Capturing the very special Latin American vibe of Rio has been a passion of Rio native and Blue Sky director Carlos Saldanha. On Friday, his Fox/Blue Sky animated feature about a mismatched romance between two blue macaws (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway) opens domestically (it bowed last week overseas in 72 countries with nearly $55 million). Saldanha talked about his Rio journey.
Bill Desowitz: What has this very personal journey been like for you?
Carlos Saldanha: I always enjoyed working on the Ice Age films and Robots, and even though I was part of the creative team, I wasn't as personally connected as I was to Rio. First of all, having come from Rio, and it was close to my heart, and also because it was something that I originated and have wanted to do for a long time. So now that it's done, it feels good. It was a long battle to get to this point and then seeing it done is a big accomplishment.
BD: How did this begin?
CS: Well, it's tricky because this has been on and off for many years, but I think the first inception was around 10 years ago. I always wanted it to take place in Rio, but the very first idea was through the eyes of a penguin that gets washed up on the beaches of Ipanema. He meets this blue macaw and penguin and all the other birds, and the story was still about smuggling and this journey through Carnival.
BD: But obviously with all these penguin movies…
CS: Yes, so you know the drill. They loved the idea but they said there were already about three movies in development with penguins in them, so I took the penguin out of the equation. But this was better in a way because I had a tricky love story between a penguin and Jewel, the blue macaw. So now it enabled me to change the penguin to a male blue macaw but still make him a foreigner by putting him in Minnesota. And at the end of the day, it all worked out for me.