The famed cartoonist Don Rosa made several sequels to this story in printed comics, setting José and Panchito up as Donald's only true friends. This is one of the few stories that he worked in to his Duck universe that is not part of the Barks canon.
Clarence Nash also provides the voice of Donald Duck in the Spanish-dubbed version, giving Donald a charming American accent that complements José Carioca's Brazilian and Panchito's Northern Mexican ones.
In his first text story in 1943, Panchito was called "Pancho el Charro". This name was never reused. It means "Pancho the Horseman". "Charro" is a Mexican term for a traditional horseman, particularly associated with specific states of the federation. They are dressed in colorful clothing, with sombreros, heavily embroidered jackets and tightly cut trousers. They typically perform in the charreada, a competitive sport with some similarities to the rodeo.
All three stars of the film have appeared in comic book stories, produced in various countries. Donald Duck and José Carioca are very popular characters and often headline their own series. Panchito Pistoles has not fared so well. He was briefly the star of his own comic strip in 1945, but never quite caught on as a solo star. Most of his appearances in the last 70 years are Three Caballeros reunions, and guest star appearances in various series.
Panchito Pistoles is partly named after the two handguns ("pistols") that he carries in various scenes of the film. However, "pistoles" is not an actual Spanish term. The Spanish term for handguns and pistols is "pistolas".
The music for the title song is the Mexican folk standard "Ay, Jalisco, No Te Rajes." Panchito sings some of the original lyrics just before making his entrance and again at the end of the musical number.
The Aracuan Bird, introduced in the film, ranks among the favorite Disney characters of Warren Spector. Spector is the creator of the Epic Mickey series of video games which focuses on classic and mostly forgotten Disney characters. There were plans to introduce the Aracuan Bird to the first game of the series but the character did not make the final cut.
While the Aracuan Bird does not resemble any real species of bird, the name of the character probably derives from Portuguese "aracuã" and "araucuan". They are terms used in Brazil for the speckled chachalaca (Ortalis guttata), a species of bird found in the Amazon Basin.
The woman Donald lusts after in the "Baía" segment is played by singer Aurora Miranda (1915-2005). She was the younger sister of Carmen Miranda (1909-1955). Aurora had a notable singing career and appeared in a few films, though "The Three Caballeros" (1945) is the one best remembered of them.
The film never depicts or mentions Daisy Duck, Donald's main love interest since 1940. This is probably intentional. Her presence or memory would render scenes of Donald lusting after other woman as depictions of infidelity.
Despite its famous musical soundtrack, the film never won the Oscar for Best Musical Score. It lost to "Anchors Aweigh" (1945), where several of the songs were performed by Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra.
In a certain scene, Donald Duck and José Carioca shrink in size in order to enter a book. In a later scene they return to their proper sizes. The scenes are similar to Alice's changes in size in a later Disney animated feature film, "Alice in Wonderland" (1951).
A certain scene of the film has been seen as homo-erotic in nature. A blindfolded Donald Duck chases after various women and attempts to kiss them. He thinks he has caught one and gives her three kisses. He is actually kissing his male friend José Carioca.
While "Three Caballeros" was the first appearance of Panchito Pistoles in film, it was not really the debut of the character. To help promote the upcoming film, Panchito was introduced in the Disney comics in 1943. His first appearance was the text story "La Piñata" (August, 1943). He then got his first starring role in the 10-page story "Panchito" (November, 1943), where he romances Clara Cluck.
The film "Three Caballeros" (1945) was adapted to a 48-pages long comic book story in 1945. The adaptation was written and drawn by Walt Kelly (1913-1973). Kelly created many stories for the Disney comics, though he is mostly remembered as the creator of the comic strip "Pogo".
The name "Panchito", used by the caballero Panchito Pistoles, is a diminutive form of the name "Pancho". "Pancho" itself started out as a nickname for "Francisco". "Francisco" is the Spanish and Portuguese version of Latin "Franciscus". The English version of the same name is "Francis". "Franciscus" derivative names are popular in several countries because the name was popularized by saint Franciscus Assisiensis (Latin for Francis of Assisi, 1181/1182-1226).
During the final years of World War II, the character of Panchito Pistoles introduced in this film served as a minor military symbol. He was the mascot of the 201st Fighter Squadron, a Mexican fighter airplane squadron that served that assisted the American forces in the recapture of the Philippines. The likeness of Panchito was also painted as nose art on an American bomber airplane, a North American B-25 Mitchell. The original airplane was scrapped in 1949 but another B-25 Mitchell was fashioned into a replica of it with the same Panchito image. It is still in civilian service and appears in air-shows.
The premise of the film is that it is Donald's birthday and his friends give him a tour of Latin America as a gift. The date of the birthday is given as "Friday 13th" with no month specified. The later animated short "Donald's Happy Birthday" (1949) is also set on Donald's birthday and gives the date as "March 13th".
The film introduces the Aracuan Bird, a minor but memorable character. He went on to co-star with Donald Duck in "Clown of the Jungle" (1947) and to appear with both Donald and José Carioca in the "Blame It on the Samba" segment of "Melody Time" (1948). He has since made various appearances in comic books and television animation.
