By Cesar Gallegos, Walt Disney Archives
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the Good Neighbor Policy was created to foster better relations between the United States and various South and Central America countries. The entertainment industry took considerable steps to encourage these relationships: For 20th Century Fox this included films showcasing themes and talent from these countries, and for Walt Disney, an inspiring good-neighbor trip to many of these far-off locales resulted in Saludos Amigos (1943) and The Three Caballeros (1945). Both of these studios featured two extremely dynamic and talented Brazilian sisters, Carmen and Aurora Miranda.
By 1941, Carmen Miranda had performed on Broadway and was under a studio contract with 20th Century Fox. Along with her band, Bando da Lua, she had starred in three Fox films, Down Argentine Way (1940), That Night in Rio (1941), and Week-End in Havana (1941).
That same year while filming Springtime in the Rockies, 20th Century Fox granted Carmen permission to advise on Disney’s Saludos Amigos segment on Brazil, “Aquarela do Brasil.” The segment featured a song by the same name, which soon became immensely popular in America. Carmen would eventually perform the song in the opening number for 20th Century Fox’s The Gang’s All Here (1943). Saludos Amigos also received help from Bando da Lua members, Aloysio de Oliveira and Jos. Aloysio would sing “Aquarela do Brasil” on the soundtrack. José would voice the vibrant Brazilian parrot José Carioca in both Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros.
In 1945, Disney released The Three Caballeros in the U.S. Continuing with the Good Neighbor Policy as its theme, the film featured a Brazilian sequence entitled “Baía,” which starred Carmen’s younger sister, Aurora. Like Carmen, Aurora was a singer and dancer who had gained notoriety performing on film, radio, and stage prior to “Baía.”
Aurora would appear with some familiar faces for this sequence, Bando da Lua. The band appeared uncredited, as noted in J. B. Kaufman’s book, South of the Border with Disney (Disney Editions, 2009): “Twentieth Century–Fox took a proprietary attitude toward Bando da Lua, considering them part of the package in its contractual arrangement with Carmen Miranda. Consequently the Disney studio was obliged to ‘borrow’ the band from Fox, with the express stipulation that neither the name of the band nor the names of any of its members could appear in Disney publicity.”
There were initial sketches for a storyline in another Disney animated project, “Blame It on the Samba” (Melody Time, 1948), that would have featured Carmen Miranda. As the story developed, however, the scenes were dropped. Yet the legacy of Aurora and Carmen Miranda lives on through their incredible body of work and the Disney and 20th Century Fox films.
For more information on the Good Neighbor program and Walt Disney’s memorable trip, be sure to check out South of the Border with Disney: Walt Disney and the Good Neighbor Program, 1941–1948 by J.B. Kaufman and watch Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros currently streaming on Disney+.