Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Character Spotlight: Jose Carioca

Saludos Amigos was the first appearance of Jose Carioca, aka Joe Carioca, aka Ze Carioca. The affable parrot from Rio de Janeiro (Carioca, by the way, is a term meaning native of Rio) may seem like a relatively obscure Disney character to modern American audiences, but that wasn't always the case... and it still isn't everywhere.

First of all, Joe has a prominent role in three different Disney animated features: we meet him in the "Aquarela do Brasil" sequence of Saludos Amigos (1942), he returns as a full-on co-star throughout The Three Caballeros (1944), and returns with Donald in a segment of Melody Time (1948) called "Blame it On the Samba." That's three big-screen appearances by the Brazilian bird in a six year period! At the time he must've seemed like one of Disney's headline stars (additionally, he's got a blink-and-you'll miss it cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and the foreman of the jury in Alice in Wonderland certainly looks and dresses like our Joe).

What may surprise you even more: in some parts of the world, he's still pretty active! In his native Brazil, Ze Carioca has starred in his own comic book since 1961, now numbering over 2000 issues! He has his own supporting cast complete with a girlfriend, nephews, friends, and foes. He even occasionally suits up as a superhero known as The Green Bat.

Somewhere along the line, they also redesigned his classic look to give him a t-shirt and (that already very-dated signature of a "hip" comic character) a backwards baseball hat. Sigh.

Joe is also a frequent co-star in comics in the Netherlands, of all places, where he often reunites with his old big-screen cohort, Donald Duck.

Jose can currently be seen in both American Disney resorts, but we'll get into that more next month when we take a look at The Three Caballeros.

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