Cast and crew recently gathered at the Darryl F. Zanuck Theater on the 20th Century Fox lot to give members of the press a chance to get an advanced look at some scenes from the upcoming 3D animated family film Rio. The film, which opens on April 15th, is a 3D animated adventure from the makers of the Ice Age saga. The film centers on a rare macaw named Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) that travels with his owner Linda (Leslie Mann) from Minnesota to Rio de Janeiro in order to meet another bird of his kind, Jewel (Anne Hathaway). But it's not love at first sight for these two lovebirds. An evil cockatoo named Nigel (Jemaine Clement) soon kidnaps them and their adventure begins. In order to survive, Blu will finally have to learn to fly. With the help of a toucan (George Lopez), a bulldog (Tracy Morgan), a redhead bird (Will i Am), and a yellow canary (Jamie Foxx) the two must escape and reunite Blu with Linda.
Director Carlos Saldanha was on hand to show clips from the film and he was joined by musical legend Sergio Mendes, actors Anne Hathaway (Get Smart), George Lopez (The Spy Next Door), and Oscar winner Jamie Foxx (Ray). Saldanha began by talking about how he got the extraordinary cast to agree to work on the project. "I shared a little bit of the story and I was very nervous when I pitched it to them. I didn't know if they were going to like it or if they would embrace the project and they enjoyed it. We had a great time talking about it and they added so much to the characters in this movie. I couldn't have asked for better people to work with me."
The director went on to discuss the film and his personal passion for the project. "I spent a lot of time working on the Ice Age movies. I co-directed the first one and then I went to Robots, then to Ice Age: The Meltdown, and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. After a few of those cold glacier movies, I was ready for something a little more tropical. So that is when I pitched the idea of Rio," explained Saldanha. "It's more than that as it is a very personal journey. I am from Rio in Brazil and I always thought that I would make a movie with this amazing backdrop. It is such a photogenic city. The contrast is great because you have the mountains, the ocean, the concrete jungle, the real jungle, and the music. So I thought it was a great backdrop with a great story. The story started to develop and here we are. I think what I wanted to do with this movie was not only bring a sense of belonging there but also a state of mind. I think this movie is about feeling good, finding your heart and overcoming your challenges, but with a fun backdrop of amazing music and colors."
"Music is a key part of the film," Saldanha continued. "I wanted the music to be authentic and feel Brazilian. But also we are presenting Brazil to the world and Brazilian music is very recognizable in several different styles. I tried to use all the different styles including Bossa nova, Samba, Hip-Hop, and Rap. I wanted the movie to capture that but I needed to ask for help. I went to one of the living legends of Brazilian music, Sergio Mendes. At first he was just a music guru that I was going to meet but now he is one of my best friends," the director said. Saldanha then welcomed Mendes to the stage and the Brazilian musician talked about contributing music to the film. "I am so happy to be a part of this project. When I met Carlos two years ago he told me about the story and, of course, both of us grew up in Rio. That's where I started as a musician and I had many bands there. So when he told me the story I thought, wow this is an incredible story. The music is the music we grew up with," Mendes explained. "I think Carlos captured the whole soul and magic of Rio. Not only sound, but the scenes, the romance and the sensuality. It's just a beautiful movie for all ages and I am so proud to be a part of it. I'm in heaven."
Academy Award winning actor Jamie Foxx plays Nico, a small yellow canary who along with a redhead bird named Pedro (Will i Am) helps Blu along on his journey. The actor, who is also an accomplished musician in his own right, discussed his role in the film. "Nico is a little guy who thinks big. He loves life and he loves the ladies. It was type casting," joked Foxx. "Of course, he also loves music and he loves to sing. He's a romantic at heart. Nico and Pedro, we sort of bring the wild side. When Will i Am and I get together, you know we understand that he has a little problem with his wings. You'll see he's a little caged up so we tried to get him to come with us and maybe hit up a few clubs and drink some papaya. So you are really going to enjoy it and the music is fantastic. I got to work with Will i Am who is fantastic and a genius. So when we see Blu, its time to party a little bit."
Oscar nominated actress, and this year's host, Anne Hathaway, plays Jewel the object of Blu's affections. The actress talked about her first meeting with the film's director and what convinced her to join the project. "What I remember from the first time I met Carlos is that he showed me visuals from the film. They were so breathtaking that they made me want to do the movie. He told me the story of this bird that didn't have much confidence but who was determined to learn how to fly. Then he showed me this beautiful picture of what he was intending to do and that one image filled me with so much joy that I decide to do the movie," Hathaway explained. "The other reason is because Carlos wrote me a great character. She is fun, feisty and free spirited. What I love about her is how she deals with flying. She knows how to fly and all she wants to do is fly. But she doesn't know how to love. She doesn't know how to let people in and so she has actually not known true freedom yet. We'll see how far she has to go to find love and who she'll love when the movie comes out," the actress hinted.
Comedian and talk show host, George Lopez, plays Rafael in the film. Rafael is a wise toucan and the former "King of Carnival," who helps Blu and Jewel on their adventure. The actor began by teasing his director. "Doesn't Carlos sound like a bird? He has been working on this thing for so long that he sounds a bit like a parakeet." Lopez then discussed his character's role in the film. "Raphael is larger than life. He is the former head of carnival but his heart has always remained in carnival. He is very well known through the history of carnival. He is also married with seventeen birds and one in the egg. Birds are like kids, they poop, they squeal, it's the same thing," he joked. "Also, I have a very lovely song that Sergio wrote," added Lopez.
We then had an opportunity to screen several scenes from the film in 3D. We began by watching the opening of the film, which tells Blu's back-story and how he ended up in Minnesota with Linda. The next few scenes we saw gave us a glimpse into Blu's domesticated life with Linda, Blu unsuccessfully practicing to fly for his trip to Rio, meeting Nico and Pedro upon arriving in Brazil, and his first encounter with Jewel. One of the funniest scenes that we screened featured the film's antagonist, Nigel, an evil cockatoo played by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords), who has kidnapped Blu and Jewel. The actor/comedian co-wrote his character's opening song, which explains a bit of his back-story and sounds a lot like a classic Flight of the Conchords tune. The final scenes that we saw included Blu and Jewel's escape, Nigel threatening a group of untrustworthy Marmosets, and the introduction of Lopez's Raphael and a bulldog named Luiz played by Tracy Morgan (30 Rock).
Finally, the filmmakers had one last scene for us to screen, which was unfinished and not yet ready for 3D. The scene takes place inside a club and features Blu, Jewel, Rafael, Nico and Pedro. Foxx helped to set up the clip. "This is where we finally get them to the club. I'm good with the people at the door and its all good, we got the whole nine and we got the section right. No bottle service but its still hot. We are keeping it family orientated. That's on the next cut, where we actually go to jail and that's a whole different thing," the actor joked. The scene also marks Hathaway's singing debut in the film and the actress talked about her anxiety in the recording studio. "That was not intimidating at all singing with these people," Hathaway said sarcastically. "I don't know if you've ever rolled into work and been told that you had to sing in front of Sergio Mendes, but you think it would be easy and its not. It is actually bowel-clenchingly frightening," she joked. "Then Will i Am rolls in and talks about what Fergie does when Fergie sings. I just felt like I was still sixteen years old and from Northern New Jersey. But they made me feel at home and it was an honor. It couldn't have been a lovelier experience, my neurosis not with standing."