Written for The Unquiet American: Transgressive Comedies from the U.S., a catalogue/ collection put together to accompany a film series at the Austrian Filmmuseum and the Viennale in Autumn 2009. — J.R.

After Orson Welles tried to implement Nelson Rockefeller’s

Good Neighbor policy with South America

in an unfinished episodic film, It’s All True (1942),

scandalizing both RKO and Latin American dignitaries

by focusing on poor and nonwhite characters,

Walt Disney dutifully offered a more conventionally

touristic and clearly segregated view of the

Continent, and succeeded spectacularly with the

same studio and many of the same dignitaries (as well

as with general audiences in both the U.S. and South

America) by offering this kitschy and visually extravagant

episodic, 70-minute film (1945), his first feature

to combine animation with live action. The title

pals are the infantile Donald Duck playing an American

tourist and the somewhat older Brazilian parrot

Joe Carioca and Mexican rooster Panchito, the latter

two playing Donald’s principal tour guides. The film

begins somewhat conventionally with tales about

Pablo, a South Pole penguin longing for warmer surroundings

who sails up the coast of Chile and Peru,

and a Uruguay boy gaucho who enters a flying donkey

in a race. But after about half an hour, the film

starts to mutate into a surrealist dream, around the

same time that live-action and libido enter the picture,

which leads in turn to various kinds of abstraction.

Ultimately the film turns into an exploding,

aggressive, imperialist fantasy worthy of

Busby Berkeley in which the South American

continent, especially Brazil (dominated by Carmen

Miranda’s sister Aurora) and Mexico, becomes

Donald Duck’s harem or (more implicitly)

brothel, including a long stretch of Acapulco

Beach populated exclusively by female bathing

beauties. Formally, this is one of Disney’s most

experimental efforts, comparable in some respects

to the Dance of the Pink Elephants in Dumbo. Directed

by Norman Ferguson.

This entry was posted in Notes. Bookmark the permalink.