Movie 7: The Three Caballeros

caballerosWhile we are in the latin mood let’s talk about the next feature film from Disney: The Three Caballeros.  This is similar to Saludos Amigos and is more effective in some ways and less in others.  It has a similar history to Saludos Amigos and was part of the Goodwill tour but Walt and animators are not featured in Caballeros like they were in Saludos.  Still, it does feel like a travelogue of Brazil and Mexico.

It starts with Donald opening a bunch of presents with each one leading to a little skit or ‘presentation’ (quite the pun there…)

donald and presents

At first it seems like the shorts are going to be good.  There is a cute piece on a penguin who dreams of an island paradise.


And then one about a donkey that can fly and win sports races that is cute.  Both of these are on the same level as the Pedro the plane short in Saludos Amigos.

flyign donkeyIf they had just provided two more pieces without the live action segments of Saludos it would have been great but sadly the last half of the movie becomes tedious.  We get introduced to Panchito the Mexican Rooster and he sings a manic song with Donald and Jose.   It’s a fine song with a lot of energy but kind of grading and a little bit of Panchito goes a long way! Plus, the lyrics about gay caballeros is a little out of date…

As you can see the animation in the song is quite good but it is just a little too much shouting for my taste.  And I still can never understand what Jose is saying.  Donald is hard enough but Jose is very difficult.


After the song it becomes even stranger. Evidently the merging of live film and animation had just been realized (I believe the same year Gene Kelly danced with Jerry from Tom and Jerry. No doubt Disney was excited about this potential and was eager to use it a lot! We spend a lot of the next 30 minutes watching people dance with the animation and listening to pretty good music but it has no story so it gets a little dull.

Here they are with singer Aurora Miranda
Three Caballeros batshit insane donald 11
In one strange segment there are on a magic carpet with rows of human female legs as the horse. Very odd.
they meet singers and dancers and learn about Brazil and Mexcio through them but it feels so outdated.So strange looking.

Then the last third of the movie is literally Donald chasing human women around Buenos Aires which is strange on a lot of levels.


The animation is better in Three Cabellos than in Saludos Amigos but the novelty had warn off me and a lot of the dancing and skirt chasing was boring.  They should have done 4 shorts like they did in Saludos but I think they were just so excited about the idea of animation/live action combining that they went a little nuts with it.  It is 30 minutes longer than Saludos and it feels it.

I still find it amazing that with this being a goodwill tour that Mickey never showed up in these films.  I would think Walt would have pulled his alter ego out to help the cause.

From what I read the box office was not as strong for this as Saludos, so probably why they moved away from these Latin films and on to English animated short mashups for the next 4 films.

Movie Review

It’s harmless fluffy entertainment that would feel better as  a blip before a feature film on the Disney channel.  In those small doses it could be very charming but as a movie it is tough.  The Donald chasing women gag isn’t really funny and all the music and dancing leading to nothing in the story gets a little dull.  However, the animation is dizzingly fast and it is entertaining to see the beginning of animation and live action melding together.

So, if you think a tour of animated South America sounds like your cup of tea, check it out.

Overall Grade- D

Movie 6: Saludos Amigos

Now we are up to the feature films of animated shorts from Disney and Saludos Amigos is the first of two aimed at Latin American audiences.

saludos amigosAt the beginning of 1941 before Pearl Harbor and US entry into the war Disney was asked by the state department to do a goodwill tour of South America.  Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros were a result of that effort.

The state department was worried the Latin American countries might be sympathetic to the Nazi’s so it was crucial to do something.

While getting the needed grant from the government to make these shorts Disney was also changing strategy.  Instead of the ambitious artpieces of their first 5 films they went with bankable stars like Donald and Goofy and shorts that could be easily put alongside other movies in a theater.  Gone was the Fantasound and other expensive theater strategies.  This was make something fun and charming using the characters everyone loves.  Nothing wrong with that but it has made the movies from 1943-1950 kind of forgettable.

Here’s a trailer

Saludos premiered in August 1942 in Brazil and in 1943 in the US.  Part of the reason Disney agreed to these films is they were part of a federal grant and the loss of the European market in the war had been a huge blow.  Combined with a strike that year they needed the funds.

The movie is kind of like a travelogue of Latin America sometimes in live action and then 4 animated sets.  To a modern day audience it seems out of date and corny but at the time it was very popular.

Film historian Alfred Charles Richard Jr. has commented that Saludo Amigos “did more to cement a community of interest between peoples of the Americas in a few months than the State Department had in fifty years”.

An article I read in Time magazine January 1943 said people in Rio de Janeiro “screamed so loudly for an encore that another feature had to be halted in mid-reel and Saludos Amigos run off again”

I found a review from the New York Times from 1943 and it called Saludos Amigos “charming” and “a gay 40 minute potpourri”

The movie has four segments that are introduced with live action shots:

Lake Titicaca- Donald Duck visits the lake and deals with a llama in the funniest skit

Donald learning about the culture
donald llama
Donald dealing with a llama!

Next we have

Pedro- A story about a small plane in Santiago who must take the mail when Papa Plane and Mama Plane can’t do it.  Pretty much a Rudolph storyline.

pedro the planeEl Gaucho Goofy- Set in Argentina Goofy must learn to be an Argentine Cowboy- or a gaucho.  This is very similar to the other Goofy ‘how to’ videos such as the one on photography.

goofy cowboyThere is also a scene where Goofy and the horse are dancing which looks strange…

Aquarela do Brasil- Set in Rio this short is as if the characters and ideas for the story are being drawn by an artist and those paintings come alive.

We also get introduced to Jose Oliveira who is a Portuguese parrot. He is a cool looking character but tough to understand sometimes.

rioAnd that’s about all there is to it.

The soundtrack sold well and is fun and includes samba and other latin inspired dances.

I couldn’t find the box office results but from what I’ve read it sounds like it did pretty well.

My Review

So how does it hold up?  Not very well I’m afraid.  It’s harmless and kind of fun to see what propaganda films looked like in the 40s.  The music is engaging and some of the cultural attractions are neat to see (some of them also seem way outdated).

The animated sets are cute but nothing mind blowing.  Unlike previous Disney products these are not art but sprightly entertainment.  And it’s only 41 minutes so hard to be too tough on it but it didn’t feel like a feature film.  However, it’s on Disneys list of animated classics so I watched it.

It’s not horrible just not one of my favorites.

Incidentally it seems you could write an interesting screenplay about this goodwill tour Walt and the animators took, these movies, the enthusiastic response and the dealings with the state department.  Just a hunch.

I am a little surprised they didn’t use Mickey since it was a goodwill tour. Still always enjoy seeing Donald and Goofy.  The animated segments hold up better than the live action which feel dated partly from the trappings of 40’s technology and dress (and film).  The whole project kind of feels like an episode of Sesame Street with humans and animation instead of puppets.

Kids will enjoy each of the animated sections especially if you come from a Latino background and the story of the Goodwill mission is interesting. The war would have been much different if South and Central America had gone with the Nazis.

Overall Grade C Generic but pleasant enough.