You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Brazil’ tag.

Directors: Bill Roberts, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske & Wilfred Jackson
Release Date: August 24, 1942
Stars: Donald Duck, Goofy, Joe Carioca
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Saludos Amigos © Walt Disney‘Saludos Amigos’ was the first result of a two-month trip to South America Walt Disney made with eighteen people from his staff, including animator Norm Ferguson and designers Mary and Lee Blair.

This trip was financed by the Coordinator of Inter-American affairs, and ‘Saludos Amigos’ feels like an advertisement for South America. It’s the first of several ‘package films’ Disney made in the 1940s, and like its followers, it is uneven. There is not much of a story, just a live action travelogue across Bolivia, Chile, Argentine, and Brazil. In between there are four cartoon sequences: Donald Duck as a tourist at Lake Titicaca, the story of Pedro the airplane, Goofy as a Gaucho and a samba sequence featuring Donald and a new character, Joe Carioca.

Donald’s antics at Lake Titicaca are only mildly funny, until its finale, the suspension bridge scene, which evokes a genuine sense of heights. Pedro the airplane is a children’s story using a narrator. It’s probably the first animation film starring a humanized vehicle, and very successful at that. Pedro is well-designed, being both a plane and a likable little boy. His story reaches an exciting climax when Pedro gets caught in a storm near Aconcagua. ‘Goofy as a gaucho’ is a nice follow-up to ‘How to ride a horse’ from ‘The Reluctant Dragon‘ (1941), with Goofy acting as an Argentine gaucho. This sequence is based on the art of Argentine painter Florencio Molina Campos (1891-1959), without being as gritty. The result is both educational and funny.

However, the real highlight of the film is its finale, in which Donald meets the Brazilian parrot Joe Carioca. Both dance to a samba, following a background which is created ‘on the spot’ by a brush. This sequence is alive with creativity, seemingly introducing a new era of more stylized images and brighter colors, which would dominate the 1940s and 1950s.

Joe Carioca was such an intoxicating character, he was returned to the screen, where he would reunite with Donald in ‘The Three Caballeros‘ (1944) and ‘Melody Time‘ (1948), in still more stylized and colorful scenes.

Watch an excerpt from ‘Saludos Amigos’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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Director: Âle Abreu
Release Date: September 20, 2013
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

O menino e o mundo © Âle AbreuIt seems that with their growing economies the BRIC countries enter a new creative era, in which costly projects like animated features are now possible. Especially Brazil is a surprising new country from which unique and distinct animation films sprout.

In 2013 the Holland Animation Film Festival had shown the ambitious ‘Uma História de Amor e Fúria‘, this year it’s the charming film ‘O menino e o mundo’ (The Boy and the World). Surprisingly, given the extremely different animation styles, the two features have more in common than one would expect.

According to its director Âle Abreu* the idea of ‘O menino e o mundo’ was conceived when the little boy character suddenly appeared in his notes when studying Latin American protest music of the last hundred years. The film tells about this little boy growing up in the countryside, near the jungle, who goes to seek his father, who has left for the city to work. On his trip he discovers the real world that is Brazil, far from his idyllic place in the hills. He meets cotton pickers, people in the cotton industry, and even discovers how cotton is shipped to some futuristic cities (vaguely resembling the US) to be made into clothes, which are shipped back to Brazil to be sold at ridiculous prices.

I say Brazil, but Abreu insists that this story is the story of practically every Latin American country, or even every third world country emerging from a dark dictatorial past and now getting caught up in the World Economy. Indeed, the film’s world may be one great fantasy,  with vehicles like animals, towns like mountains, and great futuristic cities in the sky. Yet, what happens in this world is instantly recognizable to people all over the world,

Meanwhile, the film clearly shows the grand effects of the global economy on the lives of ordinary and poor people. Without reservation Abreu shows us cotton pickers being fired because they are old and sick, workers working ridiculously long hours in hot industries to produce cotton, only to be replaced by a machine in the end. We watch poor people living in favelas (slums), while advertisements on the streets and on television produce images of a happy life they’ll never be able to reach. We watch people who demand more freedom being oppressed by military police, in a particular powerful sequence in which a colorful bird of freedom is crushed by a black bird of oppression, etc.

