The Three Caballeros
Three caballeros poster.png
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Norman Ferguson (supervising director), Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, Harold Young (sequence directors)
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 date(s)
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 six package films released by Walt Disney Animation Studios in 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 singer and dancer Carmen Molina.

The film was produced as part of the studio's good will message for South America.[citation needed] The film stars 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. (The film was plagued by a severe case of white specks and excess grain.)

It was severely edited and re-released in featurette form on April 15, 1977 to accompany a re-issue of 1968's Never a Dull Moment.

Film segments

thumb|left|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 (namely Friday the 13th), and he receives three presents from friends in Latin America. The first present is a film projector, which shows him a documentary about birds. During the documentary, he learns about the Aracuan Bird, who received his name because of his eccentric song. The Aracuan also makes several appearances throughout the film.

The next present is a book given to Donald by José. This book tells of Bahia (spelled "Baía" in the film), which is one of Brazil's 26 states. José shrinks them both down so that they can enter the book. Donald and José meet up with several of the locals, who dance a lively samba, and Donald ends up pining for one girl, but fails. After the journey, Donald and José leave the book.

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

Throughout the film, the Aracuan Bird appears at random moments. He usually taunts everyone with his madcap antics sometimes stealing José's cigar trying to make José jealous. His most famous gag is when he re-routes a train that Donald and José ride on by drawing new tracks, making the train disassemble. He returns three or four years later in the 1948 Disney film Melody Time.

The film consists of seven segments:

The Cold-Blooded Penguin

This segment involves a penguin named Pablo, told by Sterling Holloway, reproducing images of the penguins of Punta Tombo in Argentina along the coast of Patagonia, "Pablo the penguin" is shown to be so fed up with the freezing conditions of the South Pole that he would much rather leave for warmer climates.

The Flying Gauchito

This segment involves the adventures of a little boy from Uruguay in the English version, and from Argentina in the Spanish version, and his winged donkey, who goes by the name of Burrito (Spanish for 'little donkey').


This segment involves a pop-up book trip through the Brazilian state of Bahía, as Donald and José meet up with some of the locals who dance a samba and Donald pining for one of the women, portrayed by singer Aurora Miranda.

Las Posadas

This is the story of a group of Mexican children who celebrated Christmas by re-enacting the journey of Mary and Saint Joseph searching for room at the inn. "Posada" meant "inn", or "shelter", and their parents told them "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 his piñata as well.

Mexico: Pátzcuaro, Veracruz and Acapulco

Panchito gives Donald and José 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 is pining for some more ladies again, tries to hound down every single one he saw, and gain return affections, but once more fails and ends up kissing José while blindfolded.

You Belong To My Heart

The skies of Mexico City result in Donald falling in love with singer Dora Luz. The lyrics in the song itself play parts in the scenarios as to what is happening as well.

Donald's Surreal Reverie

Several kisses lead to Donald going into the "Love is a drug" scene. This is similar to "Pink Elephants on Parade" from Dumbo for being a major "drunk" scene. Donald constantly envisions sugar rush colors, flowers, and Panchito and José popping in at the worst moments. The scene changes after Donald manages to dance with Carmen Molina from the state of Oaxaca, from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The two dance to the song "La Zandunga". Carmen begins by singing the song, with Donald "quacking" out the rest of the chorus with her. The "drunkenness" slows down for a second after Donald multiplied himself while dancing, but speeds up again when a Mexican woman dressed in a Charro's outfit and uses a horsewhip as a conductor's baton to make cacti appear in many different forms while dancing to "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 José suddenly spice things up for the finale, and Donald ends up battling the same toy bull with wheels on its legs from earlier. The catch is that it is again loaded with firecrackers and other explosives following with a fireworks finale with the words "The End" exploding from the fireworks first in Mexican Spanish (Fin) in the colors of the Mexican Flag, then in Brazilian Portuguese (Fim) in the colors of the flag of Brazil and finally in English in the colors of the flag of the United States of America.



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.

In September 2006, Panchito and José 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

  • Clarence Nash - Donald Duck (also dubbed the Spanish, Portuguese and Italian versions)
  • José Oliveira - José Carioca (also dubbed the Spanish and Italian version)
  • Joaquin Garay - Panchito Pistoles (also dubbed the Italian version and the songs in the Spanish version)
  • Aurora Miranda
  • Dora Luz
  • Carmen Molina
  • Sterling Holloway - Narrator (The Cold-Blooded Penguin)
  • Frank Graham - Narrator
  • Fred Shields — Narrator
  • Francisco "Frank" Mayorga — Mexican Guitarist
  • Nestor Amaral
  • Trío Calaveras
  • Trío Ascencio del Río
  • Padua Hills Player
  • Carlos Ramírez - Mexico


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" 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.
  • "Baía" based its melody off of the Brazilian song "Na Baixa do Sapateiro" which was written by Ary Barroso and first released in 1938. New English lyrics were written by Ray Gilbert. Another Ary Barroso song, "Aquarela do Brasil", was featured in "The Three Caballeros' prequel "Saludos Amigos", with its original Portuguese lyrics.
  • "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

The Three Caballeros received mixed reviews when it was released and currently holds an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 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-releases

The Three Caballeros was re-released in theaters on June 11, 1958; March 19, 1966; September 17, 1973; April 15, 1977; and November 30, 1981. For its 1977 re-issue, the film was edited significantly and re-released in featurette form, to accompany a re-issue of Never a Dull Moment.[citation needed]

Home video

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

Other media

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.

In February 2001, José and Panchito appeared in The Three Caballeros episode of House of Mouse series, voiced by Carlos Alazraqui (Pistoles) and Rob Paulsen (Carioca).

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


  1. Dave Smith. "D23 Presents Ask Dave: June 12, 2012". [[wikipedia: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". [[wikipedia: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. 7.0 7.1 Watts, Steven (1997). The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life. New York.: [[wikipedia: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

Category:1944 animated films Category:1940s musical films Category:American animated films Category:American children's films Category:Disney animated features canon Category:Donald Duck films Category:Films featuring anthropomorphic characters Category:Films set in Brazil Category:Films set in Mexico Category:Films with live action and animation Category:Films set in Antarctica Category:Package films Category:Bullfighting films Category:Walt Disney Pictures films Category:Films directed by Clyde Geronimi Category:Films directed by Jack Kinney Category:Films directed by Norman Ferguson Category:Films directed by Bill Roberts Category:1940s American animated films

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