Despite a really wonderful Hispanic collaboration with painter Salvador Dalí, we all know that Walt Disney’s relationships with/opinions of people different than himself is notoriously sketchy, which is sad considering how classic Disney made up so much of my childhood. Imagine my surprise upon learning, today, that Disney created a film in 1942 called Saludos, Amigos!, that’s made up of four shorts: Lake Titicaca, Aquarela do Brasil, El Gaucho Goofy, and Pedro. Imagine my further surprise that they’re not actually terribly, embarrassingly racist. (And don’t worry, between banned Disney shorts and banned Warner Brothers Looney Tunes shorts, my childhood has been screwed up enough already.)
Oh, also the whole thing’s on YouTube. Since you probably have off today, you should watch it.
UPDATE: Because it’s relevant, the backstory to these cartoons is totally badass and was told in the documentary, Walt & El Grupo:
And from Wikipedia:
In early 1941, before U.S. entry into World War II, the United States Department of State commissioned a Disney goodwill tour of South America, intended to lead to a movie to be shown in the US, Central, and South America as part of the Good Neighbor Policy. Disney was chosen for this because several Latin American governments had close ties with Nazi Germany, and the US government wanted to counteract those ties. Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters were popular in Latin America, and Walt Disney acted as ambassador. The tour, facilitated by Nelson Rockefeller, who had recently been appointed as Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA), took Disney and a group of roughly twenty composers, artists, technicians, etc. from his studio to South America, mainly to Brazil and Argentina, but also to Chile and Peru.
The film itself was given federal loan guarantees, because the Disney studio had over-expanded just before European markets were closed to them by the war, and because Disney was struggling with labor unrest at the time (including a strike that was underway at the time the goodwill journey began).
The film included live-action documentary sequences featuring footage of modern Latin American cities with skyscrapers and fashionably dressed residents. This surprised many contemporary US viewers, who associated such images only with US and European cities, and contributed to a changing impression of Latin America. Film historian Alfred Charles Richard Jr. has commented that Saludo Amigos “did more to cement a community of interest between peoples of the Americas in a few months than the State Department had in fifty years”.