure EVER, was created in 2007 for the Pavilion.


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MAKE MINE MUSIC (1946):

Written By: Homer Brightman, Erwin Graham, Eric Gurney, T. Hee, Sylvia Holland, Dick Huemer, Dick Kelsey, Jesse Marsh, James Bordrero, Erdman Penner, Harry Reeves, Dick Shaw, Tom Oreb, John Walbridge & Roy Williams

If you REALLY wanna stump a Disneyphile, you bring up one of THESE three pictures- this one, and the next two in the Animated Canon. Make Mine Music is another collection of shorts, removing the Artistic Credibility of Fantasia and just making it a bunch of stuff. It’s one of the only films in the canon I’ve never seen, and features ten short segments, none of which have had much impact.

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Reception and Cultural Impact:

The movie made money, but has largely vanished from history, with none of the segments or characters being particularly memorable (the previous two Anthology pictures were centered around Donald Duck). It’s almost never been released on home video, and has often been edited (due to comic gunplay in one sequence, and mild female nudity- a woman’s bare back, complete with side-boob- in another).


 

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FUN AND FANCY FREE (1947):

Written By: Homer Brightman, Eldon Dedini, Lance Nolley, Tom Oreb, Harry Reeves & Ted Sears

Another mostly forgotten film, Fun and Fancy Free contains two stories, narrated by famous puppeteer Edgar Bergen and two of his puppets (who the f*ck would want to watch a guy and two puppets narrate a film? That’d NEVER sell!). One is Sinclair Lewis’s Little Bear Bongo (in which a circus bear learns the meaning of how to fight, thus winning himself a mate), while the other is Mickey and the Beanstalk, featuring Disney’s “Big Three” heading up the beanstalk. Both features were originally going to be separate things, but Walt felt that since the animation was unsophisticated compared to the usual, that they should instead be packaged together. Notably, the film would be the last regular appearance of Walt himself as the voice for Mickey Mouse- he no longer had the time to perform him after this.

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Reception and Cultural Impact:

Like the other “Package Film” anthologies, it made money (enough to help finance the later, more respectable pictures), but isn’t otherwise that notable. The Beanstalk story, at least, has been replicated in many places, and is probably more famous than the actual movie itself! Looking it up, it’s actually largely separate from F&FF in Home Video releases, being placed onto anthologies elsewhere. The giant from the Beanstalk segment actually appears in a store in Walt Disney World’s Fantasyland, peering out at shoppers in a shop devoted to knightly, heroic stuff.


 

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MELODY TIME (1948):

Written By: Winston Hibler, Harry Reeves, Ken Anderson, Homer Brightman, Ted Sears, Joe Rinaldi, William Cottrell & Jesse Marsh

The last of “The films nobody remembers”, Melody Time features the usual mix of live action and animated segments, this time with a lot of Roy Rogers (then a very, VERY big deal to kids). It contains seven shorts, the most famous of which is probably the Johnny Appleseed one, though none of this was very memorable. It featured mostly popular music and simple tales (along with Donald Duck & Joe Carioca in one last partnership), so there’s little artistic credibility at work.

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Reception and Cultural Impact:

The movie only made a mild profit, and wasn’t critically respected, but did well enough. It was so little thought-of that it did not receive a video cassette release until *1998*, which is shocking for a company always eager to churn out some profits.


 

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