LearnPortuguesewith Us!Start Learning!
This year, Zé Carioca turns sixty five, but he hasn’t aged a bit. That’s because he’s a Disney cartoon who was wildly popular in Brazil for years.
During World War II, Walt Disney and his team traveled to South America with the official purpose of finding new cartoon characters, and with the real purpose being to find ways to increase trade with the region and to prevent German influence on Latin American governments. The team decided the best way to do this was by swaying the continent’s children, and Zé Carioca was born.
He was actually first created by a Brazilian artist J. Carlos, who was inspired by Doutor Jacarandá, a bohemian dandy notorious in Rio’s nightlife at the time. Zé acquired a dapper hat, dress jacket and bow tie, and umbrella based on this real Carioca. Though Zé was obviously supposed to be from Rio, Disney chose a musician from São Paulo, José do Patrocínio de Oliveira, to do his voice, so Zé has a very un-Carioca accent.
Zé’s first film premiered in 1942 in Rio de Janeiro, and was released in the U.S. a year later. In the movie, he travels with Donald Duck and Goofy throughout Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, along with some local characters from each country, though these characters never made it big like Zé. Later, Zé went on to star in several other films, and later was incorporated into print cartoons in Brazil.
You can check out Zé in action here: