The Three Caballeros

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The Three Caballeros
Three caballeros poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySupervising Director: Sequence Directors:
Story by
Based on
Produced byWalt Disney
Music by
Distributed byRKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • December 21, 1944 (1944-12-21) (Mexico City)
  • February 3, 1945 (1945-02-03) (United States)[1]
Running time
71 minutes
CountryUnited States
  • English
  • Spanish
  • Portuguese
Box office$3.355 million (worldwide rentals)[2]

The Three Caballeros is a 1944 American live-action/animated musical anthology film produced by Walt Disney and released by RKO Radio Pictures. The film premiered in Mexico City on December 21, 1944. It was released in the United States on February 3, 1945 and in the United Kingdom in March 1945. It was the 7th Walt Disney animated feature film, and it marks the 10th anniversary of Donald Duck and 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 Productions in the 1940s, following Saludos Amigos (1942). It is also notable for being one of the first feature-length films to incorporate traditional animation with live-action actors.[3]

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 goodwill message for Latin America.[4] 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, who represents Brazil, and later becomes friends with a pistol-packing rooster named Panchito Pistoles, who represents Mexico.


The film, celebrating Donald Duck's 10th anniversary, consists of seven segments, each 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 called "Aves Raras". The first segment of the documentary tells the story of Pablo, a penguin seeking the warm weather of Equatorial South America. The next segment details some of the odd birds of Latin America. During this part documentary, he learns about the Aracuan Bird, who received his name because of his eccentric song. The documentary then shifts to the perspective of a man narrating a story from his childhood, where he discovers and befriends a donkey with the wings of a condor in Uruguay.

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 Yaya, the cookie seller, but fails and gets jealous of another man. 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 "black 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, eventually revealing many surprises. The celebration draws to a close when Donald is 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 and trying to make José jealous. His most famous gag is when he re-routes a train that Donald and José are riding on by drawing new tracks, causing the train to disassemble.

The film consists of seven segments:

"The Cold-Blooded Penguin"

This segment is narrated by Sterling Holloway, reproducing images of the penguins of in Antarctica. In the segment, a penguin named Pablo is so fed up with the freezing conditions of the South Pole that he decides to leave his home for warmer climates, navigating the long coast of Chile (including the Juan Fernández Islands and Viña del Mar), passing by Lima (the capital of Peru) and Quito (the capital of Ecuador) before landing on the Galápagos Islands.[5]

"The Flying Gauchito"

This segment, with adult narration provided by Fred Shields, involves the adventures of a little boy from Uruguay and a winged donkey, who goes by the name of Burrito (which is Spanish for "little donkey").


This segment involves a pop-up book trip through the Brazilian state of Bahia (spelled Baía in the film), as Donald and José meet up with some of the locals who dance a samba and Donald pining for one of the women, a cookie seller named Yaya (portrayed by singer Aurora Miranda), who later gives Donald a kiss after he gives her a bouquet of flowers.

"Las Posadas"

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", 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 own piñata as well.

"Mexico: Pátzcuaro, Veracruz and Acapulco"

Panchito gives Donald and José a tour of Mexico City and the country of Mexico on a flying sarape, or magic carpet. 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 sees, and gain return affections, but once more he fails every time and ends up kissing José while blindfolded.

"You Belong to My Heart" and "Donald's Surreal Reverie"

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. Then several imagined kisses lead to Donald going into the "Love is a drug" scene. Donald constantly envisions sugar rush colors, flowers, and Panchito and José popping in at the worst moments, making chaos. The scene changes after Donald manages to dance with Carmen Molina from the state of Oaxaca, from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The two dance and sing 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 Carmen reappears 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 scene is notable for providing the masterful combination of live-action and cartoon animation, as well as animation among the cacti.

The scene is interrupted when Panchito and José suddenly spice things up for the finale of the movie, and Donald ends up battling the same toy bull with wheels on its legs the day before from earlier. The catch is that it is now loaded with fireworks and other explosives, following with a fireworks finale with the words "The End" exploding from the fireworks, first in Spanish (Fin), in the colors of the flag of Mexico, then the second in Portuguese (Fim), in the colors of the flag of Brazil, and finally in English, in the colors of the flag of the United States (The End).

Voice cast

Mexican singer Dora Luz
in the film.


