A scene from RIO, a film directed by Carlos Saldanha. TM & © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Picture courtesy of Blue Sky Studios. All rights reserved.
- Anne Hathaway
- Jesse Eisenberg
- Jemaine Clement
- Leslie Mann
- Tracy Morgan
- Rodrigo Santoro
- George Lopez
- Jamie Foxx
* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.Home/Social Media Links
Also Known As: Rio 3D, Rio the Movie, Rio the Movie 3D
Opened: 04/15/2011 Wide
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Trailer: Click for trailer
Rated: PG for mild off color humor.
From the creators of the hit ICE AGE series comes RIO, a 3D comedy adventure about taking a walk on the wild side. Blu is a domesticated Macaw who never learned to fly, and enjoys a comfortable life with his owner and best friend Linda in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota. Blu and Linda think he's the last of his kind, but when they learn about another macaw who lives in Rio de Janeiro, they head to the faraway and exotic land to find Jewel, Blu's female counterpart. Not long after they arrive, Blu and Jewel are kidnapped by a group of bungling animal smugglers. Blu escapes, aided by the street smart Jewel and a group of wisecracking and smooth-talking city birds. Now, with his new friends by his side, Blu will have to find the courage to learn to fly, thwart the kidnappers who are hot on their trail, and return to Linda, the best friend a bird ever had.
RIO, from Blue Sky Studios and Twentieth Century Fox Animation, is the biggest, most ambitious animated film for the studios. It is rich with scope and grandeur, and alive with character, color, music, emotion and fun. The story unfolds amidst a colorful jungle, a beach paradise, a sprawling metropolis -- and the celebration to end all celebrations, known as Carnaval. RIO is more than a point on a map; it's a magical place, a state of mind, and an attitude.
THE ROAD TO RIO
RIO was born from the imagination of filmmaker Carlos Saldanha, who co-directed or directed the animated hits "Ice Age," "Robots," "Ice Age: The Meltdown" and "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs." After completing work on the second "Ice Age" film -- and during pre-production on "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" -- Saldanha came up with the idea that would ultimately blossom into RIO. He wanted to write a love letter to his hometown of Rio -- with a story about a nerdy, highly domesticated bird who goes on the adventure of a lifetime in that wondrous world. "I spent years working on the 'Ice Age' films and had a great time in that world and living with those wonderful characters," Saldanha explains. "RIO is an even more personal journey for me." Adds producer John C. Donkin: "Carlos' passion for the project, and to take us into this world he envisioned, was contagious. Everything you'll see on screen began with that passion."
To fully realize the scope and breadth of this magical world and vivid characters, Saldanha brought together an all-star voice cast, led by Oscar® nominees Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg, Oscar and Grammy®-winner Jamie Foxx, acclaimed musical artist will.i.am, actor-musician Jemaine Clement, comedic actress Leslie Mann, and actor-comedian-talk show host George Lopez. Additionally, Saldanha and his teams at Blue Sky Studios created cutting-edge tools of animation and 3D to create an immersive experience.
The filmmakers further envelop the action -- and audiences -- with a combination of Brazilian sounds and contemporary American music. The soundtrack features a stellar musical cast led by will.i.am (of the Black Eyed Peas), Jamie Foxx, Bebel Gilberto, Taio Cruz, Ester Dean, Siedah Garrett, Jemaine Clement, and famed Brazilian percussionist Carlinhos Brown, along with film composer John Powell -- all performing under the guidance of Brazilian music legend and RIO's executive music producer, Sergio Mendes.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER...
RIO's hero is Blu, a highly domesticated macaw -- the last male of his kind -- who never learned to fly. "Blu's emotional, comical and physical journey is the film's heart and core," says Saldanha. "He's a fish out of water." Jesse Eisenberg, a recent Best Actor Oscar nominee for "The Social Network," voices Blu.
Blu's journey begins in the not-so-domesticated Brazilian jungle, where as a nestling, he's experiencing the joyous musical melodies of hundreds of birds flying and swooping around him. The sounds inspire the baby Blu to initiate his first attempt at flight, which is abruptly cut short when he and several other birds are captured by smugglers.
When we next see Blu, he's living comfortably in a small town in Minnesota with his owner and best friend Linda, voiced by Leslie Mann ("Knocked Up"). Years earlier, Linda had adopted Blu, who'd been transported by the smugglers to this wintry world. Now, Blu and Linda are inseparable. In the sheltered comfort and familiarity of Linda's home and bookstore, Blu thrives; in fact, he's become so domesticated, he's more human than bird. He can cook breakfast, brush his teeth, make the morning coffee, and serve as Linda's alarm clock.
What he can't do is what most birds do best...fly.
