My continuing foray into Disney's fifty official Animated Classics. Again, don't hesitate to share your thoughts/memories/complaints below. Links to previous entries have also been included below.
The Three Caballeros (1944)
The Plot: Donald Duck receives a trio of gifts on his birthday, which lead to adventures through Latin America.
The Songs: "The Three Caballeros (Ay, Jalisco, No Te Rajes!)," "Baía," "Os Quindins de Yayá," "You Belong To My Heart," "Mexico," "Have You Ever Been To Baía?," "Pregoes Carioca," "Lilongo," "Pandeiro & Flute," "La Sandunga," "Jesusita En Chihuahua"
A Little History: A sequel (of sorts) to Saludos Amigos, created as part of the United States' Goodwill Tour of 1941. Donald Duck returns (representing the U.S.), as does José Carioca (Brazil), while the pistol-packin' rooster Panchito Pistoles is introduced as our tour guide through Mexico. Walt Disney personally hired composer Manuel Esperón to write music for the Mexican segments (Esperón had already written scores for over 500 films by this time, of which "¡Ay Jalisco, No Te Rajes!" is one of his most popular songs.)
How It Broke New Ground: The second of six "package films" released by Disney during the 1940s. Disney's first feature-length title to show live actors interacting with animated characters – as opposed to Fantasia and Saludos Amigos, which simply alternated live-action with animated sequences (the Alice Comedies of the 1920s also featured these live actor/animation hybrids). The song "You Belong To My Heart" proved so popular it was later recorded by Bing Crosby.
How It Holds Up Today: An improvement over Saludos Amigos, to be sure, free of that irksome history lesson/anecdotal structure which hampered its predecessor. The animation's richer and more experimental, too, with sequences ("Donald's Surreal Reverie," in particular) that border on the hallucinatory; the movie, as such, is a real pleasure to look at. Of course, that's if you can survive the first two segments ("The Cold-Blooded Penguin" and "The Flying Gauchito"), which feel like holdovers from Amigos. Once José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles enter the scene, however, there's a real hellzapoppin'/anything goes-type feel to the movie – a water-colored trip through Baía leading to pop-up book adventures with Aurora Miranda (Carmen's sister) leading to encounters with sunbathing señoritas on a beach in Acapulco. (Watching him chase after the live-action ladies, I never realized Donald was such a horndog.) Still, with four "package" films yet to go, I already find myself missing that good old-fashioned three-act structure. As travelogues go, Caballeros is a fun place to visit, but this lack of conflict/ resolution is making me a little stir-crazy.
Hold tight, Disney fans – there's more to come. Need to catch up? Click on the following for: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, Bambi, and Saludos Amigos. Please comment!