The Three Caballeros

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The Three Caballeros
Three caballeros poster.png
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Norman Ferguson
Produced by Walt Disney
Written by Homer Brightmen
Ernest Terrazas
Ted Sears
Bill Peet
Ralph Wright
Elmer Plummer
Roy Williams
William Cottrell
Del Connell
James Bodrero
Starring Clarence Nash
José Oliveira
Joaquin Garay
Music by Edward H. Plumb
Paul J. Smith
Charles Wolcott
Studio Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • December 21, 1944 (1944-12-21) (Mexico)
  • February 3, 1945 (1945-02-03) (US)
Running time 72 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Three Caballeros is a 1944 American animated musical film produced by Walt Disney Productions. The film premiered in Mexico City on December 21, 1944. It was released in the United States on February 3, 1945 and in the UK that March. The seventh animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, the film plots an adventure through parts of Latin America, combining live-action and animation. This is the second of the Disney package films of the 1940s.

The film is plotted as a series of self-contained segments, strung together by the device of Donald Duck opening birthday gifts from his Latin American friends. Several Latin American stars of the period appear, including singers Aurora Miranda (sister of Carmen Miranda) and Dora Luz, as well as dancer Carmen Molina.

The film was produced as part of the studio's good will message for South America.[citation needed] The film again starred Donald Duck, who in the course of the film is joined by old friend José Carioca, the cigar-smoking parrot from Saludos Amigos (1942) representing Brazil, and later makes a new friend in the persona of pistol-packing rooster Panchito Pistoles, representing Mexico.

It was severely edited and re-released in featurette form on April 15, 1977 to accompany a re-issue of Never a Dull Moment.

Film segments[edit]

The Three Caballeros: Donald Duck, José "Zé" Carioca and Panchito

The film consists of several segments, connected by a common theme. In the film, it is Donald Duck's birthday, and he receives three presents from friends in Latin America. The first present is a film projector, which shows him a documentary on birds. During the documentary, he learns about the Aracuan Bird, who received its name due to its eccentric song. The Aracuan also makes several appearances throughout the film.

The next present is a book given to Donald by José Carioca himself. This book tells of Bahia, which is one of Brazil's 26 states. José shrinks them both down so that they can enter the book. Donald and Jose meet up with several of the locals, who dance the samba. Donald ends up pining for one girl. After the journey, Donald and Jose leave the book.

Upon returning, Donald realizes that he is too small to open his third present. Jose shows Donald how to use magic to return himself to the proper size. After opening the present, he meets Panchito Pistoles, a native of Mexico. The trio take the name "The Three Caballeros" and have a short celebration. Panchito then presents Donald's present, a piñata. Panchito tells Donald of the tradition behind the piñata. Jose and Panchito then blindfold Donald, and have him attempt to break open the piñata, which eventually reveals many surprises. The celebration ends with Donald Duck being fired away by firecrackers in the shape of a bull (the firecrackers are lit by Jose with his cigar).

Throughout the film, the Aracuan Bird appears at random moments. He usually pesters everyone, sometimes stealing Jose's cigar. His most famous gag is when he re-routes the train by drawing new tracks. He returns three years later in Disney's Melody Time.

The film consists of seven segments:

The Cold-Blooded Penguin[edit]

This segment involves a penguin named Pablo, reproducing images of the penguins of Punta Tombo in Argentina along the coast of Patagonia, "Pablo the penguin" is so fed up with the freezing conditions of the South Pole that he decides to leave for warmer climates.

The Flying Gauchito[edit]

This segment involves the adventures of a little boy from Argentina and his winged donkey, Burrito.


This segment involves a pop-up book trip through the Brazilian state of Bahia (Baía), as Donald Duck and José Carioca meet up with some of the locals who dance a lively samba and Donald pining for one of the females, played by singer Aurora Miranda.

Las Posadas[edit]

This is the story of a group of Mexican children who celebrated Christmas by re-enacting the journey of Mary, the mother of Jesus and Saint Joseph searching for room at the inn. "Posada" meant "inn", and they were told "no posada" at each house until they came to one where they were offered shelter in a stable. This leads to festivities including the breaking of the piñata, which in turn leads to Donald Duck trying to break the piñata as well.

Mexico: Pátzcuaro, Veracruz and Acapulco[edit]

Panchito gives Donald and Jose a tour of Mexico on a flying sarape. Several Mexican dances and songs are learned here. A key point to what happens later is that Donald seemed to be a "wolf" to the ladies again, hounded down every single one he saw, and tries to gain return affections, but fails. But he ends up kissing Jose while blindfolded.

You Belong To My Heart[edit]

The skies of Mexico City result in Donald falling in love with a beautiful singing woman. The lyrics in the song itself play parts in the scenarios as to what is happening as well.

