CLASSIC CABALLEROS COLLECTION
MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Back in the early 1940s, the U.S. Government wanted to foster international relationships with many of the countries of Latin America (partly because of the friendly relationship some of these countries had with Nazi Germany). Because the most widely-known celebrity from the U.S. was Mickey Mouse, they reached out to Walt Disney and asked him to make a film about the countries down south. What resulted was “Saludos Amigos.”
With the release of the film in Latin America, the government and the Walt Disney company learned something… that there is a viable market outside of the U.S. for these films. It was successful enough to have Disney make a sequel, “The Three Caballeros” a few years later.
“The Three Caballeros” was less of a propaganda piece and more of a narrative story about Donald Duck’s experiences with people from the Latin American countries. Most notably, these films introduced the world to José Carioca, a green parrot from Brazil that is currently making a comeback in the theme parks.
Disney has released a double-bill of these films on one DVD. The “Classic Caballeros Collection” includes both movies back-to-back, with an assortment of special features that give some history behind the series.
For the family viewing audience, there’s good and bad in these movies. While educational about the South American countries and their landforms (like Lake Titicaca and the mountains of Chile), the film does bog down a bit with the live-action documentary pieces. Fortunately, if you have a remote in hand, you can zip to the next cartoons that feature Donald Duck, Goofy and Pedro the Airplane.
“The Three Caballeros” is more entertaining for the kids, featuring several musical numbers that incorporate live-action Latin American stars with Donald Duck and José Carioca. The highlight of the film is the famous title song that is sung by Donald, José and the Mexican rooster Ponchito Pistoles.
While the “Classic Caballeros Collection” doesn’t hold either film up as an untouchable classic, they are both worth checking out for the animated bits and the history of Walt Disney films.
The DVD comes with two bonus animated shorts, “Don Donald” and “Contrary Condor.” More interesting for the adults is the “Backstage Disney: South of the Border” documentary of the production process and an interview with Walt Disney, in which he explains the inspiration and purpose behind the films.