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Exclusive Interview with Carlos Saldana for ‘Rio 2’

Those lovable singing birds are back in “Rio 2.”

With the DVD and Blu-Ray release this week, Latino-Review had an exclusive interview with director Carlos Saldanha. He also directed and wrote the original “Rio.”

In this fun sequel, Blu and Jewel is off exploring the wilds of the Amazon forest as they discover they are not the last of their kind.

We discussed a lot of details behind the story, casting and music for the film.

“Rio 2” is currently available as digital download, DVD and Blu-Ray.

Latino-Review: Where did you get the idea of “Rio 2” in the first place?

Carlos Saldanha: When I finished the first film, I always wanted to continue their journey. I wanted to continue to tell the story about the family. And I wanted to explore the Amazon as an option. To have a future, they would have to find more birds. Where could they possibly find more birds in a way for a fun world to explore? That’s where the Amazon idea came to my head.

It was a little bit of fulfilling a child’s dream of doing something with the Amazon and extending the story with the next step of finding more of their kind. That’s how it all started for me. From there, we started to develop the story about family and relationships.

In the first film, they fell in love and now they have children. So now who are we going to find next? It’ll be finding more family for them. And that’s where we headed for “Rio 2.”

Latino-Review: In the first film, you took the route of an endangered bird and a bird kidnapping. The sequel took even more of an environmental route like a cry to save the Amazon. Could you talk a little bit more about that?

Carlos Saldanha: When I started with the first one, we’ve talked to bird guys and experts for the film. We heard all these stories on what’s happening to these animals and these birds. They say the two main reasons for their extinction is with illegal encroaching and trafficking. It simply destroys their homes and their environment.

In the first film, I tackled the idea of illegal trafficking. And then the second film followed with the destruction of the environment. It connected perfectly with the Amazon story I wanted to tell. It felt like a connected story for the reality of the birds.

So it’s important to talk about the environment and what’s happening over there. It’s important to create a little bit of awareness. It gives a little bit more of a foundation for the story I wanted to tell and share.

Latino-Review: Did you have to visit the Amazon to get a first-hand eye-witness account yourself?

Carlos Saldanha: Yeah, I did. When we did the first one, I came to Rio with a bunchof guys and artists. Many of them experienced Rio for the first time. I wanted them to take it all in and help me with the story I wanted to tell.

As for the Amazon, I never been to the Amazon even though I was born in Brazil and raised in Rio. I never had the chance to go to the Amazon. So I decided to make that trek myself with my family. We looked [at the Amazon] with fresh eyes and for the very first time. We tried to immerse ourselves with the environment in the little time we stayed there. It was to get the impressions and vibes that I wanted to transfer to the movie. It was pretty exciting for us to be there.

Latino-Review: In this film, you introduced a whole lot more characters into the mix. How did you make sure to keep a certain balance throughout the movie and not overwhelm the audience with too many characters?

Carlos Saldanha: That was the hardest part in making this movie. The concept is to introduce the story with new ideas and new characters. The challenge is with on how to increase the family and not to upstage the ones we already loved.

Of course, there were a few more characters that we wanted to bring back. We realized that it was hard to balance them all. In the end, we worked really hard to find the right balance for the sequel. It’s still nice to bring some characters back Dandy, Eduardo or Roberto into the story, but still be able to follow Blu, Jewel, and Nigel’s journey. We had to make sure they all integrated into the core of the characters already established and learned to love. So it was definitely the hardest part.

Latino-Review: You actually brought most of the old cast back together again. Was that fairly easy to do?

Carlos Saldanha: Yeah, everybody was ready for it. It was a fun and unique process to assemble the cast and they were so passionate about the project. They loved it so much and were so eager to come back for number two. It was like our own little family reunion again.

And with the additions of the new characters or flavors coming in, we now have extended our family with that same joy. People respect and admire the project so much—they are eager to work and make the film better.

Latino-Review: Even with the old cast, you brought in a few good names for the new cast like Andy Garcia and Kristin Chenoweth. Could you talk a little bit more about that?

Carlos Saldanha: The thing about getting new characters is trying to get good voices to match it. For example, in Eduardo, Andy was on the top of my list. I didn’t want another name. I wanted the voice to be very distinct. I wanted the acting to make sure to contrast with Jessie’s voice. When I put Andy’s voice to connect with Jessie’s voice, there was great contrast there.

I always wanted to work with Andy. So when I approached him, I was very excited to pitch him the story. He decided to be a part of it and he worked out just great.

Another amazing voice to the family was with Kristin Chenoweth as the voice of Gabi. I had a very specific voice in mind in terms of being distinct and fun. She had it all. She is one of the most talented actress singers I’ve ever met. She was such a joy to work with. When she said yes, you cannot see the character without her voice. She was one of those first choicers in hopes that they’ll take the job. She took it and she was very excited to be a part of it.

Latino-Review: How did you make this movie to appeal to both adults and kids? What was your process?

Carlos Saldanha: The process starts with me. If I’m entertained with the story I’m telling—you will be there with me as adults. I first come up with a story that would appeal with my head and my sensibilities. Of course, we don’t want to alienate the kids or anybody. We want this to be an enjoyable experience for everybody.

So if you’re five or fifty, you can still go watch this movie and have fun. That’s the stuff I do in all my movies actually. The first audience I have to please with myself. I want to make sure everyone else will enjoy it as well. That’s how my thought process works in that way.

Latino-Review: Of course, we cannot talk about the music. The music is the greatest attraction in the first film. It’s even a bigger attraction here in the second one. What was the development process for the music and choices for them?

Carlos Saldanha: Well, in the second one—I learned a lot from the first film. The sooner I started, the better the selections will be. I started way early for the music for the second one. The first movie was very centric in Rio. My choices of music were somewhat limited there to the vibes you’ll hear there like Samba and the Carnival.

In the second one, we took the story beyond Rio. We had the freedom to go around Brazil to explore different rhythms and different vibes. I was able to bring real artists who could make the music feel richer and more exciting. I loved the music for the first one. In the sequel, we were able to explore even more with better ideas.

By bringing the artists in was a joy. Many of them were such a fan of the first movie, so they were eager to create even better sounds for “Rio 2.” And on the DVD, they are able to share in more details with the audience with the extras.

It was a lot of work. We worked from day one to the last possible minute. We had a blast in making it.

Latino-Review: Do you have any considerations for a “Rio 3?” And can you talk about your upcoming project “Ferdinand?”

Carlos Saldanha: I’ve been involved during the development of “Rio 2” with the book adaptation of the story of Ferdinand the Bull. It’s a children story that I’ve always loved. I thought it was a great story to tell. So we’re working on that right now.

We always talk about the continuation of any story we’ve started. With the success of “Rio 2,” there are definitely more stories left to tell. I don’t quite yet on how and when we’re going to make it. We’ll be focusing on “Ferdinand” right now. But, I am excited to explore artistically to take the characters and the story to the next level. For now, we’ll see and play by ear.

Latino-Review: Terrific. I enjoyed your movie “Rio 2.” I look forward in seeing the extra features in your DVD.

Carlos Saldanha: Thank you very much. Take care, man.

“Rio 2” is currently available as digital download, DVD and Blu-Ray.

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