Looks like Ben liked Saludos Amigos slightly more than I did. Thing is, I’ve looked at the list of films to come and, let me tell you, we are about to head into Disney’s Golden Age. We have 2 or 3 films to go and then we get this list of beauties:
- Alice in Wonderland
- Peter Pan
- Lady and the Tramp
- Sleeping Beauty
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians
- The Sword in the Stone
- The Jungle Book
- The Aristocats
- Robin Hood
You see, Disney fans! These were THE films of my childhood. My brother and I used to watch them on VHS over and over, ‘ROFL’-ing about certain parts and then rewinding to ‘ROFL’ all over again! If Ben knew exactly what was coming, I think he might’ve given Saludos Amigos a lower score. In fact, looking back at that list, I’m now wondering if I should’ve given it a lower score. More like 3 out of 10. Yes, I’m changing my score of Saludos Amigos to 3/10.
Anyway, I digress (and I think it may become clear why, in just a moment.). The Three Caballeros. Like Saludos Amigos, it was first released outside of the USA, premiering in Mexico City on 21st December 1944. It was then shown to American audiences on 3rd February 1945. It has many similarities to its predecessor, also being made as part of the goodwill project between the US and parts of Latin America (particularly Mexico). It, again, features Donald Duck. The overall story is that it is Donald’s birthday and he has received a box of three presents from ‘His Friends in Latin America’. The first present is a projector and film, showing him a film about the birds of Latin America. The segment contains that best character in the whole of the film, by a long way. In fact, the only endearing thing about the film. The Aracuan Bird. I will leave Ben to tell you why. The second present is a book about Brazil, which José Carioca (the green parrot from Saludos Amigos) pops out of. He takes Donald on a journey to Baía. A new character, Panchito Pistoles (a red rooster from Mexico) pops out of the last box. The three birds give themselves the name The Three Caballeros and Panchito gives Donald his final present, a piñata.
Just like Saludos Amigos, this was another film that I had not previously seen. It’s not well known and I can see why. It’s awful. Truly awful. The first 15 minutes or so were ok, but the remaining 55 were painful to watch, if I’m honest. It’s a mess. It has very little storyline; the characters aren’t overly entertaining (except for the Aracuan Bird, who should’ve been given his own film!) and it is, quite frankly, a head fuck. I wanted to switch it off after about 30 minutes and it was actually Ben that insisted that we had to watch it till the end. It is like the storywriters at the WDAS were men, at that time, and they had all gone off to war leaving the women in the studio (who were the animators and musicians) to make this film on their own. Not saying that women couldn’t make a decent Disney film in the early 40’s, but this didn’t make them look good. At the risk of sounding like one of Ben’s reviews, I can imagine the conversation at the studio after the men were called away to fight:
“Now, Mary. As you know, our head writer George has been called up to help the British win this war. We’ve been given the task of coming up with another film to keep the Latinos happy. Now, what have you got?”
“This is a shock. I’m not sure if I’m any good at writing. Can we make it a bit like the last film? That went down well, didn’t it?”
“Well, not massively, but ok. So, we’re gonna have Donald in it again, yes?”
“Mary? You look worried. I know that it must be hard to transition to writing from animation, but my advice would be to write about what you like. So, what do you like?
“Oh, I don’t know. Flowers, dancing, LSD”
“Never thought I’d say this, but I miss George”.
That is ‘The Three Caballeros’ in a nutshell. A cluster-fuck of flowers, dancing and feeling like you are tripping. Sorry to any who liked it, but I hated.
1/10 (1 for the Aracuan Bird, obviously)
Evidently in circa 1944, Walt Disney was continuing to receive backhanders from either some Government to the south or The Latin American Board of International Airtravel, and as a result we get our second consecutive instalment fusing animated children’s characters with pro central and south American propaganda better known as The Three Caballeros (Three Horsemen). By the way, I don’t know if there is or was a Latin American Board of International Airtravel, but as the initials spell LABIA, I really hope there is.
The intro is just like all these other early Disney films, the music sounding just like the others, the animation looking just like the others. The addition of being dudes singing about how they are “three happy chappies”, makes this intro feel even more outdated than the films that have come before.
