Monday, May 5, 2008

Toon Talk: ¡Ay, Caramba!

Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, Disney has re-released two of its minor animated pictures, Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, in a one disc Classic Caballero Collection ...

Below are some excerpts from my Toon Talk review of the new DVD release(click here to read the full article at

Born out of the Disney Studios involvement with the war effort in the early 1940’s, Saludos Amigos was commissioned by the US State Department to improve relations with our Central and South American neighbors (hence the “hello friends” title … as in “hello friends, don't join the Nazis”). Walt Disney and a staff of writers, artists and composers flew down to Rio, as it were, to soak in the local colors, music and cultures of the various Latin American regions as inspiration for future cartoons and features.

Surprisingly (in retrospect), Saludos was a big hit, necessitating a follow up: The Three Caballeros. However, aside from their humble origins and a few superficial details, these two films couldn’t be any more different. Where Saludos is a thin documentation of some nice folks traveling through exotic lands, Caballeros (the first feature film to combine live action characters with animated ones) literally bursts with outrageousness. You’ll be wondering what exactly the artists found in those foreign ports to “inspire” them to exceed even Fantasia-levels of surrealism.

Bursting out from a piñata, Panchito shows up, a sharp-shooting rooster from Mexico, launching the threesome into their classic title song production number. The trio hops aboard a flying serape for a tour of Panchito’s native land, where Donald gets an eyeful of the “hot stuff” on Acapulco Beach (this duck was quite the wolf back in the day). Dora Luz pops up to croon the future standard “You Belong to My Heart” to the love struck Donald … and then things get really weird. What follows is a psychedelic, neon-colored fever dream with Busby Berkeley bathing beauties, a chorus line of dancing cacti and a very randy leading duck, leading up to an explosive finale. This one is just too weird not to miss.

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