“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an extremely useful idiom that comes in handy when dealing with approximately 99% of all books to have ever been printed. Every so often, however, there’s a book that not only can you judge by its cover but that you absolutely should judge by its cover. The Art of Rio: Featuring a Carnival of Art From Rio and Rio 2 is one such rare exception. I mean, just look at this cover:
Take the sense of breathlessness you’re experiencing now and stretch that out for 192 pages that are brimming with hundreds of production images that range from concept pencil drawings, to elaborate paintings, to 3D sculptures, to final digital imagery, and more. Every inch of this book carries the same spirit and vitality present in that cover photo, with each turn of the page bringing something better and brighter.
The characteristic that makes Rio really stand out from a very over-saturated animated film market (not that I’m complaining; I love it) is the clear reverence with which it treats its setting, and that comes directly from its director Carlos Saldanha–who, as he states in the foreword he penned for the book, is a Carioca (native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). His experience living in Rio translates very well into the final film, and this book takes you right into the immense amount of work it took to put his love of his home on the screen; from flying his team to Brazil for a tour of the city, to painstakingly recreating large amounts of the exotic locale. Saldanha previously directed the Ice Age films, but that world was one more of fantastical and unfamiliar landscapes; the world of Rio is one defined by a more marked realism, and it shows in the art contained here.
The 2011 film Rio tells the story of Blu, a rare blue macaw living with his owner in Minnesota, who is taken to Rio to mate with a female macaw named Jewel. That results in plenty of adventures, including a huge scene that takes place at the city’s famed Carnaval festival. If you’re interested in this book, chances are that you enjoyed the film; I have to tell you, though, you most certainly do not have to have liked the movie one little bit to appreciate the sheer artistry on display within these pages. Not only do you get the art, but you get interviews with the artists wherein they explain so much about the process of molding a character, stylizing nature just enough, and the difficulties that exist not only in the animation (especially of birds) but also in bringing to life a city where people actually live and will see your interpretation of their lives.
The sequel Rio 2 (which flies into US theaters April 11, 2014) takes you out of Rio proper and into the vast expanse of the Amazon. Of course, I’ve not yet seen the film, but the paintings and other artwork of Blue Sky Studios’ vision makes me very excited to do so. Even though I personally prefer the animation of the cityscapes in Rio, Rio 2‘s exploration of the Amazon described and illustrated here is quite intriguing.
Speaking of those cityscapes, the animators seem to have filled every nook and cranny of the films with ancillary images like store front signs, street posters, and graffiti. In that same vein, The Art of Rio fills every page with image-after-image of awesome artwork, and it’s all tied together very well by writer Tara Bennett, who not only makes it all mesh together but also conducted the numerous insightful interviews spread throughout the book, where you’ll learn not just about the animation process but about bird species, the evolution of Brazilian architecture, and more.
If you like Rio, you”ll love this book. If you like animation, you’ll love this book. If you like art, you’ll love this book. Frankly, I’d find it hard to believe there’s anyone out there who would read this book and not enjoy every bit of it. If there is such a person; one, lone survivor of an endangered species, let’s just go ahead and not have that person multiply, because I mean, come on.