"Blu leads a protected life," notes Jesse Eisenberg. "He's very smart, reads everything, and is very analytical. But none of that helps him fly." Indeed, Blu thinks he can use his formidable brainpower to take flight, but he crashes during each attempt. "Blu has a checklist, a pile of books about the science of aeronautics, and a mountain of advanced math equations in which he's quadrated vector angles -- adjusting for wind shear, of course," Eisenberg elaborates. "But it doesn't work, because no book can unlock the art of flying for a bird." Those secrets will be revealed only in Rio -- and only through the rhythm of Blu's heart and the rediscovery of his roots.
Despite his frustrations at being unable to fly, Blu and Linda are content. Says Leslie Mann: "They lead a simple life together in Minnesota. Linda is a homebody and Blu is her pal, and they're very happy." But their lives are turned upside-down with the arrival of Tulio (voiced by Rodrigo Santoro), an eccentric scientist who has traveled halfway around the world -- from Rio to the U.S. -- bringing news that Blu is the last male of his kind, and that Tulio wants Blu to come to Rio to meet the last female macaw, who's named Jewel. "Tulio loves birds; he's connected to them," says Santoro. "And he wants the macaws to continue. So he works very hard to persuade Linda and Blu to make the long journey to Rio."
Linda and Blu aren't so eager to uproot themselves from their happy home. "They're not 'pack up and go to Brazil' types,'" says Mann. "They're more like, 'Let's go down the street to the waffle restaurant' kind of people. Blu and Linda really don't get out much, and traveling to a distant land scares them both."
After much deliberation, Linda and Blu make the fateful decision to travel to Rio, where Blu is to meet his female counterpart Jewel. But Blu and Jewel's first "date" is far from a love connection. The would-be lovebirds are complete opposites -- Blu is domesticated and happy to spend time in a cage, and Jewel is fiercely independent and hates the idea of being stuck in a contained environment. "She rejects having any kind of limitations put on her," elaborates Anne Hathaway, who voices Jewel. "She likes to have things her way. Being the last of her kind has made Jewel a survivor -- and she wants to keep it that way. Blu represents many things that Jewel dislikes. In some ways, she looks at his domesticated lifestyle and inability to fly as a sell-out, and she judges him harshly.
"Jewel may also have some relationship 'issues,' Hathaway continues. "She needs to learn how to trust. Part of her initial rejection of Blu is Jewel wanting to avoid being hurt. She's secretly vulnerable."
Blu's initial reaction to Jewel is, says Jesse Eisenberg, a mix of "intimidation and enchantment. But as he comes to know Jewel, he's enthralled because she's everything he isn't. Jewel is free-spirited, outspoken and heroic."
Blu is very much a fish out of water (bird out of sky?) even before his shaky meeting with Jewel. Arriving in Rio and experiencing the sensory overload of its colors, sounds and environs, Blu is completely out of his Minnesota comfort zone. The caged Blu -- remember, that enclosure is home to him -- meets his first friends in Rio: Nico, a canary, voiced by Jamie Foxx, and Pedro, a cardinal, voiced by will.i.am. Encountering these high-flying birds adds to Blu's culture shock, but he's also intrigued by the diminutive duo's bigger-than-life personalities -- and Nico and Pedro are equally curious about Blu. "Nico loves life and music," says Foxx. "He's a little guy who thinks big. Nico and Pedro supply the wild side to Blu's new life in Rio -- so they're wondering, why is this guy in a cage?"
Foxx particularly welcomed the opportunity to collaborate, for the first time, with his longtime friend will.i.am. "It was great to connect with Will and watch him go to work as a musician and as an actor." The two performers' thespian and musical collaborations are some of the film's many highlights, including a big scene set in a Brazilian club, where Nico and Pedro energize the crowd with a rousing number entitled "Hot Wings (I Wanna Party)," co-written by The Black Eyed Peas front man. "My character, Pedro, likes fusing samba, hip-hop and electro, and making a new jungle mash-up of techno and classical rhythms," says will.i.am.
According to producer Bruce Anderson, the Nico-Pedro dynamic was one of the film's many happy surprises. "You could feel the wonderful comedic and musical energy when Jamie and will were recording together," he says.
