Sunday, December 25, 2011
Three’s A Charmer: Disney’s “The Three Caballeros”
Disney’s Seventh Animated Feature – 1944
Having seen The Three Caballeros as a child, a college student, and a fully-grown adult, I can confirm that it has more layers than you may think it does. For the kids, it’s got simple, silly visual humor and music that will get their little feet moving; for adolescents, it’s just weird enough to get them texting “LOL” and “WTF” to their friends on the other side of the room. Now that I’m a grownup (and an artist/educator to boot), I see that the folks at Disney managed to make a mostly respectful, informative celebration of Latin American culture that’s a lot more engaging than that description makes it out to be.
The two other caballeros (Spanish for “gentlemen”) are Joe Carioca, the dandy, cigar-smoking Brazilian parrot introduced in Saludos Amigos, and Panchito, a Mexican rooster who had previously appeared in Disney’s comic book series. Both arrive in the film via post, in a box full of presents sent to Donald for his birthday. This should give you a sense of the playfulness of the narrative (if a narrative can even be said to exist); at various points in the movie, the characters step in and out of the pages of books, travel by flying serape, and interact with live-action humans. At first, Donald is enchanted by the unique and beautiful sights and sounds of Latin America, but eventually, all he’s doing is trying to score with gorgeous (human) babes. Finally, he becomes so intoxicated with longing that he (or is it we?) begins to hallucinate, leading to a final sequence that makes you wonder whether the animators had been experimenting with peyote.
Regina Robbins is a theater and film artist. She has worked with several New York City stage companies, including Manhattan Theatre Source, the Looking Glass Theatre, UTC #61, and the Directors Company, and her films have been screened at venues in Los Angeles, Berkeley, Chicago, Asheville, and NYC. She also teaches kids how to write and perform, and is a four-time champion on the game show Jeopardy!