An Amazon Adventure

The director of Rio 2 talks about setting the animated sequel in Brazil's rain forest

Apr 04, 2014 | By Kelli Plasket
BLUE SKY STUDIOS

Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) and Jewel (Anne Hathaway) are joined by their music-loving daughter Carla (Rachel Crow) as they take in the sights and sounds of the Amazon jungle.

Director Carlos Saldanha created the 2011 animated movie Rio as a love letter to his hometown of Rio, Brazil. When the flick—about a domesticated blue macaw named Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) who falls in love with a wild macaw named Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathaway)—became a hit, it was an extra reward for the director. “When everyone enjoyed it, I was very happy,” he told TFK. “The audience [response] was a love letter to me.”

The sequel, Rio 2, takes Blu, Jewel, and their three kids into Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, where the family discovers they aren’t the last blue macaws on Earth. But can Blu—who loves living with humans and carries a GPS everywhere he flies—adjust to living in the wild? The director spoke to TFK about what to expect from the new movie, in theaters April 11.

Brazilian-born Carlos Saldanha is the director of Rio and Rio 2.
NINO MUNOZ
Brazilian-born Carlos Saldanha is the director of Rio and Rio 2.

TFK:

What did you want audiences to know about Rio when you set out to make these movies?

SALDANHA:

I wanted to make something I could share that was very personal to me, to where I grew up and my culture. Then I thought I could do it in a fun way that people would relate to it and enjoy it.

TFK:

What adventures are in store for Blu and Jewel in Rio 2?

SALDANHA:

The Amazon is a massive, gigantic place, and now [the family] has to find a way to adapt. We got to explore a lot of great elements of the Amazon, like animal life. We have sloths, river dolphins, jaguars, monkeys, anteaters, and poisonous frogs. I actually got to see most of these animals just going around on a boat while I was there [on a research trip].

TFK:

In the Amazon, Blu meets Roberto, a new blue macaw character played by Bruno Mars. What does he bring to the movie?

SALDANHA:

Bruno Mars is a great addition. Roberto is a fun character. He happens to be an old friend of Jewel’s, so Blu gets a little jealous. Roberto is the same way Bruno Mars is: charming. And his voice is unbelievable. Roberto is a fun character who has a big role in the story as it unfolds.

TFK:

Music plays a big role in Rio 2. What’s your musical highlight?

SALDANHA:

There's a lot of great stuff. Nigel [the villain, voiced by Jemaine Clement] does a showstopper performance, with a fun rap and musical beat there. There are a lot of new flavors. In the first movie, we explored a lot of the samba and rhythms of Rio. In this one, we continue to have that same lively energy of Brazilian music, but with a contemporary feel to it, and at the same time we explore other rhythms.

Blu, Jewel, and their three kids are joined in flight by returning characters Rafael (voiced by George Lopez), Nico (Jaime Foxx), and Pedro (Will.i.am).
BLUE SKY STUDIOS
Blu, Jewel, and their three kids are joined in flight by returning characters Rafael (voiced by George Lopez), Nico (Jaime Foxx), and Pedro (Will.i.am).

TFK:

Did any of the voices change the direction of the character?

SALDANHA:

Bruno Mars was one of them because he really brought in a flavor to the character that was very unique to him. The character wasn't supposed to sing in the story. When I brought him in, we decided to introduce him by having him sing and that was perfect. He helped us shape the character quite a bit.

TFK:

Nigel returns as the villain in Rio 2. What is he trying to accomplish?

SALDANHA:

Nigel was almost completely defeated in the first movie. Now, he has an opportunity for revenge [against] Blu and Jewel. But he can't do it alone because he lost a lot of his feathers and can't fly. So he has two sidekicks to help him out: one of them is Charlie the anteater, a fun character, and Gabby, the voice of Kristen Chenoweth, who is a poisonous frog. So they are going to come up with a dastardly plan to destroy the birds—in a fun way of course!

TFK:

What sort of environmental themes do you hope come across in Rio 2?

SALDANHA:

When the characters go to the Amazon, they experience [environmental destruction]. Even though they have the happiness of finding more of their kind there, they understand that they are under threat by humans who are [illegally] logging the area. So there is an environmental message: Protect the environment, help the Amazon, don’t destroy an environment that is so rich.

TFK:

There's a lot coming to Rio in the coming years, including the World Cup and the Summer Olympics. If kids get a chance to visit Brazil, what should they see?

SALDANHA:

Rio has a lot of fun things for kids to do. There are beautiful nature trips. There are the botanical gardens. You can see monkeys and toucans in their own habitat. The weather is constantly warm, so the beach is always a fun place to go. The sites and landmarks are really impressive. You can go up the trolley to the Sugarloaf Mountain. I think kids will have a good time there. My kids do!