Donald's Surreal Reverie[edit]

A kiss, or several to be exact, lead to Donald going into the "Love is a drug" scene. This is similar to "Pink Elephants on Parade," for being a major "drunk" scene. Donald constantly envisions sugar rush colors, flowers, and Panchito and Jose popping in at the worst moments. The scene changes after Donald manages to dance with a woman from the state of Oaxaca, from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The two dance to the song "La Sandunga." The woman begins by singing the song, with Donald "quacking" out the rest of the chorus. The "drunkenness" slows down for a moment, but speeds up again when a Mexican woman uses a conductor's stick to make cacti do just about anything while dancing "Jesusita en Chihuahua", a trademark song of the Mexican Revolution. This is a notable scene for live action and cartoon animation mixing, as well as animation among the cacti.

The scene is interrupted when Panchito and Jose spice things up for the finale, and Donald ends up battling a toy bull with wheels on its legs. The catch is that it is loaded with firecrackers and other explosives.

The three caballeros



Agustín Lara's song "You Belong to My Heart" was featured in a Disney short called Pluto's Blue Note (1947). It was later recorded by Bing Crosby. The Ary Barroso's song "Bahia" and the title song became popular hit tunes in the 1940s. The complete "Bahia" sequence was cut from the 1977 theatrical reissue of the film.

Some clips from this film were used in the "Welcome to Rio" portion of the Mickey Mouse Disco music video.

Don Rosa wrote two comic book sequels in 2000 and 2005 titled The Three Caballeros Ride Again and The Magnificent Seven (Minus 4) Caballeros respectively.

As of September 2006, Panchito and José Carioca have returned at Walt Disney World where they appear for meet and greets. They can only be found outside the Mexico pavilion in World Showcase at Epcot. Donald also appears with them.

The 2011 Mickey's Soundsational Parade at Disneyland features all three Caballeros and the Aracuan Bird in one parade unit.

Cast and characters[edit]


The film's original score was composed by Edward H. Plumb, Paul J. Smith, and Charles Wolcott.

  • The title song, "The Three Caballeros", based its melody off of "Ay, Jalisco, no te rajes!" a Mexican song composed by Manuel Esperón with lyrics by Ernesto Cortázar. "Ay, Jalisco, no te rajes!" was originally released in a 1941 film of the same name, starring Jorge Negrete. After seeing Manuel Esperón's success in the Mexican movie industry, Walt Disney called him personally to ask him to participate in the movie. New English lyrics were written to the song by Ray Gilbert.
  • "Have You Been to Bahia?" was written by Dorival Caymmi and was originally released in 1941. The song was translated into English with no major changes, other than replacing the word "nega" (A woman of African descent) with "Donald", who the song is addressed to in the film. Parts of the song are still sung in its original Portuguese.
  • "Pandeiro & Flute" was written by Benedito Lacerda, and is played during the Baia train sequence. It is the opinion of Disney's Chief Archivist Emeritus, Dave Smith that the piece was not written originally for the film, but was instead licensed to Disney; however he is unaware of any evidence that proves this opinion. The piece was developed by Charles Wolcott, and Lacerda went uncredited in the film.[1][2]
  • "Os Quindins de Yayá" was written by Ary Barroso and first released in 1941. Unlike Barroso's other song to be featured in this film, "Os Quindins de Yayá" was left in its original Portuguese. The song is sung by Aurora Miranda in the film.
  • "Os Quindins de Yayá" is briefly interrupted by a man singing a small portion of "Pregões Cariocas" which was written by Braguinha in 1931. This song was first recorded under the name "Cena Carioca" and came to be known as "Pregões Cariocas" in 1936.
  • "Mexico" was composed by Charles Wolcott with lyrics by Ray Gilbert and was sung by Carlos Ramírez. It is the only song in the film to be completely original.
  • The "Jarabe Pateño" was written by Jonás Yeverino Cárdenas in 1900. It is considered one of the most famous compositions from the Mexican state of Coahuila.[3]
  • "You Belong to My Heart" based its melody off of the Mexican song "Solamente una vez", which was written by Agustín Lara. Like "Ay, Jalisco, no te rajes!" and "Na Baixa do Sapateiro", new English lyrics were written to the song by Ray Gilbert.
  • "La Zandunga" (also spelt "La Sandunga") is a traditional Mexican song and the unofficial anthem of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. The melody is believed to have originated from Andalusia and was rearragned by Andres Gutierrez. Lyrics were written to it by Máximo Ramó Ortiz in 1853. It was arranged for this film by Charles Wolcott.
  • The instrumental composition which plays while the cacti are dancing is "Jesusita en Chihuahua", a trademark of the Mexican Revolution which was written by Quirino Mendoza y Cortés in 1916. Overtime this piece has also come to be known under the names "J.C. Polka", "Jesse Polka", and "Cactus Polka".
  • The instrumental composition "Sobre las olas (Over the Waves)" written by Mexican songwriter Juventino Rosas and first published in 1888 can be heard in the film's score during The Cold-Blooded Penguin segment while Pablo the penguin is sailing to the Galapagos Islands. A small portion of "Jingle Bells" is briefly sung by Donald Duck.


