Directed by Bill Roberts, Jack King, Hamilton Luske, Wilfred Jackson
With Walt Disney and his artists (documentary footage) and the voices of Fred Shields, José Oliveira, Clarence Nash, Pinto Colvig
THE THREE CABALLEROS(1944)
Directed by Norman Ferguson
With Aurora Miranda, Carmen Molina, Dora Luz, and the voices of Clarence Nash, José Oliveira, Joaquin Garay, Sterling Holloway, Fred Shields
As part of an effort to strengthen U.S. relationships with Latin America, Walt Disney agreed to tour several Latin American countries and produce films with Latin American themes. The two resulting movies, SALUDOS AMIGOS and THE THREE CABALLEROS, are patchy and generally uninspired, but both contain some sequences that deserve to be listed with the best of Disney.
SALUDOS AMIGOS is the duller film, using far too much 16mm footage of Disney artists on a plane flying to South America, and spending far too much time on educating U.S. audiences to Latin words and customs. Sections featuring Goofy as a gaucho and Donald as a tourist are pleasant but hardly memorable, and the same goes for the story of a little plane named Pedro on his first flight. By far, the best segments of the film feature Donald and his new friend José Carioca, a cigar-smoking parrot who teaches him the samba. Here, inspired by some catchy Brazilian melodies including "Brazil" and "Tico Tico no Fubá", the Disney artists let their imagination run wild with FANTASIA-like results that make the previous animated sections of the film look pedestrian. ½ - JB
Two years after SALUDOS AMIGOS, "Joe Carioca" was brought back in THE THREE CABALLEROS, a film that shares some of the flaws of SALUDOS AMIGOS but is more enjoyable because of its higher reliance on animation over live action footage. Unfortunately, the two introductory cartoons, "The Cold-Blooded Penguin" and "The Flying Gauchito" are prime examples of what Disney artist Leo Salkin once said of the studio's style: "All this personality stuff isn't really funny... Warners cartoons get laughs!". Disney artists did some of the most amazing stuff in animation history, but they could never compete with Warners, or MGM and Fleischers for that matter, when it came to gags. Luckily, the film picks up when José Carioca takes Donald on a surrealistic train trip to Baia, Brazil, where Donald falls head over webbed feet for Aurora Miranda, sister of the more famous Carmen Miranda. The sexual tension never reaches Tex Avery levels, but for a Disney film, the concept of a sexually excited duck chasing a Latina hottie was rather daring for its time. The film continues to pick up speed with the introduction of Panchito, a rootin' - tootin' gaucho from Mexico who completes the title trio. The film goes nowhere and everywhere at once as Disney revisits the spirit of "Pink Elephants" from DUMBO, throws in some dancing phallic cacti, ends the film with some fireworks and calls it a day. - JB