Animation History
July 15, 2013 posted by Jerry Beck

“The Three Caballeros” (In Featurette Form)

Walt Disney’s The Three Caballeros (1945) is one of my favorite Disney features – mainly because it’s the least “Disney” animated feature Disney ever made. It’s an “anti-Disney” Disney film, with a “Tex Avery” take on Donald Duck (if not the Aracuan Bird). I love it. Forget Fantasia or Alice In WonderlandThe Three Caballeros the closest thing to an acid trip the studio ever produced.

So imagine my surprise as a young Disney enthusiast – way back when, in an era before VCRs, VHS, DVDs, You Tube or Netflix, in the Summer of 1976 – I saw this flyer (below) for a Disney festival playing at my local neighborhood single-screen movie theatre.

Disney_summer_76_550

Each week another double bill of Disney animated classics and live action reissues. Cool! Hey wait, what’s that on August 27th? – The Three Caballeros?? I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had already seen a 16mm print of Three Caballeros and it blew my mind. Now, I’d have the opportunity to see it in 35mm, numerous times, at my local theatre. Hooray!

So imagine my surprise when I went to theatre, grabbed a big bucket of popcorn and started watching what turned out to be an edited version of the film. Edited to 41 minutes (from its original 71 minute length) – 30 minutes missing!

It was a strange edit; It was really a shortened version. They snipped parts from the entire film. Edits were made to The Flying Gauchito, from Pablo the Penguin, From the trip to Brazil and Baia, to Mexico and to the songs. The whole film was there but in truncated form. I was pissed – to say the least.

There was nothing in the advertisements or the newly designed one-sheet poster (see thumbnails below, click to enlarge) about this edited version. I expected the whole movie. Boy, I was mad – and in the first (and so-far only) time in my life, I called the studio to complain (we didn’t have blogs back then to vent outrage)! I had no connections to Disney, nor any idea who to call – but I decided to phone the local Buena Vista distribution office in New York.

I found them listed in the phone book and eventually got through to an executive there. He listened to my complaint, told me there was nothing he could do about it – and that he wasn’t even aware it was an edited version (he was clueless about the original film, which at the time was over 30 years old and hadn’t been reissued before). He gave me his word he’d register my complaint to the higher authorities. I had done my duty and felt good that I’d struck a blow for the cause of Disney history.

Five months later, on January 21st 1977, Disney released this reissue double-bill to theaters across America:

Again, you’ll notice that there is no reference to The Three Caballeros being edited – its implied that its a double feature, of two full-length movies. Before I could get too excited that perhaps my complaint was taken to heart and they were now releasing the whole film – I noticed three words added to the lobby card and in the newspaper ads: “In Featurette Form”

Lobby_Card_title

I guess they did hear me. So instead of scrapping the release of the featurette version, they simply decided to let people know – no matter how subtle.

What bothered me about the “featurette version” was that it was such an unsatisfying edit. If you were going to chop out 30 minutes, I think I’d have started by removing the first 20 minutes (bye-bye Gauchito and Pablo) and try to keep most of the Donald-Jose-Panchito material intact.

What a mess it was. Luckily, the 1976-edit is buried in vaults with no reason to even return. Below is the final remnants of this re-release disaster, the one-sheet and press book from 1977. The last remaining evidence of an ill-concieved effort to pass off a 1940s classic as a mere short subject reissue (click thumbnails to enlarge):

