Written by Caballero Oscuro
This Caballero couldn’t pass up the chance to review the adventures of my fellow Caballero amigos in their rollicking new DVD collection. Disney’s Classic Caballeros Collection combines the barely feature length movies Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros in one affordable package, and also includes some welcome extras. The features clearly show their age, but their entertainment value is timeless.
In Saludos Amigos, Walt Disney takes a team of animators down to South America where they look for new inspiration, a trip that resulted in the four animated shorts interspersed with the live-action travel footage. First up is “Lake Titicaca”, an amusing short that finds Donald Duck struggling with an obstinate llama high in the Bolivian Andes. The next short, “Pedro,” recounts the adventure of a brave little mail-carrier airplane as he fights through a storm and the rugged Andes to deliver the mail. It’s not particularly memorable, but the plane is cute enough. “El Gaucho Goofy” follows the blueprint of most of Goofy’s classic “How To” cartoons, with a narrator describing the action while Goofy reacts onscreen. This time he demonstrates a Latin American riding technique as well as the proper use of a bolero. It fits his canon well, but the animation quality is below par. Finally, in “Aquarela do Brasil”, the colorful parrot Jose Carioca makes his debut as he introduces viewers to his native Brazil in a music-filled, artistic short that would almost be at home in Fantasia. As a whole, Saludos Amigos doesn’t really hold together and really seems more like a platform to cobble together shorts into a theatrical feature. The travel footage is decidedly archaic, but it holds some interesting anthropological value for any viewers looking for a trip down memory avenida.
While Saludos Amigos is fairly straightforward and logical, The Three Caballeros is a bizarre trip to the psychedelic side of Disney’s work. It fits squarely in the realm of Alice in Wonderland and especially the unforgettable “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence from Dumbo. Even the structure of the film barely holds any logic, with Donald receiving a huge birthday present in the mail from South America that mysteriously contains one acid-fueled adventure after the other. It starts out relatively tame, with introductory shorts like “The Flying Penguin” and “The Cold-Blooded Gauchito,” but then careens into its final half as a fever-induced Latin American fiesta that throws all attempts at sensible plot progression out the window. Donald is joined by bird amigos Jose Carioca and Panchito in their mad adventures around the continent. Unlike Saludos Amigos, it’s almost entirely animated save one especially insane dance number near its end. I was really surprised by this film as I know I saw it in my youth but completely forgot or never realized just how out there it is. Recommended for late night viewing, but maybe not so much for the younger set.
The DVD includes more of the travel footage of Walt and his animators, as well as an extremely brief interview with Walt about the films, followed by two additional Donald Duck shorts not included in the films (but available in his Walt Disney Treasures DVD collections): “Don Donald” and “Contrary Condor.”