Director Carlos Saldanha (much of the "Ice Age" franchise, Rio) gave ComingSoon.net a preview of 20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios' animated sequel Rio 2, which has an April 11th nationwide release. The sequel follows the spring 2011 Rio, which--set in Rio de Janeiro--tells the story of Blu, a neurotic Macaw bird voiced by Jesse Eisenberg, falling in love and avoiding capture with Jewel, a carefree Macaw voiced by Anne Hathaway. Rio was an international box office success and received generally positive reviews, notably for its music, which was recognized at the Academy Awards with a nomination for Best Original Song.
Saldanha told us that with mixing having finished just last week, we were to be some of the first to see the selected clips. Before screening the clips, the director gave us background about the sequel, specifically in terms of approach to the characters and music. Saldanha said that collaborating with the returning voice actors (in addition to Eisenberg and Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Leslie Mann, Tracy Morgan, Jemaine Clement, will.i.am, Rodrigo Santoro and George Lopez) was "like working with family again." According to Saldanha, one of the main goals of the Rio 2 team was "a lot of experimentation taking the characters further," now that so many characters were back after having been firmly established in the first film.
Saldanha went on to talk about the cast members who werenít a part of the first film. 82-year-old Rita Moreno (West Side Story, "Oz"), who voices Jewel's aunt Mimi, brought "the heart of a 15-year-old girl" to the film, according to Saldanha. Other new cast members include some musically talented stars: Broadway's Kristen Chenowith as a poisonous frog named Gabi, and the Grammy-winning pop star Bruno Mars as another Macaw, Roberto. Finally, there's Andy Garcia as Jewel's father, Eduardo, and Brazilian-American NBC Today anchor Natalie Morales as, appropriately, a news anchor.
The last thing before the clips was a preview of the music of Rio 2. Brazilian musicians Sergio Mendes and Carlihos Brown, as well as film composer John Powell, returned to work on the Rio sequel, and the trio was joined by acclaimed soul musician Janelle MonŠe, who, according to Saldanha, helped the music go beyond the familiar sounds of Bossa Nova and Samba that Brazil is primarily known for. Another part of the musical team behind Rio 2 is the Brazilian body percussion group Barbatuques, who wrote music for the film that was translated into English from the original Portuguese. Voice actors Mars, Chenowith and Clement also added their musical talents to the film.
Finally, we saw the clips, beginning with the film's first five minutes, which takes place on New Year's Eve and features Janelle MonŠeís "What is Love." The scene begins with a grand New Year's celebration on the beaches on Rio, then introduces Blu and Jewel as a happy couple celebrating the holiday, though they eventually are forced to tend to their mischievous children, which sets up the family dynamic explored throughout the film.
Next, we saw Blu and his family being brought out of Rio and into the Amazon. A report from Santoro and Mann's scientist characters reveals that there are more Blue Macaws in the Amazon, and Jewel and the kids convince Blu that meeting these newly discovered Macaws is worth the trip. The clip featured a plethora of exotic animals and jungle scenery.
The third clip was a reintroduction to Jemaine Clement's villain, an evil cockatoo named Nigel. After reciting Shakespeare for Chenowith's Gabi, Nigel escapes his job as a fortune-telling sideshow with the help of Gabi, and a silent anteater named Charlie. The trio follows Blu and his family into the Amazon, as Nigel wants wants revenge against Blu after their final battle in the first film. We saw more of Nigel in two later clips, first getting sight of the Macaw community he is out to destroy, and then performing a musical medley with the help of Chenowith's Gabi. Clement wrote the lyrics to the medley, which takes from a few different well-known pop songs.
The first clip featuring the Amazonian Macaws comes with the surprise that they are led by Jewel's father, Eduardo, whom Jewel was separated from at a young age. The scene also introduces Moreno's Aunt Mimi, and a serenade from Marsí suave Roberto, which Mars wrote with his frequent collaborator Phil Lawrence. Saldanha said that he worked closely with Mars to create a character that the musician had a fun and easy time playing. The next clip felt like a continuation of the introduction to the Macaw community, with a musical number written and performed by Barbatuques that features a vocal addition from Andy Garcia. Later, we saw a montage of Garcia's Eduardo teaching Eisenbergís Blu how to survive in the jungle - this scene also features the original song "It's a Jungle out there," by Phil Lawrence.
There was a short Q & A after the clips, during which Saldanha briefly discussed doing research on the Amazon for the film, also the responsibility of making a film that Brazilians can regard as a fantastical but authentic representation of their country, and that non-Brazilians can enjoy and learn from. Saldanha said that he knew shortly after the release of Rio that there would be a sequel, but he didn't reveal much as to the possibility of a third film.
Rio 2 opens nationwide on April 11th. Check out three new previews below!