Saludos Amigos is the first of Disney's "Look how cool Latin America is" double feature. It includes Donald Duck and Goofy cartoons, and a cartoon about an airplane, in between live action segments about Disney animators taking a trip to South America.
The movie was followed with The Three Caballeros, which I've seen about a bajillion times and couldn't help but draw comparisons to. Here's what I came up with:
Saludos Amigos is more informational than The Three Caballeros. The Three Caballeros is more entertaining than Saludos Amigos.
That isn't to say Saludos Amigos isn't entertaining. It's just that the live action segments aren't as much fun as the cartoons. And, honestly, I wasn't thrilled with the airplane cartoon. I would have liked another Donald or Goofy cartoon instead.
Saludos Amigos comes from a bygone era when people really gave a damn about their educational films. Actually, I don't know if it was all people or just Disney, but still.
These days if someone was given the assignment to make a movie about the people and lifestyle in South America they'd probably take some cameras, interview some people, shoot some crowd footage, write some dull narration and edit together a completely boring and unwatchable documentary for school children to groan about and ignore, or to air on PBS to an audience of none because the only good stuff PBS shows are Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers and the occasional filmed-for-television live musical.
I digress. My point is that there was a time when educational films were a lot more like Saludos Amigos and Hemo The Magnificent (a movie about blood and the heart, directed by Frank Capra). Sure, they tell you stuff, but they're entertaining too. People are much more inclined to remember things if they had fun learning them.
At any rate, Saludos Amigos is a little dryer and a little less fun than The Three Caballeros. It doesn't have the Aracuan or a crazy, senseless, tripped out sequence near the end. What it does have, though, is actual information. I don't think The Three Caballeros was as successful as an educational film as Saludos Amigos is. If I was supposed to learn about Latin America from Three Caballeros, it's news to me. I thought it just happened to take place in Brazil and Mexico.
Best parts of the Saludos Amigos: the Goofy cartoon and the Jose Carioca cameo.
End of line.