The Three Caballeros (1944)

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Released 18-Nov-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Short Film-Don's Fountain Of Youth (6:10)
Short Film-Pueblo Pluto (6:32)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1944
Running Time 68:41
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Norman Ferguson
Studio
Distributor
Disney
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Aurora Miranda
Carmen Molina
Dora Luz
Sterling Holloway
Clarence Nash
Joaquin Garay
Josť Oliviera
Frank Graham
Fred Shields
Nestor Amarale
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Edward H. Plumb
Paul J. Smith
Charles Wolcott


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Dutch
Italian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

††† Once you know of the visit by the Disney people to South America in 1942, it become fairly clear where the ideas for The Three Caballeros emerged from. Indeed, in many ways this is the twin of the previously reviewed Saludos Amigos, featuring not just the South American themes but also the blend of live action and animation - although this time far more extensively within the programme itself. This seventh of the Disney animated features is widely regarded as the worst of the whole list, but this damnation to me has always been a little hard. There were far worse that emanated from the Disney studios in my view, although I would readily agree that The Three Caballeros is hardly more than average entertainment and unlike the genuine classics in the canon is a feature that does not bear repeated viewings at all well. Whilst it is the only one of the so-called anthology films that has ever been in my video collection, it is also by far the least viewed video of any Disney video that I had or have.

††† The film revolves around our old friend Donald Duck, who just so happens to be having a birthday. He has received a big parcel from his friends in South and Central America and of course he cannot wait to attack the huge parcel. The first item out of the parcel turns out to be a film projector and screen, along with some animated shorts. Obviously he is meant to play the animated shorts, and so we get to enjoy them too. First up is a tale of Pablo, a cold-blooded penguin from the South Pole who has a slight problem - he hates the cold and loves warmth. Appropriately called Pablo, The Cold Blooded Penguin, we get to follow the story of Pablo as he seeks out a tropical island of his own to live on. If this sounds familiar, this was of course included on the recently reviewed Winter Wonderland DVD. Next up is the charming little tale of The Gauchito And His Burrito. No, it is not about a young gaucho eating some Mexican food, but rather the tale of a young gaucho who heads into the mountains and finds a flying donkey. This gauchito has big plans of earning money to make his life comfortable and enters a local horse race to win the grand prize with this unusual animal. The third animated short diverges away from the story-based format of the first two efforts and becomes somewhat of a large, musical number with Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and a new character, Panchito (the three caballeros obviously) singing and dancing their way through various scenes. The most memorable of these is their visit to Baia and other hot spots such as Acapulco where Donald falls head over heels for the women.

††† Whilst the first two animated shorts, and the connecting stuff, are done in a fairly simple style of animation, the latter animated short makes extensive use of live action and animation that at the time was virtually unheard of to this extent. Interestingly enough, there are two distinctly different approaches to the technique in the film and they are rather glaringly obvious in the digital medium. The two techniques are easily distinguished by the background. In the first technique, back projection, the animation has been completed and projected whilst the live acting is done in front of it. You can tell this technique by the fact that the background animation is somewhat soft and a little blurry. The second technique involves compositing animation on top of previously filmed live action. This technique is easily noted by the fat that the character integration appears a bit better and the whole picture appears in focus. There is more of the former technique than the latter technique as it is a lot cheaper to do. No one ever accused these anthology films of being costly, high production value releases.

††† The one annoying aspect of the whole feature is that it truly demonstrates the perversion of the word gay in the English language. When the three caballeros start singing about "three gay caballeros", the connotation today is obviously significantly different to what was meant by the song. Indeed, for the younger audience today, it might need to be explained to them that the word has developed that entirely different meaning since the film was made, otherwise their ideas about Donald Duck might be well and truly warped.

††† Not the finest moment of the Disney studio by any stretch of the imagination, but equally not their worst moment on film either. Terribly dated obviously and with live action/animation mixtures now being far more commonplace, the poorish standards here are well and truly highlighted. Still, for animation fans this remains an interesting study in the development of such techniques. Again the lack of production values is evident enough and the lack of story direction might annoy some people, but with a lack of expectation there might be some amusement found here. Just don't expect to be able to watch this repeatedly.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† The transfer is presented in a 1.33:1 Full Frame format that is fairly obviously not 16x9 enhanced.

††† The transfer is again a reflection of the age of the source material, and the modest costs invested in the project. In just about every way this is a mirror of the similarly aged Saludos Amigos, further adding to the close sibling nature of the two features. Sharpness is decent enough, although as indicated above some of the back projection live action material is inherently softer and blurrier in nature. The animated content is very decent throughout, although the simpler animation style does not permit the sort of sharpness and definition we find nowadays. Definition is still pretty good in general, although there is quite a deal of grain in the picture unfortunately, which compounds the fact that this is a rather dirty source print. Shadow detail and contrast in some of the live action material is bordering on terrible (such as around 34:00), a problem that has always afflicted this feature. I have recollections of a VHS tape that was virtually unwatchable owing to the very dark nature of the same segment, so it is not a transfer problem but rather a source material problem. Owing to the film dirt and the grain, this is not exactly a clear transfer and would rank as one of the poorest such efforts yet to appear on a Disney DVD. The fact is, this feature is crying out for a full restoration - even though it will unlikely ever get it.

