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“The Three Caballeros” Is The Best Disney Movie Ever


Nowadays, just about every cartoon has forced multiculturalism. The protagonist invariably has one friend from every racial and ethnic food group. It’s lame, but it is at least an attempt to diversify children’s programming. When we were kids the only Latinos in children’s TV were Luis and Maria on “Sesame Street”. Disney movies were usually about some fairytale white people in castles, but they were also the first to reach out to us. Way back in 1944, they created an animated feature called “The Three Caballeros” which is like a psychedelic love song to Latin America.

The movie stars that sociopathic rageaholic water fowl, Donald Duck. It’s Donald’s birthday and he receives several magic presents from his friends in Latin America. Each present leads to a different cartoon segment.”The Flying Gauchito”, about a small Uruguayan child and his winged burro. Then there is “The Cold-Blooded Penguin”, which isn’t about a penguin hitman, but rather about an Antarctic penguin that wants to live in South America. There are several others, each representing a different country. Later, Donald is joined by a Brazilian parrot named Pepe Carioca and a Mexican rooster named Panchito Pistolero. They continue their trip through Latin America on magic flying serapes, essentially flying from country to country and harassing the local women. Donald falls in love in Mexico with a girl who sings “You Belong To My Heart”. She kisses him and he starts to trip balls. Been there Pato Donald…been there.

The film was widely successful both in the U.S. and in Latin America. It featured the songs of Mexican composer Manuel Esperon, whose classic, “Aye, Jalisco No Te Rajes”, he adapted into the “Three Caballeros Theme”. The song “Bahia”, from the Brazilian segment became a big hit on American radio. In a time when American films rarely even mentioned Latinos, this film collaborated with several Latino artists to create something special. “The Three Caballeros” was nominated for two Academy Awards. You can still see Pepe Carioca and Panchito Pistolero at Walt Disney World in Orlando, where you can get your picture taken with them if the actors haven’t passed out from heat exhaustion in those costumes. As much a we enjoyed this film as kids, one question remains: Why didn’t they go to the Caribbean? Cuba, Puerto Rico, and The Dominican Republic are strangely absent. This was in 1944, so it wasn’t the Castro thing. Why no love, Donald?

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