Well Done, Sister Suffragette!

Saludos Amigos (1942)/The Three Caballeros (1944)


Both Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros are portmanteau films, that is, a series of shorts that are tied together by a single theme or premise.  Disney created seven (arguably eight) portmanteau films in the 1940s.  All but one of these combined live-action and animation; something Disney did very infrequently after the 40s.

Which one is the rooster?

Saludos Amigos is a travelogue of sorts.  It follows Disney employees as they journey through several South American countries, mostly Brazil and Argentina.  The film was, in essence, a by-product of the real-life goodwill tour the U.S. government sent Disney on (together with some of his artists and musicians) as part of the Good Neighbor Policy.  The Three Caballeros was its sequel.

For the most part, The Three Caballeros follows in the vein of Saludos Amigos.  One major difference in The Three Caballeros is that Donald Duck explores only two countries, Brazil and Mexico, and is given a taste of each by representatives, José Carioca (a parrot) and Panchito (a rooster), respectively.  Another difference is there are no Disney workers traveling as well, just Donald.

Disney and the Good Neighbor Policy
Basically, when people with power in the U.S. saw that some people in Central America and South America were contemplating a move toward fascism or communism, they got worried.  In addition to having different ideologies, the U.S. saw the spectre of losing rather than bolstering its political, and especially, economic hegemony in the Americas looming on the horizon and realized they had to do something.  So they attempted to butter up the leaders and persuade/coerce the people in the hopes of building strong relations with the peoples of Latin America.  What happened after WWII?  The U.S. shifted its aid and buttering up skills to Europe and Japan.  So long, mis amigos.  Thanks for suckling at our HFCS bottle, but now we have to make sure some other peoples will do what we want.

Its use of lush, vibrant colors, terribly catchy tunes with Mexican and South American flavors and ultra light hearted content offer an escape from the dire realities of life in the midst of WWII.  There’s no grand moral in the story, no Byronic hero, no ethical dilemmas; its pure fun and enjoyment.

Beautiful flora and fauna, dancing and singing; not rations, air raid sirens or bomb shelters.  The only other continent shown is Antarctica, which appears in a short in The Three Caballeros.  Even this short is about escaping.  It features Pablo, a penguin who longs to escape his icy home and succeeds in this endeavor, finding himself in a tropical island paradise.

How Quaint
Occasionally words like ‘quaint’ or ‘strange and exotic’ are used to describe what Donald Duck, as ‘the tourist’, is encountering.  Such words can be meant in a positive or negative way.  And while these terms are not inherently negative, and it seems they are meant quite harmlessly in the film, it would be refreshing if the narrator would guide the audience into thinking about perspective.  What seems quaint or strange and exotic to Donald Duck (or you, the viewer) is normal and appropriate in the culture being encountered.

Random Stuff worth Mentioning from Saludos Amigos:
Saludos Amigos is the only Disney film to have premiered in South America (Brazil) before premiering in the U.S.

And that’s about it.

Random Stuff worth Mentioning from The Three Caballeros:
The first live-action person we meet in The Three Caballeros is Aurora Miranda, Carmen Miranda’s sister.  Sadly, unlike her sister, Miranda the Younger appears sans a coiffure of copious fruits. Older sister Carmen was also involved in the Good Neighbor Policy; appearing in many films designed to encourage U.S. citizens’ acceptance of the policy.  In Aurora’s segment, there’s also a guy with big teeth playing what looks like a pencil.  If you know what’s going on here, please let us know.

One of the shorts in The Three Caballeros is “The Flying Gauchito”.  It’s really about a flying donkey and this punk kid who discovers this wonderful creature and (being trained to do so by capitalist culture) immediately sees it less as something beautiful and amazing and more as a source of revenue. So he captures it and ties it to a perch (a sad fate for such a beautiful animal). The best parts are when the donkey whistles/sings like a bird then brays like a donkey.  Well, it’s funny if you’re easily amused.

In 1942, Disney was financially struggling and low on personnel (some were striking others were in the military).  We suspect this is partly why they seem to have recycled a number of ideas, techniques and sequences, sometimes changing them very little.

From Dumbo and The Three Caballeros:

Note: There was also remarkably similar music in both sequences and the men turn into cocks as seen in the second image from
The Three Caballeros.

From Fantasia and The Three Caballeros:

As part of Panchito’s grand tour of Mexico, he travels with Donald and José on a flying carpet to Acapulco Beach.  Whilst hovering above, Panchito hands Donald a telescope, encouraging him to check out “the hot stuff” a.k.a. the bathing beauties. Apparently Acapulco’s contribution to Mexican culture is attractive women.

What happens next?

They proceed to dive bomb the young women on the beach; accompanied, of course, by sound effects of swooping fighter planes and rapid gun fire.  Donald, lying flat on the carpet, is pretend shooting them with his hands in the shape of pistols.  Um, okay?
This  perhaps gives the audience the only reminder of the violence and destruction going on in Asia and Europe.

Donald then proceeds to chase the women around. Rather than seeing his behavior as crazed and quite inappropriate, they respond playfully. Much of the rest of the movie consists of Donald acting like a horny teenager with no self-control, chasing every woman in Mexico.

Potent Ponderables

Saludos Amigos Ratings:

Rating:  8/17
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.

Rating:  13/24
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs down.

The Three Caballeros Ratings:

Rating:  12/17
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs up.

Rating:  20/24
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs up.