Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chicanonautica: When Donald Duck Sold Latin America

Disney keeps trying to buy the cultures of the world. Snow White was once German, and Cinderella French. Now Star Wars is Disney property. But they did back off on their attempt to procure Día de Los Muertos. Cuidado, you could become a marketable franchise!

Once upon a time, they actually tried to promote other cultures. It was World War Two; the State Department called Walt in and assigned him to help make Americanos like Latin America and Latin Americans. Seemed that the Latinos might be needed to stop the Nazis from marching across the Mexican border. The result was The Three Caballeros.

Latin America was literally wrapped up as a birthday present and given to Donald Duck, who was standing in for the typical American service man (back then war was still seen as a same-sex activity, and women in the military were a novelty) as he did in a number of cartoons where he was in the Army. After cartoons about an Antarctic penguin going north, and a flying burrito (the animal, not the food), the Brazilian parrot José Carioca, and Mexican rooster Panchito, pop out of the box and take Donald on a musical magical mystery tour of Latinolandia.

José Carioca, as Zé Carioca -- Zé being Portuguese for José or Joe -- went on to be a popular comics character in Brazil.

Panchito faded away. He was rowdy, sombrero-wearing, gun-toting Mejicano who didn’t need no stinkin’ badges. He’d have a hard time getting across the border these days.

Then things get . . . trippy . . . Donald, being the only Disney character allowed to cuss -- albeit unintelligibly -- and feel lust, goes wild over Latin babes. And they aren’t cartoons, but real, live, flesh-and-blood women: Brazilian Aurora Miranda, Mexicanas Carmen Molina and Dora Luz, and a horde of bathing beauties. Dora becomes a flowery avatar of  the Aztec goddess Xochiquetzal, Carmen takes on the aspect of a peyote goddess -- ancient cultures sneaking in. These transformations take place before things can go places only hallucinated about in underground comix. The “climax” of The Three Caballeros out-psyches both The Yellow Submarine and 2001: A Space Odyssey

Disney never made other such films. Neither LBJ or Nixon drafted Donald into convincing Americans that our South Vietnamese allies were desirable. What would modern sequels about the Middle East or Africa be like?

Nah. It’ll never happen. Just a scifiista letting his imagination get out of control. No drugs required.

Ernest Hogan’s novels, Cortez on Jupiter, High Aztech, and Smoking Mirror Blues are soon going be available as trade paperbacks, along with a collection of his best short fiction.

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