Disney Reviews by the Unshaved Mouse #7: The Three Caballeros

 

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images used below are property of the Walt Disney Corporation unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material.

 

***

(You can listen to an audio version of this review HERE)

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.”

I got a thing for tonsils.

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? 

Bluth, thou strumpet!

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.

You’re going to stop?

Aaaaaaand then I remembered what I have to review this week:

Oh what the close up mouth whore fuck is this?

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.

Paris occupied, Stalingrad on the brink of falling, half of London burning, mass genocide. Do you know what we need? FUCKING DISNEY MOVIES!

Yay! Disney!

SHUT UP!

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.

Hola.

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.

Right. Because, of those three nationalities, it’s the Mexicans who are known for their love of guns.

There was also a plan for a second sequel, which would have introduced a fourth, Cuban, caballero but that never came to pass.

Comrade Crow will crush you with cartoon merriment.

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.”

Oh you’re going to love it. Mwahahahaha…

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…

Take a shot.

…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. 

The Unshaved Mouse has a not entirely dissimilar problem.

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…

My God. Hardaway you…

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?

‘Sup?

I apologise unreservedly for impugning your virtue.

‘S aiight.

Next order of business, to put right what once went wrong. Ahem.

My God. Disney, you whore!

Ah ha. Hahahah…Smile when you say that, Mouse.

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.

Condors. Condors are on the verge of extinction!

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.

The Unshaved Mouse has a not…entirely…dissimilar problem. But jeez Condi, you didn’t have to announce it at the Senate Hearing.

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.

Dammit Hammond, you were so preoccupied with whether or not you could that you didn’t stop to think if you should.

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?

Ho ho! Brilliant!

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.

Pop. Squish. Bahia. Uh-uh. Donald Duck. Lipschitz.

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…

No? Then let’s go!

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.

“No Master. Leave one alive, that they may tell the tale of your harrowing to the nations of man.”
“Yes, yes. Good thinking, minion.”

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.

  1. Once you’ve been to Bahia, you will never want to go back to Bahia. So why should I go in the first place?
  2. Once you’ve been to Bahia, you’ll never return to the outside world. Anyone who goes to Bahia…never comes back.

One does not simply walk into Bahia.

So Donald and José go to Bahia (even though it is clearly folly) and dance with some…live…action…actors.

Hssssssssssssss!

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”.

Ah jeez…

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!

Are you not entertained? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?

And so, after FORTY GODDAMN MINUTES, the title team is finally assembled…

We’re not a team, we’re a time bomb.

…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…

Hssssssssssss!

…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 wish I could quit you.

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.

She’s like the Jackie Kennedy of the cartoon world.

And then…

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.

“And a beast appeared before me, with the legs of a harlot, and with the head of a horse, and that of a fowl of the water, and that of a fowl of the jungle, and that of a crimson cockerel. And the mouth of the cockerel did open, and the beast said “Some fun, eh kid?” “

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. 

Then, there's just a few loose ends to tie up...

Then, there’s just a few loose ends to tie up…

Oh but now Donald’s a…neon humming bird?

And the woman’s back but now she’s a flower and…

Sorry…my brain is trying to make itself stroke, gimme a second.

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:

Is it raining is it snowing is a hurricane a-blowing?

And ohhhhhh…

I get it.

Yeah. That whole thing about José using black magic. I get it now.

“José, where are we?”
“We are in the darkest region of the brain, a radiant abyss where birds go to find themselves.”
“I don’t understand, José.”
“Hell, Donald. We are in Hell.”

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…

HAM! HAM! HAM!

…now José is shoving fireworks up Donald’s ass…  

Ha. You thought I was joking? YOU THOUGHT I WAS JOKING??!!!!!

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.

SCORING

Animation: 10/20

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.

Dammit Mouse this is not Vietnam! There are rules!

Supporting Characters: 11/20

Pablo, Gauchito and Burrito are great. Most of the live action cast are very bland though.

Music: 14/20

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!

22 comments

  1. Haha, while I think I like this movie a bit more than you, I was cracking up at this. Hilarious. Definitely not Disney’s best, but I still like it.

    But in Disney’s defense, they technically spelled Bahia correctly. In the 1940s, the Portugal and Brazil were adopting a series of orthographic reforms. So when this film was made, the dictionary spelling was “Baia” and not as we say today, “Bahia”. The reforms never caught on.

  2. Mouse! I know this probably means nothing and you’ll probably never read this, but I feel like this is really important for some reason!
    When I read this review, I watched ‘You Belong to My Heart’ to get a better idea of what you were talking about, but I don’t think I have the patience to watch the whole thing. I’ve just watched Nostalgia Critic’s review of ‘Three Caballeros’. (Your style of reviewing is a lot more compelling, I have to say.) Anyway, at about 0:50 into the review, NC explains the “opening presents” plot.
    DONALD’S BIRTHDAY IS FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH.
    Okay. Correlation and causation and shit. But seriously, you were right. It’s about hell.

