1. “Saludos Amigos” (1942)
What it’s about: One of Disney’s early wartime animated films, which were made up of shorter segments called “a package feature”, this film was commissioned as essentially a propaganda campaign during World War II. It was released in South America to convince Nazi-friendly nations to side with America. Saludos Amigos uses beautiful period footage and features Donald Duck and Goofy meeting new friends like José Carioca (a parrot) and Pedro (an airplane). The segments move from Lake Titicaca to Santiago, Chile to the Rio Grande, with lots of great music.
Why you haven’t seen it: Because it came out so long ago, it was only released on VHS/DVD in the past decade or so. Plus, it was out in Spanish first.
Why you should see it: There’s great footage of Disney animators traveling around South America and sketching. Watch the Spanish version online here.
2. “The Three Caballeros” (1944)
What it’s about: The second part of Disney’s trip to South America, the studio claimed this was the first movie to utilize the style of Mary Poppins with live-action and animated characters interacting side-by-side. Though both Saludos Amigos and Three Caballeros have their fair share of stereotypical Latin and Hispanic characters – the latter introduces Panchito Pistoles from Mexico – they’re still fun and historically worthwhile. This sequel used Latin American performers like Carmen Miranda’s sister Aurora and expanded from the first one to cover countries like Uruguay and Argentina.
Why you haven’t seen it: See above.
Why you should see it: A second trip to South America might seem redundant, but the introduction of a classic like the caballeros and the more appropriate length of this film (the first was only 42 minutes) make it by some accounts more enjoyable. Watch Three Caballeros here.
3. “Make Mine Music” (1946)
What it’s about: Another of Disney’s short segmented films that they made during the war to keep people going to the theaters with limited resources, Make Mine Music includes sweet, if disjointed shorts, including performances from Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman and the Andrews Sisters.
Why you haven’t seen it: Though it came out on laserdisc in 1985, the whole film wasn’t available on VHS and DVD until 2000. Prior to that, a few segments were released on their own as shorts.
Why you should see it: Though some people think Make Mine Music is just a lesser Fantasia (it includes a segment originally intended for that movie), there’s a retelling of Peter and the Wolf in this one. Watch it here.
4. “Fun and Fancy Free” (1947)
What it’s about: Fun and Fancy Free only has two segments: Bongo (based on a short story written by Sinclair Lewis for Cosmopolitan) and Mickey and the Bean Stalk, with Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck. The former features Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio and is narrated by Dinah Shore, while Edgar Bergen (a famous ventriloquist of the time) narrated the latter.
Why you haven’t seen it: Bongo and Mickey and the Bean Stalk aired separately on TV in the ’50s and ’60s but weren’t released together until the ’80s.
5. “Melody Time” (1948)
What it’s about: This movie has a reappearance of Donald Duck and José Carioca loving samba, as well as a segment about Johnny Appleseed and the story of Pecos Bill, a Texas cowboy who was raised by coyotes. There’s also a really weird psychedelic segment set to “Flight of the Bumblebee” called Bumble Boogie.
Why you haven’t seen it: Many of Melody Time’s short segments had been released on their own previously, but were packaged into together as a new movie. It came out on VHS in the 1990s.
Why you should see it: The Pecos Bill segment has been edited since its first release because he’s seen smoking a cigarette. In a review, The New York Times said, “Although the music lacks distinction, the drawing and color are generally fine and the humor is typically Disneyian….” Watch it here.
6. “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad” (1949)
What it’s about: A little creepier than the usual fair of movie musicals in the ’40s, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad includes the stories of The Wind in the Willows and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Why you haven’t seen it: Though it aired on TV during the ’80s, it was not released on VHS until the early ’90s.
Why you should see it: Each story was supposed to be a movie on its own; Sleepy Hollow was narrated by Bing Crosby. Watch it here.
7. “The Black Cauldron” (1985)
What it’s about: Much more along the lines of Disney films from the Princess genre, The Black Cauldron is a fantasy story starring Taran, a pig-keeper on a farm who wants to be a fighter, but spends his time taking care of a pig who is an oracle (no joke). He winds up getting his wish inadvertently, as he fends off an evil king and meets a princess named Eilonwy. There’s also a weird little man named Gurgi and some witches.
Why you should see it: It was famously scored by Elmer Bernstein and was based off of The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. Watch it here.
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