The Three Caballeros was conceived very early in the 1940's as a follow-up to the 1943 film Saludos Amigos. That film had been created as part of a State Department "Good Neighbor Policy," meant to maintain strong ties with Latin American and South American governments during World War II. The Latin rhythms and culture were pervasive influences during the war years, and Saludos Amigos was a smash in both the United States and South America.
The Three Caballeros would have been completed and released earlier, but the priority effort of the Disney Studio during the war years was the production of educational and propaganda work on behalf of the government and armed forces. The film was ready to release in October 1944, but material shortages at Technicolor delayed the film's release until enough prints could be struck.
The final film is a varied, frenetic, and often dazzling exercise in animation technique. With its frequent shifts of locale, mood, and style, The Three Caballeros maintains a breezy pace. The critical reaction to the film was decidedly mixed. The New Yorker called the film "a mixture of atrocious taste, bogus mysticism, and authentic fantasy, guaranteed to baffle any critic not hopelessly enchanted with the word 'Disney.'" Variety, however, called it a "socko feature production," and most mass-market critics warmly received it.
The Three Caballeros was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Sound (C. O. Slyfield) and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture (Edward H. Plumb, Paul J. Smith, and Charles Wolcott).
The film, although successful, never received a complete theatrical reissue (a 1977 release was severely truncated- nearly half an hour was edited from the film). It was felt that the film was too dated, too firmly ensconced in the 1940s.
The variety of styles at work in The Three Caballeros makes it an optic feast for animation fans. Full of visual puns, dynamic surrealism, picturesque graphics and live-action/animation combination (this was the first feature film to combine live action with animation throughout), The Three Caballeros is a fast-paced roller coaster of a film.
The Disney Studio had not attempted the combination of animation and live action since the early Disney Alice in Cartoonland shorts of the 1920s. The success of this work in The Three Caballeros led to the use of a similar combination of the two film styles in Song of the South in 1946.
Ward Kimball supervised the offbeat, frantic and funny animation of the tide song, which is similar to "Pink Elephants on Parade" from Dumbo (1941), in the way that the visuals constantly evolve from one outlandish concept to another, with bizarre visuals linked together with a perfect eccentric internal logic. Ward Kimball refers to this film as "the only animation I can look back on with pride."
The gentle, picturesque Mary Blair concept drawings used as the inspiration for La Piñata hearken to the distinctive style that would become familiar to millions of visitors in "It's a Small World" at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris.
The Three Caballeros Production Information
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