Director Carlos Saldanha tells us how to make it in kid's animation
As Rio 2 arrives, we catch up with its director Carlos Saldanha to find out how he keeps winning at the box office.
You might not have heard of him, but 49-year-old Brazilian producer and director Carlos Saldanha’s movies have made more at the box office in the past decade than most filmmakers manage in a lifetime. From the Ice Age series to the Rio movies, Saldanha’s work is crammed with wit, warmth and invention. But what’s the secret of his success? Here are his five rules for making a family-friendly animated blockbuster.
1 Keep it personal ‘I always start with something that I care about. We deal with serious problems. If you look back at a film like Bambi, it’s about overcoming a traumatic experience. A lot of animated movies address serious issues in a direct, simple way surrounded by lots of fun. I think that’s why they’re so successful.’
2 Plan everything ‘We work the script out very carefully. There are no strict rules, but we spend months outlining the story, beat by beat, before we even have a script. Then we pin it all up on a big board, and we shift things around. You don’t want all the songs to come one after another. If a scene is sad, you need a pick-me-up right after it to boost the energy again.’
3 Create fab characters ‘If you can’t relate to the characters, it’s hard to make a connection. It’s not that everybody has to be cute, they just have to be appealing. That can come in many different ways: wit, quirkiness, beauty. The minute I have an idea, I start doodling and talking to designers. It helps the storytelling and to sell the movie when I pitch my idea to the studio.’ 4 Get the voices right ‘Sometimes I have actors in mind before I begin. I say to my writer, “Think of this character as so-and-so.” That won’t necessarily be the actor who’ll perform the voice, but it’s the vibe that I want. I didn’t know if a serious actor like Andy Garcia would want to work with me, but it turned out that his son loved the first Rio.
5 Make beautiful music ‘I can’t think about Brazil without thinking about music, so it was always going to be a crucial part of the Rio movies. But I wanted to move away from the traditional Disney musical – not have the characters break into song every time they look at each other. I love animating to music – when you hit the timing perfectly, something clicks. It’s magic.’ Rio 2 is in cinemas across Dubai now.
No kidding around: Animations for grown ups
Kids don’t spare a thought for the adults that have to sit through a film with them, so here’s our favourite animated films that big kids love too.
Up (2009) A heartwarming film that will crack even the most cold-hearted adult. The film tells the story of 78-year-old Carl, who fulfils his lifelong ambition of travelling to South America by tying thousands of helium balloons to his house, and eight-year-old Russell who joins him for the ride.
WALL-E (2008) A lonely waste collection robot tasked with cleaning up a desolate and dirty planet Earth embarks on a journey that could save the planet. Laughs and robot romance aplenty.
Despicable Me (2010) Dastardly super villain Gru plots to shrink and steal the moon and ropes in an army of minions to help him. As part of his plan he adopts three girls to use as a lure, but they don’t see a thief, they see a potential parent. The sequel has proved just as popular with young and old audiences.
Spirited Away (2001) An enchanting Japanese animation about a girl who discovers a fantastical world of spirits and evil demons as she and her family are about to move house. Like a Japanese Alice in Wonderland the film is clever and vivid to watch.
Shrek (2001) Voiced by Mike Myers, Shrek is a charmless green ogre who sets out to protect his swamp and becomes an unwitting hero. The voicing is perfect with Eddie Murphy as the annoying yet lovable Donkey and Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona.