It is not so widely known that in early 1941, prior to the US entry in WWII, the State Department commissioned Walt Disney to go on a goodwill tour of South America in order to improve relations. This was at a time when the axis powers were taking hold in Latin America and President Roosevelt initiated the Good Neighbor policy in order to reassert US influence.
The story of this tour is captured in the recent documentary Walt & El Grupo, and shows that much of this time was spent in Buenos Aires where a group of Disney artists, writers and musicians set up a studio to work on new material. Of the ten weeks of the tour only five days were spent in Chile.
Out of this trip came an animated feature film in 1942 called Saludos Amigos which featured a cast of anthropomorphic characters representing various nations of the Americas. Chile was represented by Pedro, a small airplane engaged in his very first flight over the Andes to pick up air mail from Mendoza.
Ironically, this did not go over so well with some Chileans, who were no doubt eyeing up Brazil’s colourful depiction of José Carioca and thought the Disney crew could have done better. Oddly, no offense was taken at the official tagline of the film: Walt Disney goes South American in his gayest musical Technicolor feature.
However, it was in response to this somewhat uninspiring character that Chilean cartoonist René Ríos (known as Pepo) created his character Condorito - which is still to this day the most recognizable locally created cartoon character in Chile.