First Theatrical Release: December 21, 1944 (Mexico); February 3, 1945 (U.S.)
First Home Viewing Release: November, 1982
My Rating: 1/5 stars (for the first two segments)
Where I Found It: The library’s DVD collection (on the same disc as Saludos Amigos).
Bechdel Test Score: Failed. Many women appear, mostly of the live-action variety, but they never speak, let alone speak to one another. They are mainly there to serve as objects of Donald Duck’s lust. Yes, that’s right — The Three Caballeros should be subtitled: Donald’s Debauched Adventures Through Latin America.
So, this movie starts out innocently enough, with a short about a Penguin who longs for warmer climes — something I’m sure many of us can relate to at this time of the year. Then it transitions into another short, in which a narrator tells a story from his childhood in which he was an adorable little Latino boy with a flying burro. This is the high point of the whole movie, and it occurs about 20 minutes in. When this segment is complete, the wise viewer will stop the film.
I was not a wise viewer.
After the “burrito” segment, we mainly get a buffet of Donald Duck ogling Latina women from Brazil and Mexico, with some sweet stills thrown in about Mexican Christmas traditions. Watching them, I couldn’t help thinking, “Great idea for saving money!”
Still, it’s better than watching Donald’s eyes pop out of his head every time he sees a woman sashaying down the street. It’s better than hearing him address them all as “toots.” When he gets his first kiss from one of these women — after she has been surrounded by Latino men all dressed in identical costumes — he dissolves into ecstasies (against a cacti backdrop) that can only be described as orgasmic.
That’s not the worst of it. The height of Donald’s debauchery probably comes when he visits Acapulco, where, at one point, he stands blindfolded in the middle of a circle of women in swimming suits, reaching his hands out gropingly and calling, “Come to Daddy!”
What in the world was Disney thinking?
Of course, this does follow the somewhat charmingly animated Three Caballeros song, which opens with this verse:
We’re three caballeros
Three gay caballeros
They say we are birds of a feather
We’re happy amigos
No matter where he goes
The one, two, and three goes
We’re always together
And which includes a three-way smooch between the caballeros.
It should be noted that neither Jose Carioca or Panchito Pistoles display the same sort of
puerile gawking that Donald engages in. So I can’t help but feel that Donald’s excessive posturing may have more to do with his denial of his confused sexuality than the beauty of Latin American women.
While Saludos Amigos seemed to be a mostly friendly, if at times misguided, tribute to Latin America, The Three Caballeros seems to perpetuate the same old stereotypes about “spicy”, exotic Latina women, whole beachfuls of them, all of whom laughingly indulge a leering American tourist.
The portrayal of Latin American men is not much better. In one segment, two men competing for a woman’s attention literally turn into roosters and begin cock-fighting.
Seventy-one minutes is far too long to put up with this animated misogyny. It’s almost enough to make me think some Disney movies really ought to have stayed in the vault.
Oh Yeah, and the Kids
Up until now, I’ve never seen an animated movie with a G or PG rating that I wouldn’t allow my own children to watch (with some context and conversation from an adult). I would allow (non-Disney) Watership Down with its bloody rabbits; I would allow Pinocchio with its predatory adults; I would allow Bambi and Dumbo with their motherless baby animals and The Hunchback of Notre Dame with its lustful priest.
This is the one Disney movie I would have major reservations about showing my own kids. It isn’t a movie that includes sometimes shocking or heartbreaking content in the service of a greater message that then provides a teachable moment or a chance for kids to start processing harsh truths about the world through the safe medium of film and storytelling. Instead, it treats the objectification of women as something that is funny or cute, and that flatters rather than offends women.
Even the cute flying burro is not enough to redeem this movie. Let’s move on to next week and never look back.