The Three Caballeros (1944)


In an abstract void of color gradation, it’s Donald Duck’s birthday. He magically receives three strange presents that transform into song-and-dance lessons about Mexico and South America, featuring two other cartoon birds named José Carioca (a parrot) and Panchito (a rooster).

A five-year old might be entranced by the bright Technicolor imagery and lively music featured in The Three Caballeros, but the frenetic pace and lack of a singular, coherent narrative only aggravated me. The film starts out with two short cartoons — one about a penguin that wants to live in the tropics, and then one about a boy and a flying donkey. Neither are great, but they set the tone for an anthology movie.

But then The Three Caballeros drops some acid and turns into a psychotic, low-rent Fantasia. Before you know it, cacti are dancing and turning into women and the three birds are on a magic carpet, chasing around live-action bathing beauties. Then there’ll be a mind-numbingly slow musical interlude, and then Donald Duck will suddenly be inside a bull costume charging Panchito and exploding into fireworks.

At its best, The Three Caballeros is colorful and imaginative. Donald has a few moments of charm, and the Panchito character is almost endearing. But when you take away the long, boring song numbers and headache-inducing visual mania, there isn’t a lot left to the movie. I thanked God when the end came.

Oscar Nominations: Best Music, Sound Recording