The film received 2 nominations for Oscars in 1944[5][6]

Award Result
Best Musical Score Nominated
Best Sound Recording
C. O. Slyfield


Critical response[edit]

The Three Caballeros received mixed reviews when it was released. Most critics were relatively perplexed by the "technological razzle-dazzle" of the film, thinking that, in contrast to the previous feature films up to this time, "it displayed more flash than substance, more technique than artistry."[7] Bosley Crowther for one wrote in The New York Times, "Dizzy Disney and his playmates have let their technical talents run wild."[7] Other reviewers were taken aback by the sexual dynamics of the film, particularly the idea of Donald Duck lusting towards flesh-and-blood women. As The New Yorker put it in a negative review of the film, such a concept "is one of those things that might disconcert less squeamish authorities than the Hays office. It might even be said that a sequence involving the duck, the young lady, and a long alley of animated cactus plants would probably be considered suggestive in a less innocent medium."[8]


For the film's television premiere, The Three Caballeros aired as the ninth episode of the first season of ABC's Disneyland television series. Edited, shortened, and re-titled A Present For Donald for this December 22, 1954, broadcast and subsequent re-runs, Donald receives gifts from his friends for Christmas, instead of for his birthday as in the original.[citation needed]

Theatrical Re-release[edit]

The Three Caballeros was severely edited and re-released in featurette form on April 15, 1977, to accompany a re-issue of Never a Dull Moment.[citation needed]

Home video[edit]

  • 1982 (VHS and Betamax)
  • 1987 (VHS and Betamax)
  • October 28, 1994 (VHS and Laserdisc - Masterpiece Collection)
  • 1995 (Laserdisc - Exclusive Archive Collection)
  • May 2, 2000 (VHS and DVD - Gold Classic Collection)
  • April 29, 2008 (DVD - Classic Caballeros Collection)

Other media[edit]

One of the scenes of the former Mickey Mouse Revue features Donald, Jose and Panchito in the show, performing the movie's theme song. In the queue for Mickey's PhilharMagic, there is a poster for "Festival de los Mariachis," which also features the three protagonists.

They also appear in some of Disney's themed resorts, such as Disney's Coronado Springs Resort where one can find topiaries of the trio, and Disney's All-Star Music Resort where a fountain depicting the trio is the centrepiece of the Guitar-shaped Calypso Pool.

Fictional music group Alvin and the Chipmunks covered the title song, "The Three Caballeros," for their 1995 Disney-themed album When You Wish Upon a Chipmunk; however, The Walt Disney Company neither sponsored nor endorsed the album the song was featured on.[citation needed]

In February 2001, José and Panchito appeared in The Three Caballeros episode of House of Mouse series.

In April 2007, the film became the basis for a ride at the Mexican pavilion at Walt Disney World's Epcot named Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros.[9]

Along with many other Disney stars such as Peter Pan, Lilo and Stich, Alice and the White Rabbit, and others, Panchito, Jose, and Donald appear in the reopening of Disneyland's It's a Small World in the Mexican segment of the ride.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dave Smith. "D23 Presents Ask Dave: June 12, 2012". Disney D23. Archived from the original on June 14, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2012. "While written by Lacerda (1903-1958) and licensed by Disney, it was developed by Charles Wolcott and Lacerda was uncredited. The piece appears at the end of the Baia train sequence and just before the “Os Quindins de Ya-Ya” sequence. A pandeiro is a Brazilian version of a tambourine." 
  2. ^ Dave Smith. "D23 Presents Ask Dave: July 19, 2012". Disney D23. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved July 22, 2012. "It is the flute piece played during the train sequence, according to the film’s music cue sheet, running for one minute, three-and-two-thirds seconds. It is followed by silence, then “Os Quindins de Ya-Ya.” I have assumed it was not written for the film, but was simply licensed, though I have not seen evidence to back up that assumption." 
  3. ^ Ernesto Acosta (August 19, 2009). "Distingue a Coahuila el “Jarabe Pateño”; es reconocido a nivel mundial". Retrieved March 22, 2012. 
  4. ^ Dave Smith. "Ask Dave Lilongo". D23. Archived from the original on January 13, 2012. Retrieved January 13, 2012. "“Lilongo” was written by Felipe “El Charro” Gil, and copyrighted in the U.S. by the music publisher Peer International Corp. in 1946. It is in the Son Jarocho style, a traditional musical style of the southern part of the Mexican state of Veracruz. Gil was born in Misantla, Veracruz, in 1913, into a family of musicians, and he made a study of the music of the area." 
  5. ^ "The 18th Academy Awards (1946) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-08-16. 
  6. ^ Academy Awards Database
  7. ^ a b Watts, Steven (1997). The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life". New York.: Houghton Mifflin. p. 248. ISBN 0-395-83587-9. 
  8. ^ Maltin, Leonard (1973). The Disney Films". New York.: Bonanza Books. p. 67. ISBN 0-517-177412. 
  9. ^ "Gran Fiesta Tour at Walt Disney World". 

External links[edit]