Combustible Celluloid
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With: Aurora Miranda, Carmen Molina, Dora Luz, Sterling Holloway, Clarence Nash (voice), Joaquin Garay (voice), José Oliveira (voice), Frank Graham, Fred Shields, Nestor Amaral, Almirante, Trio Calaveras, Ascencio Del Rio Trio, Padua Hills Players, Lee Blair, Mary Blair, Pinto Colvig (voice), Walt Disney, Frank Thomas
Written by: Homer Brightman, William Cottrell, Ernest Terrazas, Ted Sears, Bill Peet, Ralph Wright, Elmer Plummer, Roy Williams, Del Connell, James Bodrero, Dick Huemer, Joe Grant, Harry Reeves
Directed by: Norman Ferguson, Wilfred Jackson, Jack Kinney, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 113
Date: 19/03/2013

Classic Caballeros Collection (1942)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Some Fun, Eh Kid?

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy Classic Caballeros Collection on DVD

In 1941, Walt Disney was sent on a Goodwill tour of South America (hoping to win their aid in WWII). He took a band of cartoonists and writers and flew to Argentina, Brazil, Chile and other places, making films, notes and drawings. When they returned, they cranked out these two films, the 43-minute Saludos Amigos (1942) and the 69-minute The Three Caballeros (1944). Though the films came just on the tail end of Disney's classic period, they remain slightly less known and appreciated. Perhaps this is because of their awkward running times, or the fact that they combine live-action and animation (they don't "count" as official animated movies). Or perhaps it's because they seem too educational. Regardless, the two films are as artistically astonishing as they are culturally clueless. They definitely have a Western/outsider perspective, even though they try to teach Americans about South American music, dance, clothing, flora and fauna. But the real draw is the mind-blowing combination of styles; it's like a funkier Fantasia (1940) mixed with the more hallucinogenic bits of Dumbo (1941) and a dash of slapstick from the Donald Duck and Goofy cartoons. Saludos Amigos consists of four shorts stitched together, each set in a different region and starring Donald, Goofy, an airplane named Pedro and a new character, the parrot José Carioca (who smokes a cigar and takes Donald on a tour). The Three Caballeros starts much the same way, with short stories, but winds up blending into a near-psychedelic magic-carpet tour, hosted by Donald and Jose's new pal, the rooster Panchito Pistoles. Donald dances, chases girls and eventually has a kind of surreal reverie (it reminded me of bits of Pink Floyd the Wall). The "Brazilian girl" Aurora Miranda is Carmen's sister. The two films earned a total of five Oscar nominations. I'm not sure whether Disney accomplished his Goodwill mission, but I'm glad he left these crazy, wonderful films behind.

DVD Details: The two films have been released on DVD before, but now they're together, where they belong, on a new 2008 release. It's absolutely essential for all Disney or animation fans. The extras are good, too. They include over a half-hour of live action, color footage from the trip, a quick interview with Disney about the project and two short cartoons: Don Donald (1937) and Contrary Condor (1944).

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