The Aracuan Bird never actually speaks in the film, he only sings and uses various vocal effects. The voice of the Aracuan Bird and his distinctive song are provided by voice actor Pinto Colvig. Colvig provided the voice of several Disney characters over the years but is mostly remembered as the voice of Goofy.
José Carioca introduces Donald Duck to the charms of "Baía". This is actually Portuguese for "bay", the locale being introduced is the state of "Bahia". The two terms are closely related but spelled differently. Bahia is one of the 26 federal states of Brazil.
A scene of the film is devoted to José Carioca teaching magic to Donald Duck in order for him to change size. José calls his magic methods "black magic". This might not be particularly accurate. The term "black magic" is typically applied to the use of magic for evil, malicious, and/or selfish purposes.
The segment "The Cold-Blooded Penguin" features Pablo, a penguin who hates the cold and seeks warmth. This is very similar to the concept of "Chilly Willy" (1953), the debut animated film of the penguin character Chilly Willy. Some animation historians suggest that Chilly Willy was conceived by Walter Lantz and his staff as their version of Pablo.
Pablo the penguin has been adapted to the Disney Comics, though he has made few actual appearances. In 1949, he co-starred in the story "Dumbo and Pablo Penguin". His co-star being Dumbo. In 1954, Pablo starred in the story "Pablo, the Cold-blooded Penguin". In 1995, he was re-introduced in the Brazilian story "Paulinho, O Pingüim". It was followed by 3 sequel stories, all published in 1995. The rest of his appearances are cover arts and posters.
The ethnicity of the protagonist of "The Flying Gauchito" is depicted differently in the English and Spanish versions of the film. In the English version, the Gauchito is from Uruguay, while in the Spanish version he is from Argentina.
The term "gauchito" from the segment "The Flying Gauchito" means "little gaucho". The term "gaucho" refers to the horsemen and cattle herders of the South American Pampas. They serve as a national symbols in both Argentina and Uruguay, though their presence is not limited to these countries.
Burrito, the character of the film, is a small donkey with bird-like wings who can fly. While the concept of the flying donkey is original to the film, it probably derives from the more common concept of a flying horse. The concept derives from Pegasus, a character from Greek mythology, and has since become a common theme in art and fiction.
"The Three Caballeros" (1944) is one of three Disney animated feature films to feature flying equines, in this case a flying donkey. The other two are "Fantasia" (1940) and "Hercules" (1997) which feature flying horses.
Since the concept of the "The Flying Gauchito" was in production long before the release of the "The Three Caballeros", the featured characters appeared in Disney comics two years before the release of the film. Specifically, the Flying Gauchito and Burrito first appeared in the comic book story "The Flying Gauchito" (September, 1942). It was drawn by Walt Kelly.
The Flying Gauchito and Burrito have made a few appearances in comics since their debut in 1942, though they were never major stars. They co-starred in "The Flying Gauchito" (1942), "The Flying Gauchito" (1954), "O Gauchinho Voador" (1995"), "O Dever Cumprido" (1995), and "Quem É O Burro?" (1995). The rest of their appearances are adaptations of the Three Caballeros, covers, and posters.
The segment "Las Posadas" is Christmas-themed. It depicts Las Posadas (Spanish "lodgings", "accommodations"), a Mexican Christmas custom. It commemorates the wanderings of Mary, Mother of Jesus during her pregnancy.
The film depicts Donald Duck as girl-crazy. He lusts after live-action women, chases after them, kisses them and an entire segment, "Donald's Surreal Reverie", is devoted to his drunk-like reverie from the various interactions with them. This has been one of the most discussed aspects of the film since its release.
Several of the songs used in the film became 1940s hits when covered by artists like Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore. They have continued to receive covers over the years and some are considered standards.
The title song "The Three Caballeros" and its lyrics are original to the film. However, the melody was an adaptation. It is the melody of "¡Ay, Jalisco, no te rajes!" (1941) by Manuel Esperón (1911-2011).
The song "Have You Been to Bahia?" is a new version of "Você Já Foi à Bahia?" (1941) by Dorival Caymmi (1914-2008). Somewhat unusually, the version used in the film contains lyrics in two languages. It retains part of the original Portuguese lyrics, and translates the rest to English. It is very close in meaning to the original version with one key change, to whom the song is addressed. In the original version the singer introduces Bahia to a "nega" (female lover). In the new version, the term "nega" is replaced with the name "Donald".
The film uses an instrumental composition in a scene featuring cacti. It is the polka "Jesusita en Chihuahua" (1916) by Quirino Mendoza y Cortés. Unusually for a Disney film, it is a military-themed composition. The composer was a military officer of the Mexican Revolution (c. 1910-1920) and the song was primarily used at first by military bands.
While Pablo the penguin is sailing from Antarctica to the Galápagos Islands, an instrumental composition is heard. It is appropriate to the scene since its "Sobre las olas" ("Over the Waves", 1888) by Juventino Rosas (1868-1894).
A 2002 episode of the television series "House of Mouse" which focused on Panchito revealed that "Panchito Pistoles" is his pseudonym. The episode gave his actual name as "Panchito Romero Miguel Junipero Francisco Quintero González III".