Thursday, October 2, 2008

Three Caballeros

Watching the cartoon The Three Caballeros reminds me of how underrated some Disney cartoons are though it's weird to think of a billion dollar company that set the standard for animated cartoons in North America as being underrated in any way.

This cartoon was the second of two features Disney's animators made in the 1940's inspired by Latin American culture and the first part of it is conventional stuff featuring Donald Duck. Then after Joe Carioca, the Brazilian parrot featured in the previous Saludos Amigos and a Mexican rooster named Pancho show up, things get really insane with surreal trips to a Mexican fiesta and a Brazilian beach done in wild and imaginative style that goes way beyond the then established Disney house style with bits that recall Busby Berkeley and Salvador Dali.

This stuff goes way beyond what is normally thought of as a Disney cartoon and it proves how creative Disney's animators could be when given the chance. We never think of them this way because the company has practically hidden this part of their past from the general public. Generations of us grew up watching the craziness of the MGM and Warner Bros studio product endlessly on TV while Disney kept their cartoon shorts locked in their vaults on when cable came along, in carefully edited form presumably to protect the "kiddies" from lord knows what.

The result is most of us completely overlook stuff like Caballeros or the innovative work like "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom" and "Jack And Old Mac" which I discovered on the Disney Rarities DVD set, post-war cartoons in the stylized, semi-abstract manner of the concurrent UPA work. It's a shame this has become so forgotten.

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