††† The colours are pretty good overall, barring some issues in the live action/animation mixtures. Indeed, at times the live action material seems to be worse than the animated material by a good margin, being dark and lacking any beauty or vibrancy in the colours. The animation colours are well saturated, coming up quite bright if not exactly vibrantly vivid. Oversaturation is not an issue, and colour bleed is noticeably absent from the transfer.

††† Aside from some inherent source material issues, there are no MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There are no obvious film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. Where it all goes belly up is in the film artefacts, and whilst there are no great scratches or hair marks, at times the speckling of the print really detracts from the transfer. Added to the equation is the copious quantities of film dirt - the dirty window look to the transfer at times is very noticeable - making this a rather poorer effort than I was expecting.

††† This is a single sided, single layer DVD so there is no layer change to be negotiated.

††† There are five subtitle options on the DVD, although I only checked out the English and English For The Hearing Impaired options. They are both good with nothing in the way of any significant omissions or variations to the dialogue. Again, they do not translate the foreign dialogue in the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† There are four soundtracks on the DVD, and all are Dolby Digital 5.1 efforts: English, French, Dutch and Italian are the choices. Cue the complaint about the six channel soundtrack choice as voiced in Saludos Amigos. Given that only 3.91GB of space is used on the disc, there was ample space available for adding the original mono soundtrack to the DVD.

††† Obviously I stuck with the English soundtrack, and once again it is hardly a great six channel effort.

††† The dialogue comes up well in the transfer, a little better than in Saludos Amigos, but still not as well as I would have expected for a remastered six channel soundtrack. Since this does involve animation, sync is of course an inherent issue. However, some of the live action material is also slightly out of sync, but whether this a source material issue I don't know. The VHS tape that I have certainly offers less than perfect sync in the same live action sequences, but it does not appear to be as obvious as on the DVD.

††† The original music score was contributed by Edward Plumb and Paul J. Smith, not unexpectedly as they also did Saludos Amigos. This time Charles Wolcott also gets a credit, whereas on Saludos Amigos he was only musical director. Very much in the same vein as the earlier release, there really is nothing much inspiring about the music.

††† Just like the previously reviewed Saludos Amigos you immediately notice that despite the six channels, it sounds a lot more like a mono soundtrack than a surround encoded soundtrack. The only time you really notice anything substantial in the body of the sound to indicate obvious surround channel encoding is around the 25:00 mark. Otherwise this is very similar to the soundtrack on Saludos Amigos with basically nothing emanating from the rear surround channels, and with the frontal soundscape sounding like a mono soundtrack coming straight out of the centre channel. There really is little in the way of obvious surround encoding in the front channels. The sound is just a little congested here and there, but is generally quite reasonable with thankfully the background blemishes kept to a minimum.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

†††Not a great package but not a bad package, just a package that does not quite gel with the main programme. However, considering there was apparently a laserdisc release that contained a lot of material regarding the creation of the film, including some technical stuff, it is very disappointing that none of that material has made it to this release.

Menu

†††Another bright and colourful effort that on this occasion is at least reasonably in step with the main feature. Perversely, the menu is widescreen and 16x9 enhanced.

Short Film - Don's Fountain Of Youth (6:10)

†††Made in 1953, this animated short features our old friend Donald Duck and his nephews as they take a little trip that winds up at what was once thought to be a fountain of youth. In an effort to have a shot back at his annoying nephews, Donald does a bit of vandalism and spooks the boys. Presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced, it features very adequate Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. The short is itself quite a good one, but other than Donald Duck the link to the main feature escapes me. Technically there is nothing much wrong with this, although obviously it is fifty years old so don't expect anything in the way of a pristine transfer.

Short Film - Pueblo Pluto (6:32)

†††Made in 1949, we have Mickey Mouse as an incidental accomplice to a visit to a Pueblo souvenir shop by Pluto, who finds a new friend - eventually. The short feature is presented in a Full Frame format that is not 16x9 enhanced and it comes with good Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Given the age of the short, the transfer is actually quite good although there are some slight issues with the colour of Mickey Mouse early on - he lacks a little in colour and seems just a bit affected with colour bleed. The connection to the main feature is even less obvious than the previous animated short.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

††† The Region 1 release features what is presumably the original mono soundtrack and a few trailers, but otherwise there appears to be no difference between that release and the Region 4. However, that original soundtrack would certainly tip the balance in favour of the Region 1 release. In all other respects, the differences between the two releases are swings and roundabouts stuff: the Region 1 release looks a little better than the Region 4, but the sound is a little worse (obviously since that has the original mono soundtrack).

Summary

††† Oft lambasted as one of the worst, if not the worst, of the Disney animated features, I am afraid that I will beg to differ. Sure, The Three Caballeros is hardly the greatest thing that ever came from the Walt Disney fold, but it has a degree of charm to it to my mind that unfortunately just does not bear repeated viewings too well. However, occasional viewings it can sustain well enough. As an early example of a genuine mixing of live action and animation, it serves an important purpose in the overall Disney lexicon, too. Nonetheless, unless you are a fan of Disney animation, this may not be the best place to actual start wandering through some of the lesser known films.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, November 29, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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