Talking Rio 2: An Interview with the Director and Producers!

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Rio 2 director Carlos Saldanha and the film’s producers John Donkin and Bruce Anderson sit down and talk all things Rio 2. Here is what they had to say about their journey through the amazon!

What were you most looking forward to when starting up Rio 2?

John: To top the first Rio movie! You have to do that when you already know all the characters. You see what the expectations are and you know what people like from the first one. So you have to find enough similarities to the first one that will get people back, but you need to bring enough new to it that it’s a progression and you have to take it to the next level.

Carlos: I was looking forward to bringing the characters back and really pushing their stories in this second movie. In the first movie you tell the full story of the characters to really introduce them to the world, but you always have that feeling of wanting to explore their character more. Going into the second film, we had more room and freedom to explore beyond what we found in the first movie. Also, coming up with new characters is a really fun process.

Bruce: I was really looking forward to bringing back the music. It’s such a strong part of the film and we were also excited to reunite the dream team; Sergio Mendes, John Powell and Carlinhos Brown. They did a good job with raising the bar and exploring new rhythms and fun music.


Was the sequel something you were thinking of during the first film?

Carlos: We knew it was a possibility, but really you have bigger fish to fry when you are in production. You try not to think about it when you are working on a movie.

John: Since Rio is the first non Ice Age franchise to have a sequel it wasn’t a given that there would be one. When Rio came out and we saw how positively people were responding, that was when we started to seriously consider a sequel. We thought about what kind of story we could tell. We knew we really loved the characters and they started a family at the end of the film, so we had a solid foundation to build the story from.


Who is your favorite character?

Bruce: You can’t pick your favorite child!

Carlos: I love them all in different parts of the film. Obviously I love Nigel, he’s always been a special character to me. I love Gabi too, she’s a great sidekick.

John: I think they all have their moments to shine where you can clearly see the love that was put into them. In our last screening I was noticing new favorite shots with each of the characters. There are shots towards the end of the movie where Gabi just seems so perfect. Her performance is incredible and she is so well done. I just love the way she’s designed, the way she’s lit, and all of those elements just build into one perfect shot. That’s a tribute to everyone on the pipeline and the amazing collaboration it took to make her.


Why is Nigel such a special character to you?

Carlos: I love all the characters, but Nigel has always been a special character to me because I think he’s a great villain. He has layers of fun and insanity, so there is a lot of over the top things we can do with him because he’s the “bad guy”. Musically he’s a character we had a lot of fun with because of the comedy from Jermaine Clement.

Bruce: Following Nigel’s journey from Rio to Rio2 was great too because he had a strong motive. He got completely defeated by Blu in the first movie so he had real cause to seek revenge.


What were some of the most enjoyable artistic and technical challenges for this production?

Bruce: Creating the Amazon was a good challenge for the big screen. We had to create it in a way that showed the massive scope of it being the largest rainforest in the world. The crew was really amazing and offered up great solutions for development ideas. We had to try and capture as much as possible while sticking to a production schedule. Everyone had a lot of clever ideas for how to build the forest, layer the lighting, and create the moving vegetation. All of those elements brought together the lush, believable environments.

John: It might be the afterglow of the movie, but I felt the crew really rose to the challenge and solved a lot of the issues we had.

Bruce: The river rapids were a huge technical challenge to figure out. Also sequences with large dancing flocks of birds were really tricky, especially when they were in the soccer stadium as soccer fans!

Carlos: We’ve had to work with large crowds before, but once you start to get the variety of the dancing and the soccer stadium, that’s when it starts to get more complicated. The sequences that were the most complex were the big dance sequences that we choreographed and then had to populate with a lot of birds. This was a challenge a lot of departments came together for and worked hard to achieve.

John: Soccer is a good example of incredibly complicated action that’s difficult to choreograph to camera. It’s very difficult to draw fast moving actions on storyboards. Story did a good job trying to get us there but we needed previs, rough animation and workbook to work through the specifics of the camera. It wasn’t until we got to animation that we started to see how all the pieces were going to work together. The sequence shaped up quickly from there, but it felt like it was baking for a really long time. It’s similar for the beautiful creatures dance number. Again there were great ideas for choreography but it wasn’t until we plugged in all the crowd animation that all that hard work really came to fruition.


Since the crew was rolling off of Epic, how did that affect the way they approached this movie?

Bruce: Every movie we do, we learn so much from the movie before. So we definitely took advantage of the crew’s knowledge, and really the crew was teaching us. A lot of the artists would say, “Well we could adopt this method that we learned on Epic to populate the forest and maybe modify this tool over here” and that really helped move the production along.

Carlos: That’s the beauty of it, we take learning experiences from previous projects and it allows us to keep moving and do better things. Because of this, Rio2 turned out visually and technically more advanced than the first one. We were able to do bigger set pieces and the look of it turned out just incredible.

John: Stylistically there were some things that we needed to un-Epic-ize since Epic used very atmospheric lighting and had a depth of focus to emphasize the huge scale of the forest from a small point of view. We had to shift gears a bit to get the workflow to fit the Rio2 style.

Carlos: I think it’s fun though, we keep moving though projects that are very different from each other. I think even the animation we did on this film was different than the first one because we had different characters and the crew had a couple of other projects to grow from.

John: And I know Peanuts is going be very different, yet again!


How does it feel at the end of a production when everything finally comes together?

John: That’s the best, it’s what you strive for the entire production. Blue Sky crew members don’t get the advantage to see the shots come together with the sound and music like we do. When you see the visuals and sound design come together it’s really an incredible moment. We get to work with a whole new set of talented people in post that are throwing themselves at the project to make it really complement the visuals.

Carlos: It’s very gratifying, at the end you get the joy of not only seeing the movie but sharing the beautiful work with the people who worked so hard to make it come together. It really gives us a sense of pride to see a job accomplished to the highest quality we could have imagined. We are really fortunate to have a team of such talented artist to work with. It’s one thing to have the vision and ideas, but to execute them you need a great collaborative team. Having a team this capable, eager and excited to be a part of our vision really shows in the film.

Bruce: Seeing the passion that people bring really reflects back in the work and makes me excited to come back to the studio everyday.