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A Second Look: The Three Caballeros
In 1945, Norman Furguson, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts and Harold Young released Disney’s animated musical film, The Three Caballeros as part of the studio’s good will message for South America. Starring Clarence Nash, Jose Oliveira, Joaquin Garay, Aurora Miranda, Dora Luz, Carmen Molina, Sterling Holloway, Frank Graham, Fred Shields, and Francisco Mayorga, the film has an unknown box office gross. However, the film was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Musical Score and Best Sound Recording. It also became the basis for a ride at Disney World’s Epcot named Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros and characters from the film appear in Disneyland’s It’s a Small World.
Framed by Donald Duck celebrating his birthday, the film has seven segments each with a connection to South America. Throughout the film, Donald meets his cousin, Jose, and Panchito, a native of Mexico. The trio become The Three Caballeros. And throughout the film, they’re taunted by the Aracuan Bird.
Another one of Disney’s wartime package films, The Three Caballeros is a very fun film that takes Donald and its audience on a wild ride through multiple interesting stories. The most engaging seems to be “The Flying Gauchito,” which centers on a little boy from Uruguay and his winged donkey. It’s a really fun and endearing story, seeing as the boy finds the donkey and bonds with him before taking him out racing. It’s full of a lot of humor as well, especially from the narrator who actually starts getting impatient with what’s supposed to be a younger version of himself during the race. And apparently, following the race he and his donkey were never seen again, though he was able to make the recording for the film; some more good humor there.
Some of the stories are also informative, adding to their enjoyableness. Take “Las Posadas,” which tells of how Christmas is celebrated by Mexican children. It’s fun to see how the holiday is celebrated in other cultures in that they take the time to reenact the journey of Mary and Joseph searching for room in the inn before being led to a stable where they take part in festivities. It’s also informative to see how other cultures make their faith more real to them.
There’s also the documentary concerning birds that Donald watches that introduces the fourth wall breaking Aracuan bird. His antics when he appears throughout the film are quite hilarious, such as him stealing Jose’s cigar or disassembling a train by rerouting it through the drawing of brand new tracks.
But, Disney being Disney, there are some really weird moments prevalent throughout the film. One happens in the middle of the segment where Jose takes Donald on a tour of Baia. It starts off as a really interesting look at the Brazilian state and ends in the locals dancing a samba and Donald going after one of the women. But that’s not the only time in the film he decides he wants to chase women. The last three stories following “Las Posadas” have Donald doing so. The first, “Mexico: Patzcuaro, Veracruz and Acapulco,” is another one of those segments that starts of informative, with Panchito giving Donald and Jose a tour of Mexico on a flying sarape. And with the interesting cultural songs and dances, Donald starts to hound more ladies and continues through “Donald’s Surreal Reverie,” where he imagines getting kissed. It leads to a very bizarre series of moments that compares being in love to being on drugs, where Donald is having several hallucinations, such as sugar rush colors, flowers and other chaotic oddities perpetuated by Panchito and Jose. It really just devolves from there with moments like Donald dancing with Carmen Molina, who makes cacti appear in different forms using a horsewhip. But even though the scene is very bizarre, it’s still incredibly well made, due to its mixing of live action and animation.
But in everything, one of the stories really sticks out as the only real reason it fits within the greater scope of the film is because it’s a penguin that wants to live in South America because he’s fed up with the cold of the South Pole. Granted, it’s a fun and funny story, but with every other story being about or set in South America, this one where the penguin keeps trying to go feels like it was forced into the overall film for padding purposes.
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