The next five films are a unique bunch in the Walt Disney animation collection. Created during World War II with a very limited budget, these films consist of segments inspired by music and incorporate live action in a bid to reduce animation costs. Admittedly, this makes these films difficult to rank because they are completely different medium of film in my opinion to the regular offerings from the studio. However, despite the quantity of animation, the quality is still there and makes these films worth watching.
Since there are numerous animators working on various segments, it means that the style of animation isn’t consistent as well, allowing the studio to bring a more experimental approach that attempts to push animation even further than the revolutionary Fantasia. Some of the films are a lot more successful at achieving this than others but the passion to create fun and groundbreaking animation of quality is present in all of the films.
You can read the link to the previous ranking here:
And now for the discussions of Walt Disney Classic Animation Studios films 6-10:
6) Saludos Amigos (1943)
Made in an attempt to unite the two Americas in the midst of World War II, Saludos Amigos is a tribute to various South American countries such as Argentina and Brazil. It comprises of various shorts as groups of Disney animators draw inspiration from the places they visit merging the classic Disney style with South American culture. The result sees Donald and Goofy learn about the countries and it also sees the introduction of iconic Disney character, Brazilian parrot, Jose Carioca. The film heavily features live action which makes me unconvinced whether it should belong in the Disney Classic Animation collection, but the animation we view is a real treat. My main downside with this film is that the balance between educational and entertainment is heavily swayed in favour of the former with a lot of lecturing overshadowing the animation at times. Each segment shows the live action footage and pictures that they took away from their trips narrated in depth and is then followed with the animated footage with the narrator repeating the information he has already told us. The heavy use of narration sometimes distracts because there is so much information and therefore we miss some of the cultural aspects in the animation itself. I found this particularly distracting in the first segment when Donald Duck visits “Lake Titicaca”. I don’t think that narration is needed during the animated parts because we already know the information.
7) The Three Caballeros (1945)
If there were doubts about Saludos Amigos position in this list then The Three Caballeros knocks it entirely out of the park. Again, featuring a more forgiving dose of live action, this film yet again focuses on Donald Duck’s adventures as he learns about South America through his friend, Jose Carioca. This film feels like a huge improvement on its predecessor and features some unforgettable songs. It feels more focused and yet isn’t afraid to be completely bonkers with a bigger than life finale. It’s a shame that Disney don’t use Jose Carioca in its cartoons or merchandise more because he’s a brilliant character. Another part of this film that I enjoy more than Saludos Amigos is that it is a fun film that isn’t as serious. Although it is a film that is educating its audience on South American cultures, it doesn’t feel like its lecturing us which as I previously said is something that Saludos Amigos does a lot. My favourite moment in this film is the brilliant inclusion of the eccentric Aracuan bird, a bird that lives in the rainforest and has a unique (to say the least) song. It is the funniest 30 seconds ever and the song he sings will be stuck in your head for hours.
8) Make Mine Music (1946)
Make Mine Music attempts to follow in the footsteps of Fantasia by creating art inspired by pieces of music. There are some brilliant segments in this film such as “Peter and the Wolf” and “The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met” but the film as a whole seems disjointed and has a tendency to drag. The pieces of music don’t flow as well as they do inFantasia, perhaps this is due to a lack of narration or explanation, meaning that one minute we watch a peaceful river in the moonlight in the classically inspired “Blue Bayou” which then follows in to “All the Cats Join In”, a jazz inspired mash of 1940s adolescence. It feels that this shouldn’t be put as a feature film as it doesn’t successfully thread together. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy the individual segments but as a film watching experience it is rather jarring.
9) Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
Much like The Three Caballeros, Fun and Fancy Free feels like an improvement on its direct predecessor. Rather than featuring numerous sporadic segments in one film, Fun and Fancy Free only features two stories with sandwiched narration by Jiminy Cricket. The first segment, “Bongo”, is shorter and tells the story of the titular character, a circus bear who escapes into the wilderness and his struggle to adapt. It feels like a combination of Fantasia and Bambi and manages to tell a fulfilling story without overstaying its welcome. The second segment and the focus of the film is the epic “Mickey and the Beanstalk” which is, unsurprisingly inspired by the fairy-tale “Jack and the Beanstalk”. Following Mickey, Donald and Goofy during a time of famine after a magical harp fairy is kidnapped by a giant, the three set off to get her back. It’s a lovable piece that is accompanied by the real world story of a party with renowned ventriloquist, Edgar Bergen, who is recounting the story to child actress, Luana Patten, and his dummies, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, in attendance also. Charlie McCarthy is quite a cynical character and his little quips here and there will have you howling.
10) Melody Time (1948)
Featuring a starry cast and seven musical segments, Melody Time was made with no expense spared on a $1.5m budget. The segment, “Blame is on the Samba” includes my favourite character, the elusive Aracuan bird who is his usual mischievous self. It’s a welcome return and a nice surprise that Disney decided to bring him back for an entire segment. With segments running as long as 22 minutes, this sees Disney allowing the artists to push themselves further. It definitely feels as though the Disney studio is beginning to recover from the effects of the war but Disney cleverly made sure to keep a focus on happiness and hope with lots of colours and joyful musical choices. Not to mention the favourite child duo at the time, Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten making appearances. It doesn’t quiet hit the highs of Fun and Fancy Free but the narration between segments brings a thread that is missing in Make Mine Music and it seems to flow better as a film because of this. I love the “Little Toot” segment particularly because it is charming and heartbreaking at the same time.
So with that, it’s time for the ranking. I found this particularly difficult because I have tried to balance how I felt watching the films when I was younger with how I feel about them now.
Without further ado, here is my ranking:
1) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
2) Fantasia (1940)
3) Bambi (1942)
4) The Three Caballeros (1945)
5) Pinocchio (1940)
6) Dumbo (1941)
7) Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
8) Saludos Amigos (1943)
9) Melody Time (1948)
10) Make Mine Music (1946)
That’s it for this post! It’s been interesting looking at films made during and after the war because Disney clearly felt that the studio should focus on lighter entainment rather than anything with dark undertones such as Bambi. Films 11-15 see a return to well-loved classics such as Cinderella and Peter Pan which I promise will be up much sooner than this one.
As always, let me know in the comments below whether you agree or disagree with my rankings so far? What would be your number 1?