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 American: 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 Zé 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!
Aurora Miranda ... The Brazilian Girl (as Aurora Miranda of Brazil)
Carmen Molina ... Mexico Girl (as Carmen Molina of Mexico)
Dora Luz ... Mexico Girl (as Dora Luz of Mexico)
Sterling Holloway ... Narrator for 'The Cold-Blooded Penguin' / Professor Holloway
Clarence Nash ... Donald Duck (voice)
Joaquin Garay ... Panchito (voice)
José Oliveira ... José Carioca / Zé Carioca (voice)
Frank Graham ... Narrator
Fred Shields ... Narrator
Trío Calaveras (as Trio Calaveras)
Trío Ascencio del Río (as Ascencio Del Rio Trio)
Padua Hills Players ... Actors
The motivation for making it was, of all things, the US State Department! The US was deeply involved in fighting World War Two. At this point in time the average American knew almost NOTHING about South America, and the Nazi government was busy making business and political connections there, especially in Paraguay... there, transplanted Germans were a well established colony. They were aiding Hitler's war effort with the operation of industrial concerns, as well as providing espionage support.
South America promised to become a new battlefront if German successes and infiltration continued. The region produced vital strategic raw materials, key among them rubber.
Our strongest ally in the region was Brazil. The US Navy had a number of installations there, both sea and air. The Brazilian Navy worked closely with US forces in hunting U-boats in the Atlantic narrows; a number of US Navy vessels were transferred to them. American air bases (the largest of which was at Recife) provides home base for American aircraft, both fixed wing and lighter than air blimps, to provide air support coverage to trans Atlantic convoy operations.
The State department felt it would be a good idea to familiarize Americans with the land, people, and way of life of South America, and called on Disney to produce THE THREE CABALLEROS. The movie was, first and foremost, a TEACHING TOOL for both military forces and the general public during a global war.
BTW... I love the crazy little bird too! HE'S the best part of the film!
There are two other Disney films made for the Government that I'd LOVE to find copies of.
One is VICTORY THROUGH AIR POWER, another WW2 product.
The other is one that I saw back in Basic Training in the 1970s. Believe it or not, the Walt Disney studios produced a military training film on the prevention of VENEREAL DISEASE!!! The unfortunate Lady dispensing said commodity bore a VERY striking resemblance to Snow White!
Because of that film I can never view SNOW WHITE in quite the same way ever again!
"The Three Caballeros" is a nice little gem of golden-age Disneyana, that could have used perhaps a little more polishing.
The Disney Studios apparently produced several pieces around the time period of this animated-live action featurette; "Caballeros" is probably the best known of the series. The basic premise here is that Donald Duck is celebrating his birthday, and a large package of presents is sent to him from friends in several Latin American countries. The event turns into a celebration of Latin culture, focusing on Brazil and Mexico; Donald is given tours by two "colleagues," a cigar-chomping parrot-cum-boulevardier named Joe Carioca, and Panchito, a bandito rooster (complete with never-empty six-guns).
Perhaps twenty to thirty minutes of the piece is made up of the cartoon characters superimposed over live action, or live actors doing carefully choreographed moves in front of a screen. The techniques are apparent to the eye, and dated by modern standards, but they were reasonable attempts to fuse the two worlds together. More problematical to this correspondent is the last 10-15 minutes; while having a few interesting sequences, the lack of a plot (becoming a dream of random images in Donald's ever-confused thoughts) makes the section drag down the rest of the film. Less importantly, politically correct types may object to the "Hollywoodization" and "Disneyfication" of Latin culture/music that turns it into a progression of scenes from a folkloric or idealized mariachi show. Of course, shows like "The Three Caballeros were never meant to show the actual grit of much of Latin American life....
If you're looking for that reality, avoid this like the plague. If you're looking for fun, good Hollywood-Latin music, and "poorty girls," head out and rent it.
People who went to see Disney's compilation features of the 1940s expecting another "Fantasia" were always disappointed - however good the material in some of them. They weren't really films. This one is just a collection of beads from the studio's Latin American years on a pretty string. Some of the beads are short cartoons, not really any different from Disney's other short cartoons of the period - which is, although I don't need to say this, praise. To be honest I find it hard to remember, without looking it up, exactly which South American Disney cartoons are featured in this movie and which aren't.
