"I remember growing up and seeing movies made about Brazil, I never felt connected to them," Saldanha said when IAR recently participated in a Q&A session with the filmmaker. "There was too much of a foreign eye to it for me."
So even though Rio 2 is an extravagant musical adventure, Saldanha took great care to depict Brazil appropriately. "I tried to be as careful as I could to make something that not only felt true for Brazilians, and close to their reality and what they can see, but also close to my heart, so that I feel that I belong in that world," he explained, saying it is "also something for the rest of the audience that’s never been there. I want you to feel like, through the movie, you can see Brazil."
"It’s not a documentary. I’m showing the side that I want to show and that fits my story, but I think it’s pretty accurate. When I had the premiere in Brazil and people saw it, for the first time, people bought that I was making a movie about Rio and it felt right. I wanted to share a little bit of that culture," the director concluded.
Rio found Blu (Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network) discovering that he's not the last blue macaw on the planet, traveling from Minnesota to South America to be with Jewel (Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises). The film, which grossed almost half a billion dollars worldwide, concludes with a happily ever after for Jewel and Blu, now the parents of macaw chicks.
Saldanha, who also receives a story credit on Rio 2, was eager to continue the tale, saying, "Yes, the movie came out and people were very happy with the first movie, but I still had a lot of stories to tell. We ended the first movie with the idea that they were together, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know more about what happens to them and their children. If they’re the last of their kind, what’s going to happen to their future? That’s how the story started in my head."
The sequel allowed Saldanha to not only continue the story and craft new music, but also to revisit ideas that didn't make the final cut of Rio.
"The soccer scene in Rio 2 was something that I had the idea for with the first one, but I couldn’t realize it for the story because I couldn’t find a place for it.," he said. "But, I wanted to do that so badly because one of the signature things about Brazil is soccer, so it had to work for this one."
In Rio 2, Blu and Jewel actually depart the city, heading to the Amazon rainforest to meet another group of blue macaws. These include Jewel's long lost father Eduardo (Andy Garcia, The Untouchables), who doesn't approve of Blu, and Roberto (Bruno Mars, recording star), a vain showoff determined to win Jewel's affections.
The new setting is quite a change from Rio. "Being in the Amazon, getting to that world is very different from the first one. With the first one, the challenge was to do the city, with Rio as the city. With this one, we had to go to a completely new world," Saldanha said.
"We had to do a lot of research about what trees are in the Amazon, and the plants and animals. So, that’s the most different part of it."
With Rio 2 opening nationwide in 2D and 3D this Friday, April 11th, Saldanha isn't ruling the possibility of a third installment, saying, "I worked on all of the Ice Age films, so I knew the drill.
"If you have something that people connect with, you want to keep telling that story and progressing forward," he continued. "I use the analogy of my wife, and how we have four children. After the first one, you never ask right away if they want to have another one because they never want to go through that pain again. I’m still trying to work through my labor pain! For now, I just want to get this baby out, and then we’ll see what happens."