The Three Cardboard-eros Debut at Walt Disney World

January 29, 2021, 1:08 PM · The journey of The Three Caballeros continues inside the Mexico pavilion at Epcot's World Showcase.

Fans noticed a while back that the animatronics of Donald Duck, José Carioca and Panchito Pistoles that star in the Gran Fiesta Tour indoor boat ride had, uh, seen better days. But today, social media blew up as fans reported that the animatronics had been replaced in one scene by flat cutouts of the three animated birds.

The Three Caballeros on Gran Fiesta Tour
Photo courtesy a reader

I mean, it's better than a broken animatronic or no characters at all. But the flats definitely push the buttons of Disney fans who fear declining quality in the parks. With the pandemic forcing Disney to cut so much live entertainment and daily spectaculars, you can forgive fans for feeling especially sensitive about any other cutbacks around the resort.

But is this really a cutback? If Disney intentionally chose to replace animatronics with painted flats, yeah, that would be. But this strikes me as a stop-gap to cover something that simply broke. Disney does not maintain an animatronic bank of back-up characters, ready to plug in whenever an on-stage figure breaks. So when something breaks unexpectedly, there's going to be some downtime.

Most of the time, Disney's maintenance crews get broken figures back up and running quickly. (And here are some fun examples.) Sometimes, full functionality cannot be restored, but the figure can be remounted in a stable position. (Hello, Yeti!) But other times characters have to "take a break" for repair. Rather than leave the scene empty or close the ride, something like a flat can provide a stop-gap in the meantime.

Frankly, I think Disney did a pretty good job with these. So I'm not going to rush to criticize Disney for their presence... provided their stay is relatively short. If The Three Cardboard-eros are still there this summer, well, then we will have a problem.

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Replies (8)

January 29, 2021 at 1:25 PM

"But is this really a cutback?" Nope, it's a "cut out"!

Honestly, Disney Drones are some of the strangest folks on the planet. I admire their ability to recognize such fine details in the places that they obviously love and fanatically frequent, but they always seem to find conspiracy theories around every corner. Unfortunately, some of these observations and subsequent changes lend credence to these theories, which is why they gain such traction on social media.

Every time Kylo Ren or the NRJ Shaman go into "B-mode", there's an explosion of posts on message boards. Now if only these posters had access to Reddit and some pocket change rolling around in their Robinhood accounts, they would have enough in the bank for their reservations on the Halcyon. It's definitely a slow news day when such musings make their way here.

January 29, 2021 at 2:29 PM

LOLOL @Russell I genuinely enjoyed that response. I'm a Disney super-fan but you aren't wrong, some fans just flip out at the slightest changes. That said I do think the trash-heap that is Bob Chapek's disastrous run (pushed heavily behind the scenes by Bob Iger) has helped fuel some of this paranoia. It's absolutely no secret that they value the bottom line over the customer experience and as a long-time Disney parks attendee I can speak directly to the fact that the "magic" has legitimately diminished under his reign. The parks are noticably less well kept with less cast member interaction and less of those little extra touches that always made Disney so different. Even well before pandemic these things were noticable if you went to the parks even somewhat regularly. I've found Universal Orlando to be a superior overall experience the last several years in fact. That said, come on people these are definitely so they can get the animatronics fully fixed lol

January 30, 2021 at 12:50 PM

I just hope they have a strobe light and are playing that old song "Disco Duck." If not, they are wasting an opportunity.

January 30, 2021 at 6:30 PM

It is fun to see such AA botches and such but really, too many read too much into it. Stuff goes wrong at Disney, that's natural and seen some of it before without thinking it's some grand sign of falling standards. I'm pretty sure on the list of rides needing backup AA, this falls pretty low and guess they figure so few go on it, just let it keep running with this.

Personally, just find it funny and sure someone thought it'd be a good filler gag.

January 31, 2021 at 4:59 AM

While there is a recent TV series based off it, The 3 Caballeros is a movie Disney has added warnings about racist or offensive depictions. Since the world showcase is meant to celebrate diversity, I don’t think there’s any way the attraction will survive much longer. Kind of hard to believe they didn’t close it now. I guess the only reason it probably surives for now is because too much of Epcot is already closed or under construction.

January 31, 2021 at 11:34 AM

The Three Caballeros animatronic figures featured in that scene are on their third theme park assignment having originally been part of the "Mickey Mouse Review" from Magic Kingdom's opening day then moved with that attraction to Tokyo Disneyland and then to Epcot. Certainly expect them back, especially since they are tangible part of Walt Disney World Resort's upcoming 50th anniversary...

February 2, 2021 at 2:19 PM

I think we will see the AA versions back in the ride for an 18 month period following EPCOT's 40th so they can get a proper send off. If any type of funding is available in 2024, I think we can then say adios. Bob Chapek decoded "More Timeless, More Disney" translates to "More IP Related, Less Money Spent in a 30 year cycle".

February 2, 2021 at 4:31 PM

Disney confirmed today the animatronic Tres Cabelleros will return this Spring.

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