Title: The Three Caballeros
Release Date: December 21, 1944
Director: Norman Ferguson (supervising director), Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kinney, Bill Roberts, and Harold Young
Production Company: Walt Disney Productions
The second of Disney’s six package films of the World War II era is also the second to originate from Walt Disney & company’s good will visit to Latin America after Saludos Amigos (which I’ve not yet watched). The movie focuses on Donald Duck receiving birthday gifts from his feathered friends in Latin America, the Brazilian parrot José Carioca and the Mexican rooster Panchito Pistoles.
The first two segments are animated shorts that we watch with Donald. “The Cold-Blooded Penguin” tells the story of a penguin named Pablo who hates the cold and migrates to the Galapagos. “The Flying Gauchito” tells the story of a boy from Uruguay who adopts a flying donkey. Both stories are cute and feature lots of puns and sight gags.
José then joins Donald and takes him on a journey to Bahia in Brazil through a pop-up book where they sing and dance with Aurora Miranda. Panchito joins them and they learn the Christmas story of Las Posadas. The three birds travel around Mexico on a flying sarape, exploring various song and dance traditions. Then things get weird as Donald has surreal visions while singer Dora Luz performs. Donald then dances with Carmen Molina among shrinking and swelling cactus before the grand finale.
For much of this movie Donald Duck is incredibly horny about the Latin American women performers. Even if you set aside 2020 sensibilities about the “male gaze” and sexual harassment, the fact that these excellent performances by Miranda, Luz, and Molina keep getting upstaged by Donald going full-Tex Avery is just rude. I’m not sure why the filmmakers felt they needed nonstop “comic relief” but it doesn’t feel like they had much goodwill for the artists of Latin America. The visuals are pretty impressive in the animation and I really like the musical numbers, especially Aurora Miranda’s.
Title: The Wizard of Oz
Release Date: August 25, 1939
Director: Victor Fleming
Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
I watched this movie for the first time in a long time, and well, it’s basically just as I remembered it, which is a good thing. It’s an adventure, it’s a symbolic journey of self-discovery, it’s a musical, it’s funny, it’s scary. It looks really fake, but to the point that the painted sets and props are weirdly effective works of arts in their own right. I was born long after color film was standard but the transition from the sepia of Kansas to the majestic colors of Oz is still astounding. Watching as an older adult, I am also impressed at how the young Judy Garland handles being central to almost every scene. About the only thing that is not good about this movie is that it’s not a good adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book which I also love. One day, I’d like to see a faithful film adaptation of the movie made too, but this version will always stand alone as its own great thing.
Release Date: 27 November 2013
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Production Co: Walt Disney Company
Country: United States
Genre: Animation | Family | Musical
As of yesterday, I’ve ended my reign as the last middle class American parent of young children to have not see Frozen. My daughter and I watched it on DVD. Despite all the hype and attention to the movie, it wasn’t quite what I expected, which means I somehow wasn’t spoiled. It was a good mix of musical set pieces, humor, adventure, and a story of sisterly love. I liked Olaf the snowman and Sven the reindeer the best. Yep, I liked it. So, I guess it was worth the wait.
Title: Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Release Date: 1971
Director: Robert Stevenson
Production Co: Walt Disney Productions
Country: United States
Genre: Adventure | Fantasy | Family | Musicals | Animation
Set in Second World War England, three children have been evacuated to the countryside (oddly to a town overlooking the Channel) to stay with Miss Price (Angela Lansbury), a witch-in-training. Along the way on their magical adventures they pick up the con-man Professor Browne played by David Tomlinson. The movie is more of a series of loosely-connected set pieces than a story. Some of them go on too long, like the dance number on Portobello Road, although it is interesting to see the many faces of the British Commonwealth represented in a cheerful wartime London. Better are the mixed live action and animation sequences with fish dancing in an undersea ballroom and a raucous soccer game among wild animals. The conclusion features some whimsical special effects that stand up well after forty years as military uniforms and armor are magically brought to life to defend Britain against a German incursion. It’s a fun, entertaining bagatelle of a movie. My kids enjoyed it for sure.
Title: The Sound of Music
Release Date: 1965
Director: Robert Wise
Production Co: 20th Century Fox
Country: United States
Genre: Musical / Classic
Summary/Review: It’s hokey, a bit saccharine, and historically inaccurate, but The Sound of Music is a fine movie worthy of its classic status. The music, the cast, the scenery, the cinematography — all wonderful. I watched this with my three-year old son, his first “grown-up” film, over a period of three days (hopefully making up for the fact that I didn’t watch it for the first time until I was 20). He enjoyed it as well, except for the boring parts when the Captain and the Baroness were just talking (“Where are Maria and the kids?”). He liked the music and we’ve been singing “Do-Re-Mi” and “The Lonely Goatheard.” Granted, there are some challenging aspects of trying to explain the Nazis to a toddler mostly because I don’t think he has a frame of reference to understand Nazis yet. Overall it’s a great movie and a great family experience and I’m sure we’ll watch it again.