It’s this focus on social injustice that ‘O menino e o mundo’ shares with ‘Uma História de Amor e Fúria’. Unlike the latter film, however, Abreu’s film never becomes too heavy-handed, because we keep on seeing this world through the eyes of a child. To achieve this, Abreu uses a wonderfully naive style resembling children’s drawings and pastel crayons. All images are drenched in imagination and wonder, even those of the city and the oppressive forces, whose tanks look like large elephants. When the boy approaches the city, more and more magazine clippings are added to the colorful images. Abreu says he wanted to tell a tale about freedom, so he wanted to have freedom during the making of this film, too. He says: “A director should listen to the voice of his film, and listen to where the film wants to go“.

The result is an absolutely gorgeously looking film, simply bursting in color and fantasy. The animation, too, is superb, especially when considering that most of it was done in Photoshop. According to Abreu the drawings were then printed, filmed, and imported in After Effects for compositing. Moreover, the whole film was made with a very small crew. Nevertheless, the makers have reached a high quality by any standards.

To tell his story Abreu uses no dialogue. Yes, we hear people speak, but in a language that is constructed of Portuguese words spoken out backwards. Indeed, the voice actors had to act and sing in this backward language. However, in no way comprehensible dialogue is missed, for Abreu is perfectly capable of storytelling by images alone. Added to the mix is the cheerful score by Ruben Feffer and Gustavo Kurlat, which is a perfect match to the colorful images. According to Abreu, even the sounds of nature are made by musical means, like hand claps for rain.

‘O menino e o mundo’ is a magical film of sheer delight, deserving to be shown everywhere in the world. And unlike American films, it doesn’t shun the big questions our world needs to answer. For this bravery alone, it deserves a large audience.

Watch the trailer for ‘O menino e o mundo’ and tell me what you think:

* Quotations from Abreu are taken from his introduction and Q&A at the screening of his film at the Holland Animation Film Festival, March 20, 2014.

Director: Luiz Bolognesi
Release Date: April 5, 2013
Rating: ★★
Review:

Uma História de Amor e Fúria © Buriti Films‘Uma História de Amor e Fúria’ (Rio 2096: a Story of Love and Fury) is a a rather depressing film from Brazil, showing three violent episodes in Brazilian history, plus one in the future.

Main protagonist is the Tupinambá Indian Abeguar, who is granted the possibility of flight and immortality, reincarnating as a bird. Through his eternal love interest Janaína he can reincarnate back into a human form, which he does three times during the film.

This framing story binds the four separate episodes, which take place in 1556, the 1820s, 1968-1980 and 2096. The first episode shows us his Tupinambá self, and how his tribe gets slaughtered and enslaved by Portuguese colonists. In the second episode Abeguar reincarnates as a poor farmer joining a troop of enraged farmers and escaped slaves during Brazil’s war of independence. In the third episode he’s a teacher fighting the military dictatorship, and in the last episode, taking place in the future, he fights in a war over scarce water.

‘Uma História de Amor e Fúria’ shows Brazil’s troubled history. Throughout the picture life is showed through the eyes of the underdog. Abeguar sarcastically observes that his oppressors get statues, while the oppressed remain anonymous.

‘Uma História de Amor e Fúria’  is an accomplished work: the animation is fairly good, if a little mechanical, the backgrounds are gorgeous, and the production values pretty high. The film clearly aims at a more adult audience, not eschewing nudity or graphic violence.

The film is hampered, however, by rather ugly designs: the humans look like those from Disney’s Pocahontas (1995), but with even more angular designs. The animation of emotions is crude and stereotypical. But more important: the film is totally devoid of humor. It is dark and heavy throughout, without any light moments. This gives the film a propagandistic gravity, which becomes tiresome in the end.

