The Three Caballeros
The First film on the list is The Three Caballeros, released in 1944 this was the first feature length film in history to incorporate animation with live action actors. It even stars one of Disney’s most famous characters, Donald Duck. In the film it’s Donald’s birthday and his Latin American friends José Carioca, a parrot from Rio de Janeiro and Panchito Pistoles, a Mexican gun toting, guitar playing rooster, who each give him presents that take him all across Central and South America. Though the film may be little known the characters can still be seen amongst different attractions in Disneyland resorts and even had their own cartoon series released earlier this year called The Legend of the Three Caballeros.
Song of the South
It would be no surprise if you hadn’t seen this film. Song of the South was something of a controversy magnet; the film was set in the 1870s just after the civil war and showed African Americans in a stereotypical manner, living happily with their lot in life. Particular effort was put into making sure the film offended nobody with its representations, which ironically is what caused it to be offensive. It was last released on VHS in 1991 but has seen no release since. The film follows Uncle Remus as he tells his stories of B’rer Rabbit and features the well-known song ‘Zip-a-dee-doo-dah’ which seems to be one of the few surviving aspects of the film.
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
Here we have ourselves a two-for-one special. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad was an animated package film released by Walt Disney in 1949, it contains two segments, the first being based on children’s novel The Wind in the Willows and the second based on the American short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Both animations are presented and narrated as if reading from the books, the first by Basil Rathbone and the second by Bing Crosby. They both feature excellent animation and a number of songs that sit up there with some of Disney’s best, this film is certainly worth checking out, especially for those that are looking for a new Halloween favourite.
The Black Cauldron
This is certainly a different kind of Disney animation film. In the 80s Disney got dark, and this was the height of their darkness. Put it this way, this was the first Disney animated film to receive a PG rating. Extreme! This film abandoned the humour and the songs that had become synonymous with the company. It was based on the first two books in The Chronicles of Prydian series by Lloyd Alexander. It centres on the evil Horned King who is attempting to procure a magic cauldron that will help him to conquer the world, his plans however are scuppered thanks to the efforts of a princess, a young pig keeper, a bard and a bizarre creature named Gurgi. So basically, Disney’s take on a Dungeons & Dragons story. The film was poorly received, though from what I can tell it’s because of how unexpectedly different it was, it’s worth a watch for anyone that’s interested.