Monday, December 6, 2010

DAF #49 - The Three Caballeros (1945)

"Hey, Donald, you are what they say "off the cob". You know, corny."

Title: The Three Caballeros
Year: 1945
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 11 minutes

Clarence Nash as Donald Duck
Jose Oliveira as Jose Carioca
Joaquin Garay as Panchito
Sterling Holloway as Narrator (Cold-Blooded Penguin)
Fred Shields as Narrator (Burrito)
Frank Graham as Narrator
Aurora Miranda as Herself
Carmen Molina as Herself
Dora Luz as Herself

Plot: Donald Duck celebrates his birthday with Jose Carioca and Panchito, by opening a collection of gifts that take them on a wild south-of-the-border adventure.
Based on: Original stories
Setting: Argentina; Baia, Brazil; Mexico. Present Day (1945).

Tagline: Utterly fascinating! Entirely different!

First Viewing:
Summer of 2006 during the my first epic DAF ranking on VHS.

Over at Diversion 2.0, my friend Andrew continues to churn out thoughtful, critical reviews of randomly chosen Disney Animated Features at a fairly prompt rate. Here at Popped Density, I'm slowly sort of doing my own little twist of this by going over my ranked list of DAF's and starting at the very bottom. I previously reviewed the suckiest bunch of suck, Lilo & Stitch and now I am moving on up to #49, The Three Caballeros.

I think it's safe to say that a lot of Gen Y-er's out there have seen TTC. The movie was released on home video in 1982, 1987, 1994, and then in 2000 on DVD.  In fact, out of all the package films, this one has had the most home video releases. And I DON'T KNOW WHY!

Here's a little history for you: after the United States entered WWII, the Disney animation unit was left in a pickle. Animators and the like were drafted, money was tight, and the floors of the studio were strewn with half finished story lines and ideas. Whoever was left was recruited by the U.S. government to make propaganda films. The Three Caballeros (and 1943's Saludos Amigos) came from this camp. These two flicks were produced to keep "good will" with South America during war time.

The film opens with classic Disney character, Donald Duck receiving a movie projector for his birthday from his "friends from South America". We watches a quick documentary on aves raras (strange birds). Then it cuts to the brightest spot in the movie, "The Cold-Blooded Penguin".

Pablo lives on the coast of Argentina, but unlike his penguin buddies, he is too cold. He decides to move to a warmer climate but all of his plans to leave fail because he can't get too far from his pot bellied stove. Finally, Pablo cuts the ice around his igloo to form a boat and heads north. Hi-jinks ensue and Pablo arrives in the Galapagos Islands, happily heated and tan.

Donald continues watching his film reel and we see another segment, "The Flying Gauchito". A little boy from Uruguay finds a flying donkey, names him Burrito, and competes in a donkey race. Uh huh.

Next, the second of the of the caballeros shows up. One Jose Carioca, a Brazilian cigar smoking parrot that Donald met previously in Saludos Amigos. He gives Donald a pop up book that takes them to Baia. The two meet a woman selling "cookies" who dances the samba with a couple of dudes. This scene shows animated characters interacting with live action actors and Donald falls madly in lust with the hooker, I mean cookie seller.

 Donald and Jose return to...uh...wherever Donald lives and the birthday boy opens his newest gift which reveals Panchito Pistoles, a Mexican rooster. Panchito is wild, enthusiastic and quite fond of his guns. The three avian friends christen themselves the Three Caballeros through the best song of the movie. BTW, a caballero is either a...
  1. Horseman
  2. Spanish gentleman
  3. Woman's admirer or escort
Panchito introduces the story of "Las Posadas" which is basically the first Christmas. Then the trio flies off on Panchito's magic serape and shows off his native Mexico. Donald becomes enamored with some bikini clad senoritas and chases them around, leering in a lecherous fashion.

From here, the movie becomes a psychedelic mind fuck. Donald falls in love with a woman who's face is super imposed in a flower. Then he dances with another with a riding crop. Then some phallic cacti form a suggestively shaped tunnel. Jose and Panchito pop in here and there to cause trouble for Donald's duck hornyness. Finally, some fire works explode and the movie is over!

So out of six pretty much forgettable package films, why is this the most popular one? Why 34 years after it came out did it get a rerelease in 1977? Why four home video releases?

One word: drugs.

Many DAF's have been rereleased in theaters. Before DVD, VHS, Laserdisc and Betamax, this was one of the ways Disney made money. A parent who saw Bambi at age 8 in 1942 could take his son to see it in 1966. (It's actually pretty brilliant idea, so good for them). But TTC isn't exactly the coming of age family favorite that Bambi is.

For one, there is no story. Like all the package films, it's a bunch of segments stitched together. But unlike, say, Make Mine Music and Melody Time, there aren't any bumpers that basically shout WE KNOW THESE SHORTS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER BUT TRY TO ENJOY YOURSELF ANYWAY. Donald gets some birthday gifts...two of which we too get to watch. But after Panchito comes along it all falls the to wayside in the wake of the blasts of color and erotically dancing cacti.

Secondly, the characters are not terribly likable or family friendly. Jose Carioca constantly has a lit cigar (not that I give a shit about smoking, but, you know, parents do). Panchito wields his pistols in a dangerously careless manner. And the less said about Donald's sexual debauchery, the better. (Ducks + humans = WTF?)

1977, prime drug time. To illustrate my point, Fantasia was rereleased in 1969 and Alice in Wonderland in 1974. Here are the posters for those two movies:

Yeah. So I'm right.

With TTC's 4 fucking video releases, I imagine zealous video collector parents added this one to the kiddie shelf and therefore it was viewed equally along with other Disney classics while the rest of the package films fell to obscurity. Nostalgia and drugs. That must be it.

I doubt that The Three Caballeros is at the top of anyone's DAF list. (Please comment if it's your number one). Let me be clear: I don't hate this movie. I just don't like it. It comes down to personal taste. My lack of childhood exposure is definitely part of it. Although I can't help but feel I might enjoy it a bit more if I were baked off my ass.

“Baia” - Ray Gilbert
“Have You Been to Baia?” - Jose Oliveira
“Os Quindins de Yaya” - Aurora Miranda
“The Three Caballeros” - Clarence Nash, Jose Oliveira, and Joaquin Garay
"Mexico" - Carlos Ramirez
“You Belong to My Heart” - Dora Luz

Favorite Song: “The Three Caballeros” - Clarence Nash, Jose Oliveiro and Joaquin Garay
Favorite Moment: "The Cold-Blooded Penguin"

Favorite Character: Pablo

Next Film: Melody Time (1948)

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