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I write these reviews a good deal ahead of time. For example, although this review won’t go up until September 13th, I’m writing these words on the 2nd of September, the Saludos Amigos review is already written but hasn’t been published yet, and Bambi was just posted three days ago. Now, I bring this up for two reasons. Firstly, the Bambi review saw the blog having it’s best day ever and breaking one thousand page views, and since that was due to you all reading, and sharing and linking people to it I would be remiss if I did not give you all a big, stonking, heartfelt thank you.
Your comments and suggestions make what is already a very enjoyable hobby even better. So thanks.
The second reason is that one of the features that makes WordPress so
dangerously compulsive fun is that it allows you to see the search terms that bring people to the blog. And it seems that one of those search terms was…“Close Up Mouth Whore Fuck.”
This prompted a brief moment of introspection. Maybe I’m swearing and calling people whores a little too much in my reviews of Disney movies?
I mean, I don’t think I swear excessively for a comedy blog rated for an adult audience, but I know that’s just a question of personal standards. And while I certainly appreciate that the word “whore” is loaded, I think context matters a whole lot and using the word to jokingly criticise (male) animators who “borrow” inspiration from other animators is not the same as using it in a misogynistic or threatening way (or specifying exactly what kind of Close Up Mouth Fuck materiél you are in the market for). But still, I was resolved to clean up my act, and start reviewing these movies the way Uncle Walt would have wanted.
Aaaaaaand then I remembered what I have to review this week:
Much like Dumbo, Saludos Amigos was a comparatively weak Disney movie that nonetheless was a big financial success for the studio. It was produced a lot more cheaply than the big, high quality Tar and Sugars like Bambi and Pinocchio, and it’s direct appeal to the Latin American market helped replace the revenue that had been lost from the war in Europe.
So, having scored a hit in an extremely challenging market Disney did what any movie mogul would do and commissioned a sequel. This was also to address the fact that while making their movie to improve relations with Latin America, they had forgotten to mention the large, militarily powerful state right on their border with whom the United States had a long history of warfare and conflict.
This is where the title comes from. The Three Caballeros (spanish for “Gentlemen” or “Gallants”) are Donald Duck, as a stand in for the United States, José Carioca, back for the sequel and represtentin’ for Brazil and newcomer Panchito Pistoles, a red Mexican rooster with a sombrero and a pair of guns that he fires off at the slightest provocation.
There was also a plan for a second sequel, which would have introduced a fourth, Cuban, caballero but that never came to pass.
I’m not going to lie. I am so, so, glad that that didn’t happen. This movie starts out like a whitewater rafting trip. Fun at first, even exhilarating. You’re enjoying the motion of the boat, and the rhythmic lapping of the water against the hull. But then the river starts to get choppier, and turns blood red. You turn to the rowing instructor but he’s now wearing a top hat and singing softly that there’s no earthly way of knowing which direction the raft is in fact going. And then Mother rises from beneath the waves and clutches your arm in her skeletal fingers and you scream “Mother? Mother! But you’ve been dead these seven year!” And she screams “Yes Nathaniel, and twas you that killed me!”
And then you realise that the rhythmic sound you have heard is not the water lapping against the side of the boat, NO! IT IS THE BEATING OF THE HIDEOUS HEART!!!
What do I mean? Let’s find out.
The movie begins with Donald Duck receiving a box of birthday gifts from his “friends in Latin America.”
He opens the first parcel, and discovers a projector that plays a short cartoon called Aves Raras (“Rare Birds”) which tells the story of Pablo, the cold blooded penguin. Pablo lives in the South Pole, but is always too cold, so he turns his igloo into a boat and sails up the coast of South America looking for warmer climes. It’s narrated by Sterling Holloway…
…and it’s just awesome. Really. This, is a great, great little short. Plenty of funny visual gags, good character design, good animation. My one criticism is that it’s connection to South America is tangential at best. Pablo never actually sets foot on the continent, and actually finishes his journey on the Galapagos. It sort of feels like they just shoe-horned in the South American stuff at the last minute, which makes it an odd choice to open the movie with. But that’s a small criticism.
Aves Raras then continues with a look at some birds who actually, gasp!, live in South America. Among these are two toucans, who, we are told by our narrator, have great difficulty “making love” because of their large beaks.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Unshaved Mouse, you gutter-minded urchin! “Making love” in the forties just meant “canoodling”, “making time”, “walking out with your special girl.”” To which I reply “Yes. And those are all euphemisms our grandparents used for the hard fucking.”
We’re also introduced to this guy:
The Araquan bird is a pointy beaked, red mulleted, hyperactive basket case who speaks in a speeded up, high pitched voice wait just a damn minute here…
Hm. Wikipedia has just informed me that Woody Woodpecker actually predates Three Caballeros by four years. Okay, first things first. Ben “Bugs” Hardaway, legendary cartoonist and co-creator of Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny?
I apologise unreservedly for impugning your virtue.
