Classic Caballeros Collectionby Lisa Perkis, staff writer
The first film in the set, Saludos Amigos, was commissioned by the United States Government to build up goodwill between the US and South America during World War II, as a few of the countries had ties to Nazi Germany at that time. Released in Latin America first, then in the United States six months later, Saludos Amigos was popular enough to make Disney’s money back from his investment and was re-released in 1949 as a double feature with Dumbo.
Saludos Amigos is basically four cartoon segments strung together with filmed footage of the animators’ trip to the various countries including Peru, Brazil, and Chile. Donald Duck is the main star of the film, with Goofy taking over hosting duties for a segment about the gaucho in Argentina. Apparently, when the film was first transferred to DVD, Disney decided to remove the cigarette that is dangling from Goofy’s fingers in the first few seconds of El Gaucho Goofy. This decision seems odd, since the parrot Jose Carioca smokes a cigar through most of his segments. I guess it’s more offensive when Goofy does it. The film is a brisk 42 minutes long and is basically a valentine to South America. Most of the segments use voiceovers to explain the culture and customs of the various countries the animators visit. It’s a step back in time when Latin culture was something unknown and exotic to most people in America.
The Three Caballeros revisits South America with Donald and is done in the same format as Saludos Amigos. Donald is again the constant that tries to tie all the segments together. This film is more fragmented and less successful than the first film; it feels like the animators were just using up all their extra ideas and slapping them into shape to get one more feature out of their trip to South America. I found myself blurting out “this film is very strange” more than once while watching The Three Caballeros. Some of the segments veer off of any sort of narrative and have a Fantasia vibe to them, but without the classic artistry that makes Fantasia a legitimate classic.
South of the Border with Disney
This 30-minute featurette was originally released in 2000 when Saludos Amigos was first offered on DVD. It consists of film footage from the animators’ trip and some unused segments most likely meant for the film. This featurette is mainly interesting for the extra peeks we get at the animators starring as themselves such as Frank Thomas and Mary Blair as they sketch their subjects (probably filmed back in the states at the studios, but why quibble.) Other than the clips of the animators, the survey of land and people are shown without a lot of commentary, and after a while it’s just not that interesting.
Walt Disney Interview
This is an extremely short clip of Walt Disney explaining how the two films came into existence. He mentions that Saludos Amigos, was supposed to be covered by a US government subsidy; however, the film was so successful that it did not need the “help.” Disney jokes that The Three Caballeros could have used the subsidy, as it was not as successful as the first film.
"Don Donald" – Donald Duck Cartoon Short
Disney reached waaay back in the vault for this Donald Duck cartoon, which was no doubt included because of its Latin overtones. Made in 1937, Donald meets Donna (who is actually Daisy Duck) and share a few pratfalls and Mexican hat dances against a dusty desert background.
"Contrary Condor" – Donald Duck Cartoon Short
Donald is again in South America, this time in the Andes and is mistaken for a baby Condor with some more Donald-like pratfalls. This cartoon was made around the time The Three Caballeros was being completed, and the tone is much like the feature film. Good, but not great.
Audio, Video and Interface
The interface is quite bright and colorful, with the three birds of the features (Donald, Jose, and Panchito) featured prominently. Since there is not much to this DVD set, navigating around the features is extremely easy, even for young kids. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital Surround Sound 5.1 and is plenty fine. The aspect ratio is the typical 1.33:1 and the films look fairly clean for their age. The animated sections are much brighter than the actual South American footage, which still show imperfections throughout.
The Final Evaluation
I have a feeling The Classic Caballeros set is strictly for collectors, or perhaps for folks who remember seeing these films in the theatre and have some nostalgia for the good old days when South American culture was a novelty to most Americans. My kids were very uninterested in Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros, even though my youngest daughter was just finishing up a report about Peru. Neither of them finished the set. I was a bit surprised about this because I had thought the constantly changing segments would hold their attention. If you’re curious about the set but can’t picture yourself re-watching Donald Duck chasing women in 1940s swimsuits all over the beach, give it a rental first before you decide to spend the $19.99 retail price.
- Release date: April 29, 2008
- Original Release Date: Saludos Amigos – 1942, The Three Caballeros – 1944
- Suggested retail price: $19.99
- Feature run time: 113 minutes
- Rated: G for The Three Caballeros, Not Rated for Saludos Amigos
- Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
- Sound: Dolby Digital Surround Sound 5.1