If you’ve never ridden the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros, you probably have a few questions. The name of the attraction itself could bring several to mind, in this order: Is it really “gran”? Is there truly a “fiesta” involved? It’s not one of those “three-hour tours” is it? And who are these Three Caballeros?
Good news: you’re in the right place because we’ll answer those questions — and more you haven’t even thought of! As we go along, we’ll throw in some expert-level Disney-geek background info about the attraction. If you’re in a hurry and want to skip ahead to facts like where it is and how to get on it, click here to jump to the Nuts and Bolts section.
Let’s get started and learn the Five Things You Need to Know About The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros.
1. It’s a Boat Ride Through Mexico
You’ll find The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros inside the pyramid at the Mexico Pavilion at EPCOT’s World Showcase. It’s a slow-paced dark ride down a river through the heart of Mexico. The attraction incorporates animated versions of Donald Duck, José Carioca, and Panchito Pistoles to spice up what’s basically a slower-paced, Mexican-style version of it’s a small world.
The storyline? Donald Duck has gone missing, just before the Three Caballeros are scheduled to perform at the fiesta! You’ll enjoy a gentle cruise past sets and scenery inspired by Mexico as José and Panchito try to find Donald. Large video screens — some 16 in all — show live-action footage and hand-drawn animation of Donald playing tourist in Mexico while José and Panchito try frantically to track him down.
The good news: everyone is reunited in time for a rousing concert in Mexico City at the end of the ride. The finale shows the small audio-animatronics of Donald, Panchito, and José performing their theme song as The Three Caballeros. To cap the celebration, fireworks appear in the “sky” overhead. The whole ride is about 7 minutes.
How are we doing on those questions? Let’s see … it’s the Fiesta that’s Gran, and the Tour is Mexico’s famous sights and cities. It’s not three hours long (although a fellow blogger once rode it 12 times in a row and that probably did take a while). It must be time to answer …
2. Who Are These “Caballeros”?
The three Cabelleros debuted in the 1944 Disney film called … The Three Caballeros. Like the ride, the film incorporated live-action footage and hand-drawn animation.
You can currently watch it on Disney+, where it includes a preface alerting the viewer to the presence of outdated and potentially negative or harmful stereotypes. The Caballeros later appeared in a 13-episode series in 2018, also available on Disney+.
The term “Caballero” means “a Spanish gentleman.” So let’s meet these three and get a little background about each one.
The first “gentleman” is Donald Fauntleroy Duck. (Yup, that’s his middle name.) You pretty much know Donald, and he’s not much of a gentleman! Who else would run off to explore Mexico when he was supposed to be preparing to perform with his two amigos? In this attraction, Donald is voiced by Tony Anselmo.
The second member of The Three Caballeros is the parrot José Carioca, voiced by Rob Paulsen. José at least has a gentlemanly aspect, always carrying his umbrella which he also uses as a walking stick. José is Brazilian, and his last name “Carioca” refers to a native or resident of Rio de Janeiro.
Panchito Pistoles (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui) is a Mexican charro rooster who rounds out the trio. His full name is “Panchito Romero Miguel Junipero Francisco Quintero González III.”
Wondering where the Pistoles comes from? You might jump to the conclusion that “pistoles” means “pistols,” as I did. But I did a little research and found that there’s no such word in Spanish. The word for gun is “Pistolas” with an “a”. So I’m going with the theory that Pistoles is a nickname, because his actual name is such a mouthful.
And at the risk of sounding like the Disney geeks we are, we must point out that Panchito is technically the only Mexican Caballero—José Carioca being from Brazil and Donald from Burbank.
3. It Wasn’t Always About the Three Caballeros
When Maelstrom closed in 2014 to make way for a Frozen-themed ride, there was an uproar about the injection of Disney characters into the World Showcase. But it wasn’t the first time Disney’s intellectual property had been overlaid on a World Showcase ride.
El Rio Del Tiempo (the River of Time) debuted with the Mexico Pavilion on EPCOT’s opening day October 1, 1982. It closed in 2007 and reopened the same year as The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros. It’s not hard to see how the reimagining happened so fast: the new version used most of the same stage sets and animatronics – even the fireworks were in the original ride! The screen content was replaced or modified to add Donald and his friends throughout, and the soundtrack was changed.
Bonus Disney Geek fact: When the re-themed ride opened in 2007, the final stage featured screen content of the three amigos playing their instruments. The audio-animatronics of Panchito, José, and Donald Duck weren’t added to the attraction’s finale until 2015. These audio-animatronics were from the Magic Kingdom’s former Mickey Mouse Revue attraction which closed in 1980.
4. The Song Has a History
We’re happy amigos, no matter where he goes, the one, two, and three goes, we’re always together!
If you know the song these words come from, chances are good you’ve taken the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros. ¡Muy bueno! But you may be surprised to know there’s mucho más to know about the song.
Saludos Amigos was Disney’s first film set in Latin America, and starred Donald Duck and Goofy. (It also introduced José Carioca.) After it proved to be a success, Walt Disney thought a sequel was in order: The Three Caballeros. He personally asked Mexican composer Manuel Esperón to contribute to the film.
Esperón had written the hit song, ¡Ay, Jalisco, no te rajes! and used the same melody for The Three Caballeros. The new English lyrics were written by Ray Gilbert and are not translations of the original Spanish lyrics.
We’re three Caballeros, three gay Caballeros,
They say we are birds of a feather!
We’re happy amigos, no matter where he goes,
The one, two, and three goes, we’re always together!
This new English lyric version proved popular enough to be covered by numerous recording artists, including Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters. And here’s a pretty rousing recording of the original Spanish lyrics version.
5. The Nuts and Bolts
The queue entrance is located towards the rear of the outdoor marketplace inside the Mexico Pavilion’s massive pyramid. It mainly consists of switchbacks with posters showcasing Jose, Panchito, and Donald Duck.
The ride lasts about 7-8 minutes and is gentle and slow-moving. There are no drops or dark, scary moments; it’s truly a family ride for all ages.
More of the ride’s visuals seem to be on the left side of the boat, so you may want small children to sit nearer to that side to enjoy the ride to its fullest. As with all such rides, you’ll be advised to keep your arms, feet, and legs inside the vehicle. (My small granddaughter’s response? “They didn’t say anything about my head!” We had a talk after that.)
Guests must take a moderate step down to board boats with a capacity of three to four guests per row. The seats consist of a hard bench with a back, and there are no safety restraints. There is a wheelchair-capable vehicle; guests in an ECV must transfer to a wheelchair to experience this attraction.
There are no health and safety warnings or height requirements for this attraction. Handheld captioning and Audio Description Devices are available from Guest Services (these require a deposit, refunded when returned on the same day).
The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros is open for Extended Evening Park hours but doesn’t usually have a long wait during regular park hours. This attraction is climate-controlled, so weather conditions don’t affect operations.
The Bottom Line
The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros is a relaxing change of pace ride. The setting itself is beautiful in the eternal twilight of the Mexico pavilion. Our family always makes time to ride. I hope yours will too! ¡Adios y hasta luego!
Have you taken The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.