The Three Caballeros
Release Date: February 3rd, 1945
Domestic Gross: $1.595 million
Worldwide Gross: $3.335 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%
IMDB Score: 6.5/10
Storyline (per IMDB): A large box arrives for Donald on his birthday, three gifts inside. He unwraps one at a time, and each takes him on an adventure. The first is a movie projector with a film about the birds of South America; Donald watches two cartoons, one tells of a penguin who longs to live on a tropical isle and the other about a gaucho boy who hunts the wild ostrich. The second gift is a pop-up book about Brazil. Inside is Jose Carioca, who takes Donald to Brazil’s Bahia for a mix of animation and live action: the two cartoon birds sing and dance with natives. The third gift is a piñata, accompanied by Panchito. A ride on a magic serape takes the three amigos singing and dancing across Mexico. ¡Olé!
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We move onto the next film in the Disney canon which is the second of the package films released during this time, and also you could say “unofficially” the first sequel in the canon as this builds off of Saludos Amigos. Unlike the previous film which was more a behind-the-scenes look at Disney’s trip to South America surrounded by a few shorts, this one has more of a linear story behind it told in a bunch of different segments. It does also blend the lines of animation and reality as well which will be interesting to see, and hopefully this ends up being a solid film and one I end up enjoying.
Voice Cast: So for the second film in a row, we have a combination of voice actors coupled with some actors that appear on screen in live-action scenes. We have a few regulars return as Clarence Nash returns to voice Donald Duck and Jose Oliveira voicing Jose Carioca, and Sterling Holloway also returns to voice the narrator for “The Cold-Blooded Penguin” and Pinto Colvig provides sounds for the Aracuan bird. We had two newcomers in this film as voice actor Frank Graham serves as a narrator for the film along with Fred Shields who narrates the short about the flying donkey, and finally Joaquin Garay voices Panchito Pistoles and he brings a lot of energy to new character. As mentioned, we do have some live actors appear as well mainly as dancers which include Aurora Miranda and Carmen Molina, and finally we have Dora Luz in a solo performance and these ladies to a great job in their roles for the film. Considering this would be the last film to be part of the canon that features live-action scenes, those involved did a good job in showcasing the culture of Mexico and Latin America.
Other Characters: For the purposes of these reviews since I am looking at the animated canon, we won’t include any live-action appearances so all of the dancers along with the soloists will not be mentioned in this specific category. We did have a few other characters involved as we are introduced to the third Caballero in Panchito Pistoles, the wise-cracking rooster from Mexico who becomes friends with Donald and Jose. We also had Pablo the penguin from the short where he longs to leave the cold and find a warm island to live on, and while he doesn’t speak he shows his determination to find a new place to live which he finally does. Finally we have the unnamed Guachito and his new flying donkey that he comes to love, and they have a good relationship that sees them win a race only to be disqualified since the donkey can fly. While there weren’t as many characters in this film as previous ones, it worked out since this was much like Saludos Amigos as it was more about showcasing the culture of Latin America.
Songs: Much like Saludos Amigos, the songs that are featured in this film are more done in a way to celebrate the culture and customs of Latin America as opposed to being memorable in the canon of the films. We do have a fun theme song with “The Three Caballeros” which is sung in the beginning of the film and then Donald and his friends sing it during the film, and it is a good song to put over their friendship and companionship. We then have Jose singing “Baia” as he sings about Brazil and they dance as part of the samba in “Os Quindins de Yaya”, and they are both good songs and catchy tunes that makes you want to dance. Next, we have “Mexico” sung by Panchito Pistoles as he sings about Mexico in the same vein that Jose sang about Brazil, and finally we have the centerpiece song “You Belong to My Heart” sung by Dora Luz and she does a beautiful job in singing this ballad which draws Donald to her.
Plot: So much like Saludos Amigos, this film was more of a showcase of the culture of Latin America based off of Disney’s trip to the region, but unlike the previous film this was more of a look at the culture as opposed to being a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. In this film, Donald Duck receives a bunch of gifts from his friends Jose Carioca and Panchito Pistoles, and first he learns about the different birds of Latin America before seeing a story about a penguin who wants to go somewhere warm. After watching a short story about a boy finding a flying donkey and becoming friends, he is eventually joined by Jose and Panchito as they go on a trip visiting various areas of Brazil and Mexico while participants in various events which include Donald falling in love with numerous women. It was basically a typical Donald Duck cartoon just extended to 80 minutes as opposed to a normal short and anyone who was a fan of Donald would more than likely enjoy it.
