Will Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros See a Retheme?

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You might be asking yourself, how did Donald Duck celebrate his 10th birthday?

If you are, you have more in common with the Disney brain trust of the early to middle 1940s than you knew. 

As World War II was coming to an end, Walt Disney premiered its latest movie in Mexico City, “The Three Caballeros”.

The Three Caballeros Posters at Gran Fiesta EPCOT
“The Three Caballeros” characters as they were in the 1940’s movie (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

What is the plot of ‘The Three Caballeros’?

The movie is six vignettes strung together by the plot device of Donald Duck opening his birthday presents. I suppose, you have to have SOMETHING for a storyline and Mickey Mouse wasn’t having a major birthday that year. 

Essentially, it’s a travelogue of sorts with Donald exploring South America. And – how do I put this – having the hots for a variety of live-action human women along the way? It was enough that the reviewers at the time openly questioned what Disney was thinking. 

All I know is, Daisy Duck would not be thrilled.

On the plus side, it’s one of the first features to mix live action and animation. On the downside, it casts our hero as kind of a lecher. 

Along the way, Donald hangs with the other members of his singing group, The Three Caballeros. José Carioca is a Brazillian parrot, who smokes cigars and wears a boater-type hat, while Panchito Pistoles is an armed Mexican rooster.

Jose Carioca made his Walt Disney Company debut in 1942’s “Saludos Amigos” – a similar film to Caballeros in that it combined live action and animation and featured multiple vignettes. Goofy made an appearance in one of the six while Donald was in two others. 


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Why is Donald Duck in a multicultural singing group? 

It’s unclear.

We can assume that while sailing, Donald made friends around the world. 

The Three Caballeros on stage at EPCOT's Gran Fiesta Boat Tour
A caballero translates to a horseman or gentleman (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Why is the group called The Three Caballeros?

It remains unclear. Only one of the group members is sort of a horseman. Another translation is “the three gentlemen”.

Although to be fair, Donald does not behave very gentlemanly in the feature.

The best we can say is Walt was making a very dedicated effort to grow the company in Latin America. Several Latin American stars of the day, including Carmen Miranda’s sister, made appearances. 

The Gran Fiesta Pyramid at EPCOT
The Gran Fiesta Tour starring The Three Caballeros is still in the pyramid at EPCOT (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Is there still a ride in Mexico in EPCOT?

Yes. The Gran Fiesta Tour starring The Three Caballeros is still in the pyramid in the Mexico Pavilion at World Showcase. The boat ride is a little bit like Small World but with a Mexican theme.

It’s a perfect combo if planning a meal at the San Angel Inn Restaurant. 

Read Also: What is the best restaurant at EPCOT? Here’s our top 10, ranked

Is the Three Caballeros ride closing?

Not that we’re aware of. There has been speculation that the ride is ripe for refurbishment a la the way Maelstrom in the Norway Pavilion was swiftly re-themed to capitalize on the success of the “Frozen” franchise.

In fact, The Three Caballeros ride could fairly easily be re-themed to celebrate the artistically and commercially successful “Coco,” which was set in Mexico.

Inside the Gran Fiesta Boat Tour EPCOT
Guests slowly cruise down the Rio Grande in a dark boat ride at Gran Fiesta (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Are there any drops in Gran Fiesta Tour?

No. It’s a very tame attraction, maybe even boring. The first scene is quite beautiful but the focus is more on education than entertainment. 

The theming is that Donald has disappeared South of the border – and it’s up to the other two Caballeros from the musical trio – Panchito (the Mexican charro rooster) and José Carioca (the Brazilian parrot) to find him in time for the concert.

Guests cruise down the Rio Grande on a dark boat ride past some of the most famous sights and cities in Mexico. Is that Donald climbing a Mayan pyramid in Chichen Itza? Maybe. Probably. Possibly Carmen Miranda’s sister is in there. 

Do you get wet on the Three Caballeros?

Only if you jump out of the ride vehicle. For the record, don’t do that.

This is probably the tamest ride in all of Walt Disney World. Guests could nap comfortably and well in the air conditioning while enjoying the gentle boat ride. 

The Signage Gran Fiesta Boat Tour EPCOT
The Gran Fiesta Tour with the Three Caballeros would likely not rank high on most guest’s lists (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

How does The Three Caballeros ride rank among rides in EPCOT’s World Showcase?

In last place. In fairness, Frozen Ever After is the recently refurbished Maelstrom and while it isn’t exactly a thrill ride, there is a drop and you do go backward at some speed. 

And Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is a new ride with cutting-edge technology. It’s probably the second-best ride in the park. 

In fairness, the little boat ride in the Mexican Pavilion with its handful of animatronic dolls doesn’t really have any chance to compete.

Read Also: The Ratatouille ride at EPCOT: Tips for riding, what you should know

EPCOT's Three Caballeros Waving Goodbye
At the time of this writing, the Gran Fiesta Tour has not been re-themed (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Should they re-theme the ride? 

I know people are sensitive about re-theming rides in the wake of the whole Splash Mountain thing, but I think they absolutely should. 

“Coco” is one of Pixar’s best movies – and that’s saying something. 

The idea of the boat cruise taking us on a journey through a land of ancestors while we hear the songs from that banging Coco soundtrack? 

That’s a ride I want to experience. 

Start with Miguel accidentally transported, meeting Hector and singing “Poco Loco” and meeting Ernesto De La Cruz singing “Remember Me” and closing the ride with Miguel and Coco singing her Daddy’s song.

That’s an emotional roller coaster even if not an actual roller coaster. 

cocoa ofrenda in the gran fiesta tour
There is a nod to “Coco” in the Plaza de Los Amigos, but Disney could do more with the popular Pixar film (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Will people be upset if they re-theme the ride?

It’s possible. I mean there are people out there angry over Br’er Rabbit and Br’er Bear so I’m sure someone is willing to get upset over the Three Caballeros. 

The thing is after 1944, it’s not like the trio remained a key part of the Disney family. There was a rerelease in the 1970s and an odd reference here or there over the years. 

This version of the ride didn’t open in 2007 when it replaced the El Rio del Tiempo ride which was in the same spot from 1982 to 2007. So it’s not like it’s an iconic presence in the park. 

It makes so much sense, why isn’t it happening?

I suspect the biggest reason they haven’t made this move is they’re considering bigger things for “Coco” somewhere else at the Walt Disney World Resort. Having said that, the delay is hard to understand. “Coco” came out in 2017. 

There should be a plan by now to get more of the film in the parks.

Another complicating factor is the success of “Encanto”, which is based in Colombia. It’s possible that Disney wants to make Colombia and “Encanto” part of the World Showcase.

Certainly, there is plenty of space to add more lands. And they could find a home for “Coco” in the rumored Magic Kingdom expansion. 

Hopefully, we will learn soon what the future holds for “Coco” in the Walt Disney World theme parks.

Have you ridden The Gran Fiesta Tour at EPCOT? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.

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John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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