August 13th, 2011

piranha - feather nest.

Disney Movies: #7 The Three Caballeros (1944)

Entry #33 in the ‘Watch All of the Classic Disney (Animated) Movies’ challenge!

The Three Caballeros
It’s Donald Duck’s birthday, and a large package has been sent to him by his friends in Latin America. When he opens it he finds three individually wrapped gifts. The first is a film projector and a documentary about birds. The second is a book about Bahia, and when Donald opens the gift out pops his friend Jose Carioca. The third gift introduces Panchito Pistoles, who sings “The Three Caballeros” and gives Donald a piñata. The birthday theme ties together seven animated shorts, each with a Latin American theme.

What a weird movie. I mean, really, really weird. You know the “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence in Dumbo? Expand that from five minutes to an entire half hour, and you’ve got the second half of The Three Caballeros! It’s nuts. But let me start with the beginning.

The first two animated shorts, “The Cold-Blooded Penguin” and “The Flying Gauchito” are part of the bird documentary Donald receives as his first gift. They’re both cute. “The Cold-Blooded Penguin”, narrated by Sterling Holloway (voice of Winnie the Pooh), is the story of a penguin who can’t stand the cold weather at the South Pole, so he devises a way to escape to a tropical island. “The Flying Gauchito” follows the adventure of a boy from Uruguay and his winged donkey, Burrito. Unfortunately for the poor kid, his older self is narrating, and his memory of events isn’t so great, so he’s constantly stopping and revising the story – which then affects the landscape around the kid.

The third short, “Baia”, is where the movie starts getting weird. Jose Carioca returns, appearing in a pop-up book about Brasil, and starts waxing poetic about Baia as a song plays over beautiful watercolor landscapes of the city. Then, Jose asks Donald again and again “Have you been to Baia?” to which the duck repeats “No!” and Jose splits into four parrots and dances for Donald and keeps singing, “Well, let’s go!” Finally, Donald asks Jose if he’s been to Baia, and the four Joses consult with each other before sheepishly admitting they’ve never been. That’s not even the weird part. After the two birds arrive in Baia, a beautiful woman (live action, played by Aurora Miranda) sings and walks through the streets selling cookies. She becomes the focus of Donald’s attention until Jose drags him back home to open his final present.

The final present brings Panchito, the rooster of Latin America, into the movie to complete the trio. He immediately starts singing “The Three Caballeros”, which is a little odd given the audience has never seen him before and therefore we have no way to know why he’s such good friends with Donald and Jose. All I can really say about Panchito is that he sings very loud and very well. Panchito never really gets much in the way of character development – after the song he explains to an uninterested Donald the origin of the piñata, and then the movie launches into the bizarre sexual mindfuck that is the remainder of this movie.

“Wait – sex in a Disney movie?” you ask. Yep. I mean, OK, not actual sex, but the rest of the movie consists of Donald ogling and chasing women wearing swimsuits on a beach (“Mexico” segment), imagining himself as a hummingbird pollinating flowers with womens’ faces (“You Belong to My Heart”), and some truly bizarre animation mixing live-action women and the birds. The image that stands out in my mind is one of the three Caballeros dancing with womens’ legs beneath them, but the whole segment is just nuts. Donald’s drunk or something – I think the idea is that he’s drunk on love? – and the animators are clearly going nuts, indulging whatever idea happened to pop into their heads. Add in all the live-action women being objectified by Donald as they dance traditional Mexican dances and it’s just NUTS.

It’s so weird watching this womanizing little duck. I mean…dude, he’s Donald Duck, popular childrens’ cartoon character! He’s also the horniest bird ever animated. It’s a little hard to process, to be honest. But there it is. (How did Disney get away with this back in the 1940s???)

As incredibly strange as this movie is, it’s got some really fun moments in it. If you decide to watch it, I’d recommend breaking it up into two or three viewings. Seanie and I watched it all in one go (right after watching Saludos Amigos, no less) and you get kind’ve tired of the short animation formula after a while. But if you separate the movie into the “Bird Documentary” half and the “Three Caballeros” half, I think it’s much easier to take in the craziness. The animation is really fun, and the songs are pretty catchy…but if you’re looking for a linear story, this movie is going to drive you nuts.

WTF, Disney. WTF.