The film’s opening scene features Donald Duck receiving some presents in a box for his Birthday. I really dislike Donald Duck. To be honest, I can’t remember if I really disliked Donald Duck before I started watching his cameos in these early films or not. I also find that having now watched through the first eight films in order, it feels that everybody is already expected to not just know characters like Donald Duck, Goofy and Mickey Mouse, but to actually revere them and long for the moments they decide to appear. I really don’t. Donald’s a dick. So the aforementioned ‘dick’ opens the first present in the box and it’s a film projector. Donald’s rabbiting throughout all this and I can’t understand a bloody word that he is saying. Kerry however, it appears, can understand every word, which makes me wonder if Disney fanatics subconsciously speak Disnish or Disnese, a bit like Harry Potter and Parseltongue.
A film starts playing all of a sudden, and clearly whoever sent the present to Donald is being paid off by LABIA as well. After a brief Pro-Latin introduction we inexplicably go to penguins in Antarctica. Frolicking penguins; sunbathing penguins; you get the idea. One Penguin doesn’t like the cold. There’s always one that has to be a bit of a snowflake (boom boom). He wants to go to the Galapagos islands. Fair play, I want to go there too, he’s a penguin after my own heart. After many failed attempts at leaving, he builds a boat out of Ice. Clearly penguins, or at least this penguin, should be commended for their growth mindset.
Mr Penguin, ah, I’ve just looked it up, he’s called Pablo. Wait! Pablo?! Ok, Pablo is off on his journey when he encounters a blanket of fog. Literally a blanket. Of fog. That made us chuckle. He passes the Magellan Straight, The Fernandez Islands, Lima, Quito, it’s turning into a geography lesson again just like in Saludos Amigos. Calm down children, you’re thrilled I know. After making it across the equator with Neptune’s assistance, his boat starts to melt (note that it didn’t melt while crossing the equator or any time before). The plausibility of the sketch has been compromised in my opinion. By once again displaying that growth mindset, he manages to use the shower nozzle to turn his bath into a rudimentary speed boat. Genius. Finally he makes it to the Galapagos Islands and gets a good bit of sunburn. Once there, he realises he misses the Antarctic and his friends. Might have something to do with the fact that a penguin moving to the Galapagos is FUCKING UNNATURAL! So what do you expect?! It was an enjoyable little story anyway.
Now to the Amazon jungle in Venezuela. Specifically Venezuela. And they decide to give introduce us to a load of birds with funny names. We also have Toucans trying and failing to make love. Yup, that’s the expression they use. Make love. We also get a bird that sings a “peculiar song”. It is one of the greatest things in the history of film. Someone else out there obviously agrees (credit to ‘BeauwithaBang’ on YouTube) and made what is now my favourite video (even if it is slightly short). To be honest, just give today’s kids 90 minutes of this bird singing and they’ll be happy as a fawn in the woods (until its mother gets brutally murdered, naturally). Kids do not want hear the Latin name for Venezuelan wildlife nor the customs of some remote part of Latin America, they want to see this bird making stupid noises while running maniacally back and forth across the screen. But alas, 1940’s Disney doesn’t possess such logic. Instead we go to Uruguay for a story about a boy hunting Hornero birds, that is being narrated by presumably his adult self. Either that or boys’ voices in Uruguay break at a ridiculously young age.
Whilst hunting birds he finds a winged donkey-child-slave from Pinocchio. It certainly looks like a flying donkey (with testicles for a tongue apparently).
Its name is Burrito, which is little donkey in Spanish, so it definitely is a flying donkey. The writers have jumped the shark once again. To cut a long story, or what feels like a long story short, at the town’s fiesta the next day, there is a donkey race with a 1000-peso prize. After much training, the boy (Gouchito) wins the race after much mockery and many struggles to keep up. Overall, it’s an enjoyable enough story, and to be fair, so far this film hasn’t been too bad, and I can only hope that continues. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. The rest of the film is astonishingly crap.
