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Book Review: ‘The Art of Rio’ by Tara Bennett

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There are three main aspects to animated films: story, character, and visuals. Sometimes you luck out and get all three. Sometimes you get one or two. For me, I have to say that Blue Sky Studios has a bit of a hit and miss record across the board. Films like Ice Age resonate with strong efforts across all three categories, while films like Rio may only hit one or two.

Even so, both Rio and Rio 2 were stunning visually and had fun characters, which is why the book The Art of Rio from author Tara Bennett and Titan Books was such a joy to explore. The colors, textures, and variety that exists in the real world Rio de Janeiro was brought to life in gorgeous fashion in these films, and I definitely wanted to learn more.

artofriobookcover_largeLike with her earlier book The Art of Terminator Salvation, Bennett does not disappoint here. From the very first page, we are presented with amazing concept art, finished digital art, and a glimpse into how these films came to be. The talented team producing everything from rough sketches to the final animation seen on-screen did an amazing job and Bennett seemed to have the inside track on it all.

Director Carlos Saldanha took the art director and core designers down to Rio early on in the process to kick things off. Just like the main character of “Blu” — they were introduced to that colorful, culturally diverse, and beautiful world so they could try and replicate it digitally on screen. I think artists thrive on that first-hand experience and you can see it paid off with the finished product.

The book is broken into two broad sections — Characters and Locations — each focused on walking through a piece of the puzzle from concept to screen with tons of art every step of the way. You can really see the road to discovery and how things changed during the process, which I think is instrumental in this sort of book to inspire artists to move beyond the “one and done” mentality to the gradual change and collaborative efforts necessary for any project this size.

However, it is definitely the art that is the star of the book. Every page is packed with black & white and color images of pencil, ink, digital art, and physical paintings that show all the fantastic talents of the production team. With the musical and dance numbers in both films, it was fascinating to see how they detailed the movement of these characters and brought such intricate musicality to the screen. What a process! Imagine not only drawing these beautiful birds and environments but choreographing entire dance scenes? A crazy amount of work went into every single swoosh of a wing, dip of a beak, or step of a claw or paw.

That’s really the beauty of The Art of Rio for me. From sketch pad to the big screen, these artists did a phenomenal job of bringing not only the characters to life, but an entire world. If you enjoyed Rio or Rio 2 or are simply interested in learning about the insane amount of work that goes into such films, I can’t recommend this book enough!

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About Fitz

Fitz is a software engineer and writer who lives in Colorado Springs, CO, with his family and pets, trying to survive the chaos!