Random Watching Thoughts: Ahh, the Radio RKO Pictures logo is back after being MIA in the previous film; It is pretty cool to see Donald Duck in a full-length film as opposed to a short; Of course Donald’s birthday would be on Friday the 13th, The old gifts-within-a-gift-within-a-gift gag; Only Donald can make opening up a video screen a laborious process; A penguin that hates living in the cold, if that’s not an oxymoron I don’t know what is; Only penguins can make living in the Arctic like living on the beach; Bowling for penguins; I can’t help but feel like I’ve seen this specific short before when I was younger, but I can’t for the life of me remember when; Ahh, puns and the visual adaptations of them; I love how Pablo is so scared when his ice boat melts and he doesn’t want to get in the water when as a penguin, he can swim with ease; So Pablo finally gets to be on an island like he wanted only to then become homesick and miss the cold; I wouldn’t be surprised if this segment about the different types of birds inspired “The Enchanted Tiki Room” at the theme parks; I feel like the Aracuan was very similar to Woody Woodpecker even though they are two completely different birds; The narrator puts the Marrequito over as a skilled builder yet it can’t even make a nest; That’s a crap load of flamingos; The narrator goes from hunting wild ostrich to hunting condors; Is a flying donkey a big thing in Latin American folklore?; The way he has the donkey tied up makes it seem like he’s flying a kite; So the donkey can whistle like a bird?; I’ve noticed that they like using the word “gay” for happy a lot in these last few films; Did he really think that they could win the race without being accused of cheating due to the fact the donkey could fly?; How is the narrator able to do this narration if he hasn’t been seen in a long time?; Good to see Jose Carioca back for another film; Jose sings this epic song about Baia to Donald only to have never been there himself; That’s a lot of tracks to choose from and they just have the whole train separate; It is pretty cool seeing live-action mixed together with animation especially in the 1940s; Fun fact is that Aurora Miranda is the sister of Carmen Miranda who became well-known for her iconic fruit hat; It is a bit weird seeing a cartoon character pine over a real woman though it would be a running theme for Donald throughout this film; One slight flaw with this is you can clearly tell the live-action actors are in front a green screen as the animated scenes are obviously faded behind them, but it was the 1940s so technology was still relatively primitive in that aspect and it would look a lot better in 2020; It’s a good thing Daisy Duck wasn’t included in this film as she wouldn’t put up with Donald’s antics; The early days of a dance-off; So Jose can grow using black magic while Donald screws it up and inflates his whole body like a balloon; You figured that Mexico was going to heavily featured in this film after being absent in Saludos Amigos; Panchito Pistoles certainly has a lot of energy even more so than Jose and he’s got quite a set of pipes to hold that last note for so long; It is always pretty cool to see how different cultures celebrate Christmas; I always thought that the pinata was more synonymous with birthdays as opposed to Christmas; Jose and Panchito took great pleasure in teasing Donald by pulling the pinata away from him repeatedly; That was quite the loaded pinata to have all that stuff inside of it; As much of a history buff that I am, I never knew that Mexico City was built on top of a lake and had such a rich history and lore behind it; It’s so interesting seeing Mexico so glorified in 1945 knowing how different our thinking of it is in the current day and environment; I could only imagine what it was like for the filmmakers when they were filming all this footage featuring these old Mexican traditions and dances; Always love seeing the stylized animated maps of countries; Donald really didn’t want to leave that party and then they bring him to Acapulco where he sees plays around with the bathing beauties; Dora Luz does have a really beautiful voice; These last few minutes feel like a really strong acid trip; I wonder if the scene where Donald dances with Carmen Molina was the inspiration for having Gene Kelly dance with Jerry Mouse in “Anchors Aweigh”; Talk about going out with a bang at the end with the fireworks display.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, the second package film for Disney coming off of Saludos Amigos was a slightly better effort than the previous one though it again was nowhere near the films that preceded both films. As mentioned, it was pretty much just a Donald Duck cartoon extended into an 80-minute film while also being a showcase of the culture of Latin America, and this was the second film to be included as part of Disney’s look at the Latin American culture. We were coming to a crucial point as World War 2 was nearing its end and many of those who were drafted to help the government were about to return to the studios, and it will be interesting to see if they continue with the package films or if they revert back to the standard style of film. As for this film, it was a step up from Saludos Amigos though it was still just an average film at best even for me who has always loved Donald Duck and while it was fun, it was fairly forgettable.
Final Grade: 5.5/10