Sun. Jul 3rd, 2022

Hometowns, or the places we grew up, often linger in our mind years after we’ve left them. Carlos Saldanha, the director of animated musical comedy “Rio 2,” who grew up in Brazil, has nothing but good things to say in regards to his enchanting, culturally rich, home-sweet-home. A location he revisited in preparation for “Rio 2,” the sequel to Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios massive worldwide blockbuster, “Rio.” “Rio 2” pulled in $39 million this weekend, nearly the same as it’s predecessor, only being beaten to a slim margin to Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Solider,” which took first place.

Blue, (Jesse Eisenberg) the once sidelined Macaw parrot, who would rather have remained caged and content than spread his wings and explore his natural habit, joins a new congregation of ultra-sparse birds in “Rio 2.” Alongside his adventurous new wife (Ann Hathaway) and their three zany children, the unique, rare feathered creatures leave Rio de Janerio and venture off deep into the Amazon jungle to find an unseen tribe of Macaws that are possibly the last of their species.

Both “Rio” films are director Carlos Saldanha’s love letters to his country of Brazil. “I’m from Rio, I grew up in Rio. When we were developing the story, and I worked with the artist, and we started to look at the visuals and all that stuff, I remember a lot of the images I would get from the artist looked like a tourist version of it. It felt like a non-authentic version, like someone trying to portray something that they really don’t know.” This was frustrating for Saldanha who was attempting to capture the atypical wonders of the city. “What I told them was, you’re all Blue. You’re all Blue coming to Rio for the first time and I don’t want you take pictures of the stuff we see all the time. I want you to notice the things that attract you.” He elaborated, “For example; a side-walk, or crack on the wall, or graffiti that’s hidden somewhere, or the people you notice on the street, or something you eat, or something in the market that you’ve never seen before. I wanted to catch the unusual.” After six months of dissatisfaction with the quality of replicating the true spirit of Rio, Saldanha had finally had enough. “I would just look at the things and feel that those images were foreign to me. I said to them, we have to get a dream team together, and we have to go to Rio.” This pre-production study was a mini-vacation for Saldanha, his wife and four children as well as a chance for Saldanha and his art team to paint a better canvas of the vibrant world he was aiming to mirror.  “We did and it was incredible. I did five days, the exact the journey of the movie.” On the various fun events the group participated it, he replied, “We went hang-gliding, we went to the crowded beach, we went to the markets, we paraded. They also had to learn how to samba and to dance.” Saldanha made it clear to his team that they had to go during Rio’s world famous festival. “We had to go at the most complicated time, which is Carnival. The city is the fullest and it’s the most expensive time to go. I would say don’t go that time of year because it’s going to be very crowded. “ He then humorously added, “Unless you really want to go to party.”

“Rio 2” migrates from the city of Rio de Janerio to the biologically overflowing tropical setting of the Amazon rainforest. Saldanha, who had never been there before, stated, “I’ve always had the dream of going to The Amazon as a kid. That was one of my childhood dreams, but I never went and I was afraid I was going to make a movie that would not feel right.” Saldanha openly admitted to traveling with a runner’s fanny pack, a confession that had the interview room erupting in laughter. “Before I went, I tried to pack tons of bug spray.” He jokingly commented, “I have one of those runner’s fanny packs, but you don’t see it. A hidden fanny pack that I tend to carry through my journeys, but nobody knows that I’m wearing it!” When asked the details of his vast wilderness expeditions, Saldanha stated, “I felt almost like an intruder. It’s one of those places you’re in awe of, but you don’t feel like you belong there. It’s just so perfect. The cute creatures that were born and live there, and the plants and the animals, their co-existence is so perfect. The water, the forest, there’s a cycle of life that feels natural, but you are not a part of that cycle. It’s not your natural cycle of life. I can’t explain it, but that’s the vibe that I get.” He further elaborated, “That’s what I wanted to convey in the movie’s message: It’s protected, so don’t try to change it or make it something else because you disrupt something that was done already in a special way.”

What arose from Saldanha’s return to his homeland was a better comprehension of where he wanted to take the story and characters of “Rio 2.” “When I came back, I had a clear vision and more inspiration of what I wanted to do with the movie. The change of perspective on the movie was so different.” Speaking on the trip as a whole, Saldanha emphasized, “It was more of a personal journey, so I could discover and better understand the character dynamics.” He concluded with a final telling statement about his homeland, “When I come to Rio, I feel like I’m home.”

“Rio 2” is in now playing in theaters everywhere.

Rob Gabe is a third-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RG770214@wcupa.edu.

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