Next order of business, to put right what once went wrong. Ahem.
The next short is The Flying Gauchito, which takes us back to Argentina (is there anyone living in Aregentina who’s not a gaucho?). The narrator tells us the story of how, as a young boy, he went hunting condors up in the mountains.
Instead he comes across a flying donkey, which he captures and enters into the local donkey race.
All the other riders laugh at him and his tiny donkey.
Of course, he wins. But just as he’s about to accept his prize money, they discover that he’s been riding some kind of genetic abomination.
And the Donkey flies off into the distance with the little boy still tied to him, at which point the Narrator cheerfully informs us that: “Neither he nor I were ever seen again in our lives.”
What?! So…the narrator was dead the whole time?
Alright, all joking aside, this is another terrific short. The interplay between the offscreen narration and the onscreen boy is often hilarious, the character design is great, the animation is top notch and it’s very, very funny.
So…this seems to be going well so far. What exactly do I have against this movie? Well, it’s around here, when we meet the second caballero, that things start to go screwy. Donald opens up his next present and finds a tiny José Carioca. And I will say this, I like the fact that Donald recognises him and that there is actual continuity between the first film and this one. Out of nowhere, literally, with no prompting or context, Zé asks Donald if he’s been to Baía. This leads into a very pretty, but far, far too long musical sequence extolling the wonders of Baía, which is one of the 26 states of Brazil and from what I can gather is actually spelt BAHIA. The song over, we cut back to José who is silhoutetted in purple because I have no fucking idea why he’s silhouetted in purple. Maybe he’s been cast in Chicago.
José then asks Donald if he’s been to Bahia. Again. And what do you know? Donald hasn’t been to Bahia in the intervening minute and a half. José then launches into ANOTHER song about Bahia and…seriously? You covered Brazil in the last movie, and now you’re devoting almost fifteen minutes to this one Brazilian state? Really, the Bahia sequence goes on for a quarter of an hour. Why does Bahia deserve such lavish coverage? I’ve never been to Bahia…
Shut up. I’ve never been to Bahia, I’m sure it’s lovely. But I can’t really grasp why this one part of Brazil got so much attention. Did the Bahian Tourist board have Walt Disney’s daughter hostage or something? What am I saying, that’s ridiculous. If they had tried that, today Bahia would just be a lifeless wasteland littered with the bones of an unwise people.
So what then? Is Bahia just so wonderful that Disney had to spread word of it’s glory to the world? Maybe, but José’s lyrics aren’t really selling it for me:
Have you been to Bahia? No? Then let’s go!/Once you’ve been to Bahia my friend, you’ll never return.
Okay, two possible readings of those lines.
- Once you’ve been to Bahia, you will never want to go back to Bahia. So why should I go in the first place?
- Once you’ve been to Bahia, you’ll never return to the outside world. Anyone who goes to Bahia…never comes back.
So Donald and José go to Bahia (even though it is clearly folly) and dance with some…live…action…actors.
Now, integrating animation and live action is not hugely challenging technically. The basic technology is almost as old as animation itself, but it is very hard to do well. Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks have live action actors talking and looking at cartoon characters, but very, very rarely actually touching them. And it’s always human characters in a cartoon world, not the other way around. One of the reasons that Who Framed Roger Rabbit is such a landmark film is that it actually had cartoon characters properly interacting with the physical world, which is where things get really tricky. The Three Caballeros’ Bahia sequence…is not Who Framed Roger Rabbit. There are actually scenes where the actors are standing in front of a screen with the animated characters projected onto it rather than having Donald and José drawn into the footage after it was shot which is just…amateur hour. It’s completely unconvincing and destroys any sense of interaction between the actors and the cartoon characters. Anyway, that sequence over, Donald and José return from Bahia (apparently, on top of his other faults, José Carioca is a damn liar) and tries to open his next present, but can’t because he’s too small. Sorry, didn’t I mention that? José shrunk him down so that they could go into a book so that they could go to Bahia which is in a book apparently and and and and I’m drowning here, guys, I really am.
José transforms Donald back to his regular size with “black magic”. His words. Remember that. I’m pretty sure it’s the key to understanding the entire film. But it turns out José is just the avatar of the weirdness that is to come. He is simply the Silver Surfer to the Galactus of Mindfuckery that is Panchito Pistoles who is released from his eternal prison when Donald opens his next gift and visits a plague of madness upon the world, and more importantly, on me.
Panchito greets them both, gives them sombreros, (beause that’s pretty much how they shake hands in Mexico, right?) and proudly announces that they are “Three Gay Caballeros”.
No. Alright? No. Lazy. Easy. Hacky. Obvious. Not going to do it. No way. And I could. Believe me. I could very easily go there. I could pull up a screenshot casting them in an ambigous light in literally five seconds. Yes. I could. I could, I’m just not going to…no, I won’t! I…no…I…shut up…ALRIGHT FINE!