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 on "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.
  • "Baía" based its melody on 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 earlier film 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.[6][7]
  • "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 Nestor Amaral 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.[8]
  • "Lilongo" was written by Felipe "El Charro" Gil and copyrighted in the U.S. in 1946,[9] though it was first recorded in the U.S. in 1938. It is performed by Trío Calaveras in the film.
  • "You Belong to My Heart" based its melody on 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 spelled "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 rearranged 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. Over time 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 Galápagos Islands. A small portion of "Jingle Bells" is briefly sung by Donald Duck.
  • "Babalu" by Desi Arnaz is used briefly.
  • The title song from Saludos Amigos is heard instrumentally when Donald first opens his presents.



Original theatrical trailer

The film premiered in Mexico City on December 21, 1944. It was released in the United States on February 3, 1945, and in the United Kingdom in March of that year.

The Three Caballeros was re-released to theaters on April 15, 1977. For this re-issue, the film was edited significantly and re-released in featurette form at 41 minutes, to accompany a re-issue of Never a Dull Moment.[citation needed]


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]

Home media

  • November 19, 1982 (VHS and Betamax)
  • October 6, 1987 and October 4, 1988 (VHS, Betamax and Laserdisc)
  • 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)
  • January 30, 2018 (Blu-ray – 75th Anniversary Edition 2-Movie Collection)


Critical reception

The Three Caballeros received mixed reviews upon its original release. 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."[10] Bosley Crowther for one wrote in The New York Times, "Dizzy Disney and his playmates have let their technical talents run wild."[10] 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 Wolcott Gibbs put it[11] in a negative review of the film for The New Yorker, 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."[12]

The film holds an 83% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 18 reviews, with an average score of 6.50/10. The site's consensus reads, "One of Disney's more abstract creations, The Three Caballeros is a dazzling, colorful picture that shows the company at an artistic acme."[13]

Box office

The film returned rentals to RKO by 1951 of $3,355,000 with $1,595,000 being generated in the U.S. and Canada.[2] The film generated in excess of $700,000 in Mexico.[14]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Scoring of a Musical Picture Edward H. Plumb, Paul Smith and Charles Wolcott Nominated [15]
Best Sound Recording C. O. Slyfield Nominated
Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion Walt Disney Nominated [16][17]

Other media

See also


  1. ^ "The Three Caballeros: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Richard B. Jewell's RKO film grosses, 1929–51: The C. J. Trevlin Ledger: A comment". Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Volume 14, Issue 1, 1994.
  3. ^ Gleiberman, Owen; Schwarzbaum, Lisacn (July 31, 2013). "5 Best – and 5 Worst – Live-Action/Animation Hybrid Movies". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  4. ^ Disney, Walt. "An Interview with Walt Disney". Orson Welles Mercury Theater (Interview). Interviewed by Fletcher Markle.
  5. ^ "The Three Caballeros". Comhem. Archived from the original on September 16, 2016. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  6. ^ Smith, Dave. "D23 Presents Ask Dave: June 12, 2012". Disney D23. Archived from the original on June 15, 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.
  7. ^ Smith, Dave. "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.
  8. ^ Ernesto Acosta (August 19, 2009). "Distingue a Coahuila el 'Jarabe Pateño'; es reconocido a nivel mundial". Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  9. ^ Dave Smith. "Ask Dave Lilongo". D23. Archived from the original on January 5, 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "What Hath Walt Wrought," New Yorker, 10 February 1945, in Wolcott Gibbs, Backward Ran Sentences (Bloomsbury, 2011), p. 598.
  12. ^ Maltin, Leonard (1973). The Disney Films. New York.: Bonanza Books. p. 67. ISBN 0-517-177412.
  13. ^ "The Three Caballeros (1945)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 6, 2021. Edit this at Wikidata
  14. ^ "The Three Caballeros". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  15. ^ "The 18th Academy Awards - 1946". Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  16. ^ "Venice Film Festival (1949)". IMDb. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  17. ^ The Three Caballeros, retrieved October 21, 2020
  18. ^ "Clown of the Jungle (film)". D23. The Walt Disney Company. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  19. ^ Hischack, Thomas; Mark Robinson (2009). The Disney Song Encyclopedia. Scarecrow Press.
  20. ^ "Gran Fiesta Tour at Walt Disney World".
  21. ^ "Disney Made A 'Three Caballeros' TV Series, But Most People Can’t See It"
  22. ^ Snetiker, Marc (November 2, 2018). "The Three Caballeros reunite on DuckTales – first look". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 23, 2022.

External links