Blu's lucky to have Nico and Pedro in his corner; in fact, he'll need all the friends he can get in Rio because he and Jewel are kidnapped by smugglers who plan to sell the rare birds for a pile of cash. The smugglers' chief henchman is a cockatoo from Down Under named Nigel, voiced by "Flight of the Conchords'" Jemaine Clement. "A story is only as good as its villain," says Saldanha, "and we think Nigel is a great bad guy." Saldanha and the screenwriters gave Nigel an intriguing and unexpected backstory to make their cockatoo really stand out. "Nigel is an ex-soap opera star who still holds a grudge about losing a role, years earlier, to a much younger and 'prettier' bird," Saldanha elaborates. "Nigel is very dramatic, very dry, and very, very funny." Adds Clement: "Nigel is embittered. He was once a successful and good-looking bird. But his physical appearance changed to reflect his inner evildoer. And believe me, Nigel is not a good guy. Any chance he gets to do something evil, he'll take it. He eats chicken! What kind of bird eats chicken?"
The filmmakers credit the actor-singer for giving Nigel so many unexpected layers. Not only does Clement voice the role, he co-wrote and performs a fun musical number that introduces Nigel. Saldanha and the writers came up with an idea and framework for the song "Pretty Bird," but the tune and character really came to life when Clement and the songwriters locked themselves in a room and fleshed it out. "Jemaine really owned Nigel," says producer Bruce Anderson. "He added all these wonderful alliterations and textures to the character's voice, personality and attitude." But RIO's technical and design teams also made critical contributions, giving their villain a kind of lived-in, beaten-up look, including patches where he's missing feathers, and a distinct and expressive crest.
Despite Nigel's best efforts, Blu and Jewel make a narrow escape from their captors. Nigel decides he needs help to retrieve the fleeing macaws. The canny cockatoo cooks up some serious monkey business, recruiting a team of marmosets, a tribe of simians trained in the Brazilian martial art of caporeira, who'll do anything Nigel wants. (He can be awfully persuasive.) Saldanha likens the marmosets to "squirrels running around New York City's Central Park. But they have serious martial arts skills, and they even sing and dance."
Blu and Jewel, on the run from Nigel and the marmosets, continue their wild adventure across and above Rio. The good news is they're one talon ahead -- barely -- of the smugglers. The bad news: prior to Blu and Jewel's escape, Nigel had chained the mismatched pair together. Their forced bonding is less than ideal, but given their circumstances, the flightless Blu and high-flying Jewel must somehow find a way to work together to stay free of Nigel's clutches.
Enter Rafael, a helpful toucan who has decided to take Blu under his wing. A former King of Carnaval, Rafael is still a bird about town; he knows everyone in Rio, including a garage owner named Luiz who might be able to help free Blu and Jewel of their chains. George Lopez, who voices Rafael, calls the toucan "the voice of Rio. He's a larger than life personality, but he has domesticated himself -- he's married and has 17 kids! So he's a little bit of a homebody now. But his heart still beats for Carnaval."
Rafael wants Blu to feel the macaw's own beating heart because, says Rafael, that's the only way Blu is going to fly. "Rafael tells Blu that flying comes from the rhythm of the heart," says Lopez. "Blu must connect his heart to his mind, and only then will he truly soar and discover the hero inside." Besides, Rafael's friend Luiz is clear across town, and it'll be much faster to get there by air. Alas, that's not to be -- Blu's still not feeling the inner-beat, and after some failed (and painful) attempts to go airborne, Blu and Jewel slowly make their way to the garage. Along the way, they have more close calls with the smugglers, Nigel and the marmosets; Blu has an important flashback; and romance may finally blossom.
Much to Blu and Jewel's surprise, Luiz is not a fine-feathered friend; he's a bulldog, who unlike most members of his species resists the temptation to chase birds. He's a good buddy to Rafael, and eager to please the toucan and any of his pals. In addition to his friendly demeanor, Luiz is distinguished by his penchant for wearing a fruit basket as a headpiece, and for his incessant drooling -- the pooch is a world-class slobberer. "I had a complex for months after seeing some footage of Luiz wearing that fruit hat," laughs "30 Rock" star Tracy Morgan, who voices the role. And Morgan's not even getting into the relentless drool that trickles, drips and dribbles from Luiz's mouth. (For the research and development teams at Blue Sky Studios, the slippery goo was serious business, requiring considerable time, attention and high-tech rendering to bring to life.)
At the end of their journey, Blu, Jewel, their new friends, and Linda (who's been searching for her lost pal since they were separated by the smugglers), converge in a sequence set during the spectacular celebration of Carnaval. Music, color, scope, parades, floats, swooping birds and 50,000 human "extras" filling a stadium -- all make for an epic finale to a tale about a world where the celebration never ends...and where adventure takes flight.
THE SOUNDS AND RHYTHMS OF RIO
The musical artists in RIO were cast with the same care as the actors; in fact, in several cases, those two areas intersected. Leading the musical contributions is "Hot Wings (I Wanna Party)," an original song by will.i.am (as the redheaded bird, Pedro) that he sings with his "sidekick" Jamie Foxx (as the canary, Nico). R&B/pop star Taio Cruz contributes an original song, "Telling the World," which captures the film's beating heart. Sergio Mendes adds a new recording of his classic bossa nova hit with Brasil '66, "Mas Que Nada." Mendes, who serves as the film's executive music producer, brought in Carlinhos Brown to further shape the film's music and sound.