And so, after FORTY GODDAMN MINUTES, the title team is finally assembled…
…and they launch into the theme song, “The Three Caballeros.” Which is one of the most insanely catchy, upbeat, toe-tapping songs I have ever heard in my life. Honestly. I first saw this movie when I was eleven and this song has been stuck in my head ever since. It’s THAT ear-wormy.
Now we get down to the Mexican segments. Panchito tells Donald about the tradition of Los Posadas, where Mexican children go door to door the nine days before Christmas, reenacting the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. This sequence isn’t animated, but rather illustrated with (very beautiful) still drawings. It’s a nice, understated little scene, perfect for luring the unsuspecting viewer into a false sense of security.
Next is a brief history of the founding of Mexico City and then a long, lanquid song played over still images of the city. It’s like the first Bahia song, only not even animated. And possibly more boring.
Then, Panchito calls his magic serape (sure, why not?) and all three go flying through a…live…action…
…tour of Mexico. It’s a lot more technically accomplished than the Bahia sequence. I don’t know if there was a lot of time between filming and animating the two sequences and they had a chance to improve their technique but it is a lot better. It’s also very long, very drawn out, and if you don’t particularly care for Mexican music and dancing it is an absolute slog. It gets so you start to forget what you’re watching. Why are they here? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? Why am I watching? The only memorable thing about it is how Donald keeps hitting on every single woman he comes across. I don’t mind the fact that they’re human women and he’s a cartoon duck. You should know by now I’m not one to point fingers.
I mind because this is 1944 and he’s been with Daisy Duck for four years and he’s still apparently trying to rub his feathery nethers against any woman with a pulse.
Then we come to You Belong to My Heart. This is a sequence so bizzarre, so unrelenting, so absolutely batshit dribblingly insane that it’s like watching Disney’s take on the Book of Revelation.
It begins with this…
That screenshot is from the LEAST INSANE PART of the entire sequence. The disembodied woman’s head floating in the night sky, that’s them easing you in gently. Donald kisses her and suddenly he’s off running through the night sky gathering up stars
I can only guess that this scene is all going on in Donald’s head and that he’s actually lying on a hotel room floor in Mexico having overdosed on PCP while José is screaming that they need to get him an ambulance while Panchito just stares at Donald’s twitiching body before yelling “Shut up! Shut up! Just let me think!” and wondering whether they can get his body into the boot of his car without the night clerk noticing.
Oh but now Donald’s a…neon humming bird?
And the woman’s back but now she’s a flower and…
And then Panchito and José burst through her face and start singing Three Caballeros in high pitched speeded up voices…and now Donald’s chasing live action women again and…and…and…Jesus help me I’ve forgotten which way is up…and then Donald runs into this:
I get it.
Yeah. That whole thing about José using black magic. I get it now.
José Carioca is a warlock and he’s sold Donald’s soul to the devil (Panchito? The red cockerel? Do I need to draw you a diagram?!) for his infernal powers. That’s the only explanation. It just goes on and on and on with no rhyme or reason; now Donald’s dancing with cactus women, now he’s a bull made out of fireworks and now he’s fighting a bull made out of fireworks…
…now José is shoving fireworks up Donald’s ass…
And then Donald blows up and it’s OVER. Thank Jesus.
Didn’t like this one. Not going to lie. Some very good shorts in the beginning, but it really falls apart towards the end. When the segments aren’t overlong they’re just aggressively, almost obnoxiously bizarre. And I say this as a big fan of the Pink Elephants sequence in Dumbo, but this is on a different level. With Dumbo, at least you had a reason why all these surreal images were parading before you (Dumbo was off his tits). Here though, it’s just too much. For me at least. This movie has it’s devoted fans, and if you’re one of them for what it’s worth I can totally understand the appeal. But it’s not one I’ll be going back to in a hurry.
More time and more money means a noticeable improvement on Saludos Amigos.
The Leads: 09/20
I didn’t mention this before, but José and Panchito are kind of dicks, constantly teaming up to make Donald the butt of their jokes. And then of course, they sell his soul to the Lord of Flies to be eternally tormented by flower women and sodomised with fireworks. And on his birthday!
The Villain: N/A
Okay, well this was going to come up sooner or later. What to do when a movie doesn’t have a villain? Mark it zero? Well that’s hardly fair, shoehorning a villain into a story that doesn’t need it would be far worse than having no villain at all. So, instead, I’m just going to disregard this category and mark the movie as a percentage of eighty.
Supporting Characters: 11/20
Pablo, Gauchito and Burrito are great. Most of the live action cast are very bland though.
Some very good music, and some insanely catchy songs, but I’m marking it down because most of them were not original compositions, but existing songs that were repurposed for the movie.
FINAL SCORE: 55%
NEXT WEEK: Maybe Make Mine Music’s merry melodies may moderate Mouse’s malevolent mood? Maybe…
Neil Sharpson AKA The Unshaved Mouse, is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger living in Dublin. You can follow him on Twitter. The blog updates every Thursday. Thanks for reading!