Sergio Mendes Talks Rio Blu-ray

The smash hit animated musical adventure from 20th Century Fox is available on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, and DVD August 2nd

20th Century Fox's animated hit Rio is making its Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, and DVD debut this week. To help usher in this fantastic family release, we caught up with world renown musician Sergio Mendes, who contributed heavily to the soundtrack. Here, we talk about the creation of the rhythms heard in the movie, the storyline, which follows a domesticated Macaw hoping to find love in Brazil, and what it was like collaborating with director Carlos Saldanha.

This is our conversation.

Why was Rio a movie that demanded the musical expertise of Sergio Mendes?

Sergio Mendes: Well, when you talk about Rio, one of the most important things about the city is the music. The rhythms of Carnival you find in Rio are something people all over the world know, and it is a city that has produced incredible melodies throughout the years. And there are the great songs of the Brazilian songbook! It was a natural for me to be involved in something based where I grew up. I started my career there. It was just a perfect fit.

How surreal is it to sit down and watch this CGI'd version of your hometown?

Sergio Mendes: I think director Carlos Saldanha really captured the essence and soul of Rio de Janeiro in all aspects. He captured the joy of the people. It is sunny, there is the beach, the rhythms, the fun people have there, the warmth...The colors! The beautiful colors of the ocean, and the mountains. Everything. It was beautiful how he made this movie, and the story, which is so fantastic. And the music had to be just as colorful and different. It was a great thing. When I saw the movie, it was at a premiere in Rio. We all went down there. It was an incredible experience for me to see the people from their hometown enjoying the movie. Applauding, and leaving the theater singing some of the songs. It was more than surreal. It was like, "Wow!" It was a great surprise. Also, to know that this movie became number one in some forty odd countries...Russia, even...It introduced Rio to a lot of people who have never been there. I think they will come to Rio just based on the beauty and simplicity of this story.

Were you given the film before going to work on the music, in order to find each characters' own rhythm and sound?

Sergio Mendes: When I met Carlos, he told me the story, number one...Then he showed me the storyboard, which had the birds he used in the movie. He introduced me to all of the characters that are in the movie. All of the elements were there to inspire the music. What happened between the birds learning to fly, being from the United States, but being born in Brazil, all of this I knew about...Each scene was very interesting for me.

Was there a particular character that you gravitated towards the most?

Sergio Mendes: I think they are all really incredible. The villain? The voice is made by Jemaine Clement, this guy from New Zealand. He has a great part in the movie. I also like the bird with the red...The Cardinal, which is Will i Am's voice. Of course, Blu, and then Anne Hathaway. It is fantastic to have them all in the movie together. Even Jesse Eisenberg! For me, it meant a lot to have such a great team involved in this project.

Carlos also let you come in and voice the Samba School Director. Did he create that character just for you?

Sergio Mendes: He did come up with that. And I was kind of nervous. But he is a great director. He walked me through my lines. I didn't know anything about it before hand. I thought I was going to do the music only. I am familiar with the dance directors in Rio, because I grew up there. I knew the tone, and attitude when they speak to the people. That helped me out a lot. But if I didn't have Carlos to lead me through it, that would have been very difficult for me to do.

What was your game plan in figuring out each song and musical number as you wanted to have them play throughout the course of the story?

Sergio Mendes: The whole thing was done under the direction of Carlos Saldanha. He had it mapped out, being the director and the person that wrote the story, he knew specifically what songs he wanted. If it was up-tempo, if it was a ballad. He guided me through that. He knew exactly what kind of mood he wanted to set. Like, when Blu learns to fly, and he goes up in the glider? He wanted to write a specific song for that scene that described Rio as a country. He is from there, so he knows Rio, and he is familiar with all of the beauty that can be found there.

Knowing your background as someone who grew up in Brazil, what do you feel you brought to the film that another musician may not have been able to capture?

Sergio Mendes: Being from there? There is a familiarity with the rhythms. With the things that I know from growing up in the city. It did give me a vantage point to be able to come into this world. Carlos would tell me about a scene, and I would automatically come up with an idea for a song. But, you know, there were a lot of other musicians involved in the music on this movie. It was really about teamwork.

Will I Am is someone you worked with on your last studio album. Were you able to work with him again, here, or did you not have contact with the other actors and musicians who contributed to the soundtrack?

Sergio Mendes: It was Carlos Saldanha's idea to bring in Will i Am, because he loved the record we made together. Will i Am not only wrote a song for this movie, he is also one of the voices of the birds. So it was great to see him. He is a brilliant musician and a great talent.

If it weren't for you, Will I Am wouldn't even be in this movie?

Sergio Mendes: No! I didn't say that at all. From the beginning, Carlos said, "I have one of the birds, it would be perfect for Will i Am." He contacted Will i Am, and Will automatically wanted to do it. I am so happy he did it. He is awesome in the movie. He plays a very important role in this film. There are a lot of awesome people in the film. Anne Hathaway! Jamie Foxx! Jesse Eisenberg! That is why Carlos is such a genius. He knew exactly who he wanted to have, and what he wanted to do. It was great teamwork.

This may be the most music you've contributed to any movie. Does this experience make you want to push forward and score a live action film at some point?

Sergio Mendes: Absolutely! I would love to do that. I hope that there will be a chance for me to do that again, soon. I am touring. I just came from a European tour, and I like to work as well. But working on a movie is a challenge for me. It is great.

How did working in animation open you up as an artist?

Sergio Mendes: It is a story, and each story is a separate item. If a story comes in, and it's a love story, you have to have a different approach. If its an action movie, you have to find the sound. It is also important to work with the director, because they know what they need in terms of the music. Though, I have never done anything for a live action movie. I have not done that. I would like to try. It is about the possibility of writing songs, which I love to do. That is the greatest part.

Rio is available today on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, and DVD.

This Thursday, August 4th, The Americana at Brand in partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment presents Sergio Mendes in Concert, celebrating the Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, and DVD release of Rio. Rio themed activities kick off at 3:00pm, with Sergio Mendes in concert at 7:30pm, at the Americana at Brand, American Way, Glendale, Ca 91210.