three-caballeros1977 3cab-13cab-23cab-3
3cab-43cab-53cab-6

16 Comments

  • The best part about the pressbook is how the publicity writers tried to make the egregious edits sound like a plus: “The 1945 film has been re-edited to a fast-paced, fun filled featurette…” I’d say the film was more filled with fun BEFORE it was edited down. It’s interesting that Disney/Buena Vista put the disclaimer on the ad material after hearing from you, Jerry…they probably thought no one cared or would know the difference about this WWII relic (in their eyes). If not outright illegal it is definitely frowned upon as bad show in the film distribution biz to present a film as something it is not. In 1979, Disney clearly (i.e., in super small type) labeled the unfortunate edit of Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) as the “New, Revised Version.” And to take an even stranger albeit non-Disney, non-animation related example, 20th Century Fox’s box-office fiasco Star! (1968, “star”ring Julie Andrews) was re-relaesed in truncated form as “Those Were The Happy Days” with the small-print disclaimer “Previously Released as Star!” This resulted in at least some moviegoers who had already seen Star! heading to the theatre expecting to see a new Julie Andrews film. So the disclaimers are actually intended to stave off complaints or even lawsuits since the studios can respond, “Sorry, we included a disclaimer on all publicity material.” (On an even stranger note, early plans for Star! actually included an animated version of Julie Andrews to narrate the film…so I guess everything is related to cartoons after all.)

    • Weird thinking of a time when studios did that.

    • If not outright illegal it is definitely frowned upon as bad show in the film distribution biz to present a film as something it is not

      The motion picture industry has been retitling, reediting, and otherwise fiddling with its films throughout its history. It certainly isn’t illegal, and is frowned upon only when audiences get upset and complain about it. Neither are disclaimers required. It’s good form to let audiences know about it, but it’s not something distributors have to do.

  • Jerry:
    I can fully understand you feeling you got ripped off! When I got the VHS copy of Make Mine Music,I didn’t realize until too late that the entire Martins and the Coys sequence was gone! There were censors lurking at Disney round every corner! Then,when new technology was developed,they started doing ridiculous things like digitally editing out Pecos Bill’s cigarette! There was just no sane reason for doing what was done!The same reason they refuse to release Song Of The South here in the U.S.! It simply ruins the chancefor the general public to judge a bona fide classic for ourselves!

  • The people that grew up in the 1970′s will be happy when they learned that, by the early 1980′s, “The Three Caballeros” is unedited on VHS!

    The era starting from 1978 to 1985 was a great beginning of Walt Disney Studios’ home video legacy!

  • Cutting the first two sequences would have made for a better edit as “The Three Caballeros” takes quite a while to get going. Once it does, it’s one of the best things Disney ever did.

    • Yeah that opening was pretty much “Donald Watches A Film” in the way it is presented. It’s not enough we meet Jose when things start to get rolling.

  • Mmmmmmmmmm…. Carmen Molina… yum.

  • The same thing was done with musicial numbers in “Disney’s Sing-Along Songs”. But Disney wasn’t the only one to tamper with song-based scenes or cartoons. “Animaniacs” Sing-Along: Yakko’s World had one ridculously edited watered down version of “HMS Yakko”, cutting out things like snoring, pirate property “BEWARE” signs, some wisecracking lines, the pirate’s attempts to destroy the Warner siblings, and a brief cleaning out the soot before the final number. Luckily the DVD is the uncut version shown on TV with title card it’s the third episode on Vol. 1. Howeve anime studio TMS further farmed the animation, so it’s a little unpleseant to look at nowadays.

  • I saw the edited version as a kid, which I liked without knowing it was so heavily cut; the complete version on DVD blew my mind. Especially the Rio scenes. A Blu-ray upgrade would be very nice. . . .

  • I’ve only seen the 1977 double feature version, which I vaguely remember as being much shorter than the Dick Van Dye film that accompanied it. Seems like an odd pairing, and ‘Never A Dull Moment’ was pretty hopelessly dated by 1977.

    • Disney films even in the late 70′s sure did felt that way did they?

  • Let’s not forget when the two-reel Popeyes could only be seen in the Famous Studios versions, not only shortened but with replaced sound and a cheesy framing story with the current Popeye. But at least they were retitled.

    • Looking at those now, they have so-bad-it’s-good camp value. And they didn’t really “ruin” the originals if the original versions are just as acessible (with the Famous versions not on a WHV DVD/Blu-ray and on PD collections or the Internet).

  • My oh my, an edited version of The Three Caballeros? I never thought that was even possible. Apart form standalone sequence of Pablo the Penguin. But it seems the Disney company misunderstood your complaint. Maybe we should all stop that and start telling studios how much we love edited and watered down versions of movies, then maybe they would instead give us the whole unaltered thing in its original glory.

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