The linking segments with Donald Duck are weird and - now and then - wonderful. Disney seems to have tried every possible way of combining animation and live action (the live action is usually Carmen Miranda). Some of the attempts fall flat - many shots are obviously Miranda walking in front of a movie screen onto which Donald Duck is being projected; and the section featuring Donald Duck flying on a magic carpet over South American countryside is just a cheap and gruesome mis-match. But other times it's dazzling. The transformation of animated cacti into human dancers, or human dancers into animated roosters, are technical marvels which made me gasp. Perhaps if I saw them on the big screen I'd be able to work out how they were done - but they'd still be spectacular. More so.
In short, this certainly has its moments - some of the most anarchic moments Disney or any other studio had produced. People who aren't fans of animation will probably find it unendurable. (I don't blame them. It's not really a film.) People who are fans HAVE to see it.
In a technologically advanced cartoon with stunning visuals and beautiful groundbreaking color and animation, Disney took on role as an ambassador between the citizens of the United States and their strange, dark-skinned, maybe primitive but recently allied next-door-neighbor, Latin America. The year was 1945, and the rage was exoto-tourism.
The idea was to introduce the United States to the color and excitement of Central and South America. To our main character Donald, the good old-fashioned patriotic American Duck, the worlds shown to him by his Latino bird buddies are far from familiar. Foreign music, seemingly tribal dancing, beautiful women and exotic landscapes overwhelm Donald, and he becomes infatuated. This unknown world holds the same appeal and excitement to Donald and it probably did to countless European explorers. In fact, the scenes depicting the bizarre customs, cultures and landscapes in the movie hold the same kind of colonizing curiosity of earlier times before and during Western exploration. It is human (and maybe even Anatidaean) instinct to be curious about the unknown.
Unfortunately, it is also human instinct to make generalities. We find here a very large contradiction, perhaps even a paradox. While the cultures of Donald's friends, the Brazilian and the Mexican, are about as similar as a parrot is to a rooster, the film portrays them as almost identical. In Brazil we find a beautiful town full of beautiful people with dark hair and darker eyes, singing dancing and having quite a time. In Mexico, it's about the same, but maybe with more of a vaquero-esquire vibe. It seems The Three Caballeros de-racializes Latin America and disregards Brazil's African roots as well as Mexico's numerous indigenous roots, kneading and forming them into one homogeneous brown-skinned singing and dancing culture.
So now we know they're friendly. It's okay, we can go for a trip to Acapulco and sunbathe with some beautifully bronzed female Mexican centuplets. We'll drink, we'll dance, we'll embrace and kiss and be merry, however not ever with another male. The film quickly shows that while Latin American men can have a gay time, they certainly aren't gay gay, The rooster (or was it the parrot?) adamantly make this clear by rejecting Donald's kiss. But don't worry; Donald thought he was a girl. Americans sure as hell aren't gay, either.
Well I feel guilty now for bringing all of this up. I'm sure Disney had the best intentions in introducing the U.S. to the neighbors below. A cartoon-documentary marking the full history of every diverse Latin American country using cell animation in 1945 would take longer to create than the pyramids did. And who knows if it would have held an audience's attention? The point is that despite these intolerant tendencies in The Three Caballeros, whether intentional or due to naivety, the brief exploration of the Latin American unknown in this visually stunning film may have been a pretty decent introduction for a 1945 United States audience.
This movie and Saludos Amigos (1942) were created by Disney in order to improve the United States of America's relations with South American countries during World War II.
Features the return of José (or Joe, or Zé, as he is known in original Brazilian Portuguese) Carioca, the Brazilian parrot first featured in Saludos Amigos (1942).
The song "You Belong to My Heart" was later featured in a Disney short called Pluto's Blue Note (1947) and eventually recorded by Bing Crosby.
Clarence Nash also provides the voice of Donald Duck in the Spanish-dubbed version, giving Donald a charming American accent that complements José Carioca's Brazilian and Panchito's Northern Mexican ones.
The Pablo the Penguin segment features a shot of a penguin diving into the water. This animation is taken from the Silly Symphony Peculiar Penguins (1934).
This was the first time Walt Disney attempted to combine animation with live actors since the Alice Comedies in the 1920s.
The music for the title song is the Mexican folk standard "Ay, Jalisco, No Te Rajes." Panchito sings some of the original lyrics just before making his entrance and again at the end of the musical number.
The famed cartoonist Don Rosa made several sequels to this story in printed comics, setting José and Panchito up as Donald's only true friends. This is one of the few stories that he worked in to his Duck universe that is not part of the Barks canon.