Watch the official trailer of ‘Uma História de Amor e Fúria’ and tell me what you think:

Director: Clyde Geronimi
Release Date: February 19, 1943
Stars: Mickey Mouse, Pluto
Rating: ★★★★½
Review:

Pluto and the Armadillo © Walt Disney‘Pluto and the Armadillo’ is one of the South American films Disney released in the forties after a visit to South America in 1941 (other examples are ‘The Pelican and the Snipe‘ and ‘Contrary Condor’ from 1944).

‘Pluto and the Armadillo’ is actually an outtake from Disney’s first South American ensemble feature ‘Saludos Amigos‘ (1942). This explains its use of a narrator introducing the armadillo and its Brazilian setting.

As the title suggests, this Mickey Mouse cartoon is actually devoted to Pluto. While playing with Mickey during a stop at an airport near a jungle, he mistakes the armadillo for his own ball. As in many other Pluto cartoons (e.g. ‘Pluto’s Playmate‘ from 1941 and ‘Canine Patrol‘ from 1945), Pluto is first suspicious of this new little animal, but then grows in love with it. This standard scenario would have led to a routine Pluto entry, if it were not for the armadillo itself.

The South American mammal is not drawn very lifelike, but looks like a very cute, feminine armed little dog. Her moves are accompanied by metallic and rattling sounds, as if her armor consists of loose mechanical parts, and she walks to an irresistible samba tune, which provides the theme music for the complete cartoon.

Because of her charming presence ‘Pluto and the armadillo’ is very cute and joyful, and a delight to watch, even though it’s not very funny.

Watch ‘Pluto and the Armadillo’ yourself and tell me what you think:

This is Mickey Mouse cartoon No. 117
To the previous Mickey Mouse cartoon: Symphony Hour
To the next Mickey Mouse cartoon: Squatter’s Rights

Director: Norm Ferguson
Release Date: December 21, 1944
Stars: Donald Duck, Joe Carioca, Panchito, The Aracuan Bird
Rating: ★★★
Review:

The Three Caballeros © Walt DisneyDonald stars in his first and only very own feature film.

In the opening scene he receives a large package full of presents. When he opens these presents, they lead him to the mild story of Pablo the cold-blooded penguin (narrated by the melancholy voice of Disney-favorite Sterling Holloway), and to the childish story of ‘Gauchito and his flying donkey Burrito’, before it reintroduces Joe Carioca from ‘Saludos Amigos‘ (1942). Joe takes Donald to Baía, where they dance the samba with Aurora Miranda, nicely blending animation with live action, something that occurs throughout the picture.

Another package introduces the Mexican rooster Panchito. Together the trio sings the intoxicating theme song, wonderfully animated by Ward Kimball, who regarded the scene as his best work. Panchito takes Donald and Joe on a magic serape ride over Mexico, visiting Mexico City, Veracruz en Acapulco Beach, where Donald plays blind man’s buff with a bunch of girls in bathing suits. Actually, Donald keeps hunting girls like a hungry wolf throughout the picture.

‘The Three Caballeros’ was the second of two ‘Good neighbor policy’ features, focusing on South America, and the second of six compilation features Disney made until returning to real features with ‘Cinderella‘ in 1950. When compared to ‘Saludos Amigos’, ‘The Three Caballeros’ is brighter, bolder and more nonsensical. It is noteworthy for its bold color design and for its beautiful color book artwork by Mary Blair, which in its modernity looks forward to the 1950s (especially in the opening titles, during the train ride and in the Mexican Christmas episode).

It is most interesting however, because of its zany surrealism, which invades many scenes with associative images, where metamorphosis and abstraction run haywire, not even sparing Donald himself. In this respect ‘The Three Caballeros’ is the boldest feature Disney ever made.

However, its lack of story, its strong touristic content, its outdated live action imagery, its sentimental songs and the two childish stories at the beginning of the feature all harm the picture. Thus watching the movie feels like being on a colorful journey full of beautiful images that nevertheless turns out to be unsatisfactory in the end.

Watch the title song from ‘The Three Caballeros’ below:

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