There’s only one DVD in this edition, but it’s a terrific find: Walt Disney’s 1944 love letter to South America, The Three Caballeros.
As the fun begins, it’s Donald Duck’s birthday. The irascible quacker receives a gift of a film “from his friends” in South America. After Donald “watches” a partly-animated story about a burro who mysteriously shares Dumbo’s flight capabilities, the film really takes off. Part travelogue, part musical comedy, Donald goes through the looking glass and meets a couple of fine feathered friends in Brazil and Mexico. They sing some terrific songs and generally have a grand time.
What makes The Three Caballeros a knockout, however, is the seamless, inventive blend of live action and animation by Disney animators at their peak. There’s a musical number that wends through Rio’s streets that’s simply brilliant. Sometimes animation dominates; then live action takes over. But the spell is never broken. I hadn’t seen this since an early ’70s reissue (when I was around 11), and clearly didn’t appreciate it then.
Yet, it’s hard to appreciate the film’s greatness on this circa-2000 DVD. The color is weak and unrestored, and the transfer is state of the art—for a dozen years ago. Disney better be working on The Three Caballeros.
Usually, I wouldn’t be writing about this one, because I found it in the used bin of one of the local music-and-movies retail outlets. And yet, when it was time to pop it in the machine, the plastic bag removed and the used sticker pried off, it turned out that this was a brand-new DVD. It was still sealed with the three factory-applied stickers on three sides, and clearly labeled “Disney” next to the movie’s title. Funny, that.