    1. I warned you! Didn’t I warn you!?? Also, isn’t it weird that his birthday is just Friday 13th with no month? I literally just texted my wife to tell her someone prefers me to the Nostalgia Critic because that is something to BRAG about. Thank you so much. And rest assured, I read every comment.

      1. Thanks for writing back!
        I hadn’t noticed, but that *is* weird.
        The video format is engaging, and some of Doug’s reviews are pretty funny. But I found this blog first, and it seems like NC is missing the background information, the story of the studio. I find myself agreeing with you more than I do with him, so your opinion seems more fair to the movie somehow – call it confirmation bias. I like your writing style, your intellectual tidbits, and I get more laughs out of it.
        The one thing I’m kind of ashamed to admit to disagreeing with is that I don’t loathe ‘Cars’. Yeah, it’s weird, and a low point for Pixar, and most of the characters are annoying, but it still makes me laugh. Then again, maybe I’m desensitised. When you have a little brother born in 2000 or later, accepting ‘Cars’ is the only way to avoid a one-way express ticket to Bahia.

      2. I dislike the nostalgia critic and I love your reviews, so there’s another guy out there who prefers you.

  3. We just watched this film last night in preparation for our own review and MY GOD IT’S AWFUL! We really enjoyed your take on it (really funny and well-written!). We’ve found something to enjoy in every Disney film thus far, but this one was unbearable (with literally the odd exception here and there – fleeting moments of decency). It’ll certainly test our objectivity …

  4. I must have watched this many years ago, but I remember nothing about it, except for Donald lusting after women. Maybe I should just be glad that I forgot about it.

  5. This one is definitely bad. Dunno how this is more popular than saludos amigos…..
    Anyways, I watched it before. It was going pretty great, them suddenly u belong to my heart came out. And I dunno what I was watching. I had this urge to rip walt off the earth and asked what was going on.

    Ur reviews r hilarious and I love it! Really agreed with ur interpretations on dark magic. Also, apparently, the ending was supposed to show that love is a drug. And he kissed the flower woman. Then he became drunk.

  6. Bahia! We get Bahia! I know you don’t think much of this movie and it was apparently a drudgery to watch, but I find it definitely has the redeeming quality of creating the most signature and hilarious running gags of this blog! I was actually thinking of making a reference to your Bahia jokes in a Disney-related web story I’m writing. If I did, I’d definitely make note of my inspiration.

    I like Mickey and his suggestion of deadly revenge. And your descriptions of Jose and Panchito’s dark, twisted presence. I’ve heard it’s a relatively supported theory that Donald’s impulsiveness and short temper is due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from fighting in the second World War. I wonder if this ordeal was what truly drove him to madness. Seeing hell itself. The poor duck. Also, the idea of Jose’s being an evil warlock makes it all the funnier that he played Iago in this series of videos I got into watching some two years ago which was basically one movie’s audio with clips from other movies played overtop of it. Apparently he’d be more versed in working with users of the Dark Arts than one would think.

    I think this review, like the one before it, shows a skill very useful for reviewers: making an uproariously fun read reviewing a sub-par piece of work. This is definitely one of the most memorable of your posts (the references help)

    Also, that part with Condi and the Senate Hearing… Your long post later about being fully behind the abolition of the senate… There wasn’t anything particularly… personal about that stance you left unsaid, was there? Hmm, hmm?

  7. I don’t want to get all political, but at that time there were also several dictatorships throughout Latin America, some of which even backed by the USA. I think Walt’s intentions were genuine, but sugarcoating the region was not a good thing.

      1. Donald did have a cartoon featuring Nazis. I wouldn’t write him fully off as being a stranger to dictatorships. Then again, if some of them were backed by the U. S., it wouldn’t be a surprise for a U. S. studio to make it look good.

  8. To be fair, on the whole Daisy thing, Daisy has always been kind of a horrible girlfriend, pushy, demanding and abusive, and the comics only would go on to make it worse by having her pathologically jealous of Donald while also open to flirt with Donald’s own cousin at the drop of a hat (Carl Barks never liked the character, although I don’t undertstand why he didn’t try to make her better instead of even worse then. And it obviously wasn’t to be faithful to the original concept, because Barks’ Donald is very different to the animated version).

    She’s okay in Fantasia 2000 and in Quack Pack of all things, but other than that, she was created to make Donald miserable, and it shows. At least the triplets went better as time went on.

    Granted, Donald should have tried looking for alternatives within his own darn species.

  9. Lord have mercy on us all. I just found out that at the Lunar New Year, 28/01/2017, we will be welcoming the RED METAL ROOSTER year.

    Truly our souls were pawned in 1944, and Paquito’s coming to redeem them.

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