José was created during World War II events via the "Good Neighbor Policy" to enforce Brazil's cooperation. He represents every aspect of the typical Brazilian. He is smart and friendly, always on a good mood. His clothes represent the Brazilian "Malandros" ("Ladies Men" in Portuguese), and his happiness resembles that of Rio de Janeiro. From the end of the Second World War until 1949, American films were not allowed to be exported to Occupied Europe, which included Disney cartoons. To find a new market to make up for this, Walt Disney focused on the South American market, and used José Carioca to help promote this.
José is suave, cool and good under pressure. He is portrayed as a ladies man and very fun. He enjoys parties, women and his best friends Donald and Panchito.
José is a green tropical parrot based on one spotted by Walt Disney during his Brazilian trip.
In the film Saludos Amigos, José appears in the final segment,Aquarela do Brasil (translated as Watercolors of Brazil). José is created by a living paint brush. Donald Duck sees the painting and meets José. José introduces himself and seems to be a big fan of Donald Duck and his cartoons. José gives Donald a tour of Brazil and offers cachaça at a restaurant. He also teaches Donald how to dance the Samba, a dance native to Brazil. Later, Donald hiccups and gives a great beat for José to start a song. José and Donald party at the club as the segment ends.
José reappears in this sequel film to Saludos Amigos. In the second segment of the film, José presents Donald with a book about Bahia, one of Brazil's states, as a birthday present. José shrinks Donald and himself and the two enter the book. Jose and Donald met up with locals and dance the samba with them. After leaving the book, Donald realizes that he is too small to open his third present. Jose uses "black magic" to transform them both to normal size.
Donald opens his third present, and he and José met Panchito Pistoles, a rooster from Mexico. The three take the name of The Three Caballeros. Panchito takes both José and Donald on a tour of Mexico, telling them the tradition regarding the piñata. José then watches as Donald attempts to break open the piñata. At the end, José lights up some fireworks with his cigar.
In Melody Time, José appears in the sixth segment, Blame it on the Samba. José is seen with Donald, as the two are moping in a cafe. The Aracuan Bird sees them both, and introduces them to the Samba, which manages to cheer up both José and Donald.
José has his own comic book strips in Brazil and South America, similarly to how Panchito has his comic book stories in México and Spanish countries.
José makes a notable appearance in the animated series Mickey Mouse Works in the short "Mickey Tries to Cook". Minnie tires of the mundane ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches that Mickey continuously makes on their dates. Later, Mickey mistakenly believes that José and Minnie have begun dating after seeing the two together in a super market. Mickey tries to become more sophisticated with his cooking, but his efforts backfire. Minnie then sets things straight; she had asked José to set up a dinner date for her and Mickey that featured Brazilian food. Ironically, the food turns out to be ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches, though José calls the food by its Brazilian translation.
José made several appearances in House of Mouse, mostly in crowd scenes with Panchito.
In the episode "The Three Caballeros", he is asked to perform at the club as part of the Three Caballeros. However, problems arise when Donald realizes that no one remembers that he is part of the group. To this end, Donald takes various measures meant to ensure that he isn't forgotten. Finally, Mickey calls José and Panchito to solve the problem. The duo solve the problem by humiliating Donald and making him popular on stage.
José appears in the Epcot boat ride along with Donald and Panchito. In the ride, The Three Caballeros plan to perform a concert in Mexico City, but Donald goes missing, prompting José and Panchito to go on a search for their missing friend.
José appears in the newest parade at Disneyland. José and Panchito join Donald as they dance along the parade with female dancers. He carries a long stick for breaking pinatas.
José, along with Panchito, made his debut in the reboot's second season episode "The Town Where Everyone Was Nice!". Here, he is a member of the DuckTales incarnation of the Three Caballeros, who in the series, was a band Donald was a part of in college. He at first claims to be a jet setter (a person whose job entails that they travel constantly) before revealing that he is just a mere flight attendant. He renews his friendship with Donald and Panchito to defeat the Drosera occidendum.