You know how there are certain birthday and/or Christmas presents that get sent so frequently because they’re a safe option when ideas are thin on the ground? You know the sort: handkerchiefs; bath products; chocolates; a pop-up book containing a parrot playing an umbrella as a musical instrument; socks… Well I wish the good people of Brazil had sent Donald some socks as the pop-up book containing a parrot playing an umbrella as a musical instrument is the catalyst for our descent into astonishing crapness. Even a reprise by the amazing peculiar-song bird can’t save it. The parrot in question is the Brazil obsessed Jose Curioca from ‘Saludos Amigos’. This time he takes his obsession to new heights by zoning in on the wonders of Baía (Wikipedia has informed me that they’re referring to the state of Bahia). Donald’s never seen Baía, so Jose kindly conjures a magic train from the book to take them on a trip there. I’ve noticed that the Disney films of the 1940’s dedicate a large amount of time to indulgence for the animators and musicians and their trip here is a prime example of that, with complex evolving animations that ultimately have no substance, set to long outdated musical compositions that ultimately suck. Their journey to Baía is guilty of that sort of indulgence, and yet this is merely a warning shot for what lays ahead…
The Baía segment. The woman selling cookies that sings for ten minutes whilst Donald pervs on her. The random street musicians who also perv on her. Jose saying “Baía” about a hundred times with near orgasmic euphoria. It is so indulgent and so long that even Disney-freak Kerry is watching with wide eyed astonishment. I hate Baía. Jose asks Donald for his honest views about it. He says it’s swell. I really hate him too.
After more psychedelic drivel, we get Donald’s third present, which is apparently the wonder of Mexico. Or rather a tour of Mexico for Donald and Jose (because it would appear that we’re blessed with his delightful presence for the ENTIRE REST OF THE FILM) by another annoying bird with Jingoist tendencies named Panchito Pistoles. Ah, it’s time for another song. We haven’t had one for almost 90 seconds which means we were in grave danger of needing a plotline. The song is all about how they are three gay Caballeros. They use the term gay many, many times in these early Disney films. It should be noted that ever since Baía and during the remainder of this film, there is nothing gay, at least in the contemporary sense, about Donald. Every time he comes into any sort of contact with a female it becomes ever more apparent that he is on heat, to the point that surely Jose and Panchito must have thought his sex-pest tendencies would make him a liability.
Panchito blindfolds Donald. I’m not sure if it’s the wisest thing to do to a duck that’s in season. Ah ok, he has a Pinata as a gift. Panchito and Jose then proceed to make it very difficult for Donald to hit the pinata, owing to the fact they keep moving it. Oh what whimsical capering. Ultimately this is all leading to the inevitable payoff of animal heads and teapots exploding out of the Pinata once hit, and dancing. Did I say inevitable?
Now we get a song about Mexico City with a load of dancers. I wrote in my notes “WHAT KID TODAY WOULD WATCH THIS SHIT?!” Sums it up really.
Next Panchito shows Donald his favourite dance, which of course involves MORE singing and MORE dancers! It’s not my favourite dance that’s for damn sure. I’m also getting the feeling that any kid watching this film that possesses no knowledge of Latin America would assume that these countries are nothing but all singing and dancing utopias. As nice as they may be (away from the Favelas), the rose-tinted specs that these guides are viewed through are eye-rolling to the extreme.
After zoning out yet again, my attention is brought back into focus by the fact Donald, Jose and Panchito are suddenly travelling on some sort of flying carpet type thingy. Ah it turns out they’re travelling to another part of Mexico to watch even more dancers! And back to zoning out again. Kerry is despising all this as much as me. When a Disneyologist is loathing a Disney film, it must be bad.
After what feels like a week the dance finishes and they set travel again on their flying carpet/rug thingy to Acapulco. We take in many scenes of the beautiful beaches and we are also advised “to check out the hot stuff” that is sunbathing on it. “Have a good perv kids!”. Inexplicable. Donald cannot contain himself anymore it seems after seeing so much flesh through his telescope (yes, he’s perving through a telescope), and we then proceed through a good five minutes of attempted molestation and screaming, which bizarrely is preferable to the singing and dancing. This is a supposedly a FAMILY FRIENDLY FILM! Again, inexplicable. I know Kerry pointed out that a lot of the writers were probably at war and left it to the women and the elderly to write the script, which for most part seems totally accurate, but as for this scene:
“Ok ladies, you’ve done very well writing this Mexico segment. So, 95% of it is a dance routine but you’ve earned a firm palm to the buttock of appreciation from me for all your efforts. When the men return you can go back to making the tea with your heads held high. But we need something a bit different for the Acapulco segment.”
“How about a nice dance in swirly dresses?”
“Mary, bless you my simple girl, I just said it cannot be another dance as seventeen dances in one segment is quite enough. Walt has told us we need to sell these places as beautiful tourist destinations as that’s what children enjoy watching and is in no way about accepting money from any governments. As good as your input has been, my dears, I feel there’s only one man who can get us out of our creative funk. I know some of his ideas were slightly avant-garde for a children’s cartoon such as deer murder and drunk elephants hallucinating, and the donkey-slave-children was just horrific but god dammit George knew how to draw in viewers. So I wrote to him asking for help and his reply arrived just 15 minutes ago. Let’s see what a great children’s writer suggests (opens envelope):
“Greetings all , hope we are all gay and dandy. Right, if we really want to make Acapulco seem like paradise, how about we pan a view of the beautiful sandy beaches and the gentle waves crashing on the shore” .
I told you he was good! Now he says,
“We close in on the beach and we see beautiful women sunbathing in the hot sunshine”.
You see, this is the creativity you all need to be aspiring to! And now he suggests
“Then we should have ten minutes of these women running and screaming in terror from three horny birds descending from the skies in an airborne rape blanket. Weathers awful here, Kind Regards, George”.
You know I think the war may have sent him a bit peculiar.”
Incredibly, this is what happens. Even more incredibly, it’s the easiest and most pleasant thing I’ve watched in the last twenty-five minutes.
Following this molesty (why does spell-check keep questioning these perfectly reasonable words?) interlude, we’re back to the singing and dancing and hallucinogenic animation for a final ten minutes of tedium, with Donald so horny at this point I almost want to see him get his end away or get shot, just so I can get some closure. It’s an obnoxious, indulgent crescendo to a largely obnoxious, indulgent film. It’s too much of a headfuck to describe so if you really want to try and figure out what the hell is going on without having to torment yourself with the film itself, read it here:
You Belong to My Heart and Donald’s Surreal Reverie
The skies of Mexico City result in Donald falling in love with singer Dora Luz. The lyrics in the song itself play parts in the scenarios as to what is happening as well. Then several imagined kisses lead to Donald going into the “Love is a drug” scene. Donald constantly envisions sugar rush colors, flowers, and Panchito and José popping in at the worst moments, making chaos. The scene changes after Donald manages to dance with Carmen Molina from the state of Oaxaca, from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The two dance and sing the song “La Zandunga”. Carmen begins by singing the song, with Donald “quacking” out the rest of the chorus with her. The “drunkenness” slows down for a second after Donald multiplied himself while dancing, but speeds up again when Carmen reappears dressed in a Charro’s outfit and uses a horsewhip as a conductor’s baton to make cacti appear in many different forms while dancing to “Jesusita en Chihuahua”, a trademark song of the Mexican Revolution. This scene is notable for providing the masterful combination of live-action and cartoon animation, as well as animation among the cacti.
The scene is interrupted when Panchito and José suddenly spice things up for the finale of the movie, and Donald ends up battling the same toy bull with wheels on its legs the day before from earlier. The catch is that it is again loaded with firecrackers and other explosives, following with a fireworks finale with the words “The End” exploding from the fireworks, first in Spanish (Fin), in the colors of the flag of Mexico, then in Portuguese (Fim), in the colors of the flag of Brazil, and finally in English, in the colors of the flag of the United States.
That was taken from Wikipedia because I just can’t explain it.
To summarise, I find it hard to believe that after the first third of the film I was actually thinking that I was going to be in for another ‘The Reluctant Dragon’ style unexpectantly pleasant surprise. I was ready to give it at least 6/10 at that point, but then Jose appeared, and it all went to hell. Donald’s libido was barely acceptable at times for a family film and even if the singing and dancing was what the kids of the 1940’s liked to watch, I do wonder if there’s a single one today that would sit through it all. Not to mention the quantity and length of some of the dances almost made me wonder if the writers were trolling us all. LABIA may have been delighted by it, but I certainly wasn’t. Still prefer it to Bambi though.