Exclusive interview part II – Cineworld chats to Rio 2 director Carlos Saldanha

In the second part of our exclusive interview with Rio 2 director Carlos Saldanha, we talk pop stars, favourite moments and the film's sensational, samba-infused opening sequence.

Music was such an important part of the first film and obviously this one as well. Lots of different music acts are involved but one in particular is a percussion ensemble called Barbatuques. Tell us more about working with them.

Well that was an amazing experience. I discovered them through another musician and I watched a clip of them on YouTube. They were amazing, the sounds and the talent. I pitched the idea to my composer, John Powell and he loved that idea so we brought them from Brazil to LA, where they stayed with us for a week.

We created a lot of rhythm with them, the amount of sound they generate from body percussion and their mouths allowed us to come up with a whole language of music for the Amazonian side of the story. We tried to explore more rhythms from the north of Brazil. The whole Barbatuques song was inspired by the folk songs they had up north, the rhythms that the characters do with the wings, that was inspired by what people do with their skirts from that region.

Janelle Monae is another artist on-board for the film. What did she bring to the project?

Janelle is one of those new artists who have an amazing talent, not only in terms of songwriting but also performing. She’s an amazing performer, her voice is perfect and beautiful, and she brings such a joy and energy to her songs. That’s key to the opening song of the movie, we managed to create an opening number that reflects the joy and fun of being in Rio.

You mentioned John Powell earlier whose soundtrack was a highlight of the first film. What was the nature of your collaboration with him this time?

Oh, it’s incredible. He’s been scoring all of my movies since Robots. He’s such an amazing collaborator and such a brilliant mind. He’s one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever met in my life. He had a very difficult task to try to corral a bunch of Brazilian musicians and a bunch of other musicians. I don’t know anyone who has a strong a library of Brazilian music. It’s amazing how much he both learned and contributed to this process.

Rio has this massive New Year’s party with two million people on the streets and beaches and they chose the compilation of his scores from both the first and second movies to be the soundtrack of the fireworks. He did a 16 minute overture of all the music he’s done for the two movies with every song in there and the fireworks were choreographed to that. We all went to Rio to see it and it was a spectacular presentation of his music.

The opening sequence depicting New Year’s in Rio is visually extraordinary. How long did that take to animate?

We did it in two parts. First we animated the humans, which was one of the first sequences we animated. That probably took about a month to complete. Then a little bit later we animated the birds, which was a bigger chunk of it. And that took about another two to three months. It’s a very complex scene because you have a lot of dancing, dialogue, crowds and effects. Altogether, it was one of the first sequences we had to animate because it was going to be used to promote the movie musically and in the trailers.

There’s one specific sequence in the film, which is a kind of Amazon’s Got Talent competition and it’s brilliantly funny. What more can you tell me about the creation of that?

Well that was a fun process. We had more material than we could ultimately put in the movie. We had a lot of fun just carving out what would be the funniest, most outrageous rainforest elements. The theme was ‘it’s a jungle out there’ so we wanted to have fun with the way that the animals would try to perform. We storyboarded a lot of sequences and picked the best of the bunch.

There are going to be four new Angry Birds games tying in with the film’s release. Can you tell us any more about that?

Yes, as we were finishing the first movie, the Angry Birds guys came to us and we made a partnership with the film to create a Rio Angry Birds game. And it was a huge success. So when we started to make the second one, we got together with them again and we started to talk about new levels and new things we could do with it. The game was designed to evolve into new layers and levels. They’re amazing partners in the process and their games are so much fun.

The film is of course an animated adventure, it makes families laugh and cry. Yet it also makes a point about deforestation and the need to protect nature. Was that always part of the script?

In the first movie, the danger for Blu and Jewel was poaching and trafficking. In this one, the danger is on a larger scale, which is their environment is being destroyed. And I think those are the two main reasons why animals disappear from our planet, either they’re taken away or their homes are taken away.

Since I’m talking about the Amazon, of course there’s the beautiful, rich ecosystem that’s very important for Brazil and for the world, but the sadness is large parts of it are being destroyed. So if the movie can allow space for a message about it, especially for children because it’s their future as well, then that’s very important for everybody. It is a very important message, yet putting Rio up on the big screen for a wide audience is also important.

We’ve seen the city depicted in several recent movies like Fast Five, and the World Cup is imminent. Would you like to see more movies shot in your home city?

Yeah if there are stories that fit the city then definitely. If there are stories that need to take place there then it’s a great thing to do. Usually you see a lot of movies shot in Europe in places like France, or in cities like London or New York. A lot of movies are shot in those places and its great not only for the cities but also the movie industry in those places. So if more movies get shot in places like Rio and other places beyond what we’re used to seeing, it allows not only for people to be exposed to those places but also for the movie industries to flourish.

So do you hope you’ll inspire more filmmakers to pick up their cameras and take to the streets?

I hope so! I hope it would get them more visibility. The reason why I made the film was to share something of my culture, something that’s a little bit close to my heart.

Do you have any favourite moments from Rio 2 yourself?

Yeah, quite a few. The musical number at the start I love that, Nigel singing ‘I Will Survive’ is another favourite. I think those two parts stand out as some of the best parts of the story.