For Mendes, working on RIO was especially rewarding. "Carlos' passion for this film has been inspiring, and it's been a joy to watch him bring it to the screen. I have spent much of my life exploring the musical wonders of this world, and RIO has been another exciting path on that journey."
The cast and filmmakers were similarly inspired by the chance to collaborate with Mendes and the other artists. Says Anne Hathaway: "RIO has a totally modern sound, and it was amazing to experience this coming together of styles to create a new kind of 'fusion music'; it all adds wonderful textures to our story."
Along with these collaborations came the challenges of coordinating the tight schedules of the artists. For most animated features, the actors or musicians record their dialogue or pieces individually. But for the "Hot Wings"/club scene, will.i.am recorded with Foxx and, separately, with Hathaway (who makes her big screen singing debut!); those pairings helped fully capture the scene's energy and rhythms.
THE MAGIC BEHIND THE MAGIC
Creating the magical world of RIO and its characters presented innumerable challenges to the scientists, animators, artists, modelers, riggers, 3D, and effects teams at Blue Sky Studios. Rendering the winged leads and creating their performances was a key focus. "We wanted to create intricate performances for Blu, Jewel, Nico, Pedro, Rafael and the other birds," says Saldanha. During the production's early stages, several of the filmmakers visited the world-famous Bronx Zoo, where they observed how birds moved, used their feathers, and turned their heads -- in short all the "quirks" that make birds, birds.
The trip revealed some surprising human-like behaviors among the birds, such as their penchant for hugging, or at least returning hugs from their trainers. The birds and trainers also worked hard to understand one another -- perhaps inspiring ideas for the Blu-Linda friendship.
Blue Sky came up with a new feather-renderer called a Ruffle Deformer, which allowed the animators to pose and shape the feathers with unprecedented control, adding important levels of performance to the characters. Saldanha wanted RIO's birds to look and feel like actual Brazilian species, with wings that were recognizable but that could also take on a subtle and stylized hand shape to heighten the characters' expressiveness.
The Blue Sky Studios Materials group put the blue in Blu -- coloring each feather, then adding detail, highlights and surface textures, such as his beak's scratches, chips and dings.
The film's human characters were equally challenging to render. Blue Sky hadn't created human forms since the first "Ice Age" picture -- and those lacked significant emotions and speech. To meet those challenges for RIO, the studio's lighting department developed a new way to render skin, making it feel alive, fresh and realistic on the exaggerated, stylized features of Linda, Tulio and other principal human characters.
Renowned live action cinematographer Renato Falcao came aboard RIO early in pre-production. His work facilitated more elaborate, fluid and realistic camera movements than were previously possible. Falcao also experimented with different lenses and studied what a live action motion picture camera could reveal about depth of field, and how that information could be incorporated into the staging of the action and characters of this animated film.
RIO is Blue Sky Studios' second 3D feature (following 2009's "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs"), and while the filmmakers remind us that a story and characters must stand on their own in 2D or 3D, a richer and more immersive experience is in store for those who see the film in a 3D-equipped auditorium. With RIO, the Blue Sky stereoscopic team embedded the 3D procedures within -- and kept imagery layered throughout -- the entire production pipeline, including the early stages of animation. "The 3D for RIO is part of the fabric of the story," says stereoscopic supervisor Jayme Wilkinson. "Audiences will be able to experience more of the action and emotion. We've really pushed the depth of field and immersive qualities."
Wilkinson elaborates on the methods that facilitated this added richness: "We developed tools allowing us to capture each shot with multiple stereo camera rigs, providing additional flexibility in dialing into space we needed and removing space we didn't. The 3D landscape in RIO looks like one detailed and immersive world, and not two or three different ones."
Whether watching RIO in 2D or 3D, audiences will experience a world, says George Lopez, "that is nothing less than a wonderful character in itself. Rio draws things out of you and opens your eyes." Saldanha and his teams capture the region's vastness, including landmarks like Corcovado, Sugar Loaf Mountain, the Sambadome; as well as its jungles, villas, cityscapes, beaches and water. Unlike the fantastical worlds Blue Sky created in the "Ice Age" pictures, "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who," and "Robots," RIO's Rio is a known place, so the filmmakers had to be especially creative in rendering a city that would be visually exciting, colorful, stylized and wondrous, yet remain recognizable as the familiar Brazilian metropolis.