Rio is the story of Blu, a mild-mannered parrot (Jesse Eisenberg) raised in domestic comfort in Minnesota. This earth-bound house-bird becomes a feathered fish out of water when he’s brought to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to mate with Jewel (Anne Hathaway), one of the few remaining females of their rare and endangered species.
Naturally a series of misadventures during Rio’s Carnival puts Blu and Jewel on the run Defiant Ones-style–along the way they meet up with a variety of singing, dancing, and wise-cracking critters, both avian and other. (Including Tracy Morgan as a drooling bulldog.)
From the creative team behind the Ice Age franchise and filled with bright colors, samba music and the usual silly cartoon humor, Rio is an inoffensively cute family flick that the kids will probably have more fun with than adults.
One of the film’s best bits is the colorful array of birds on parade. So here’s a reprint from earlier this year of information about the fictional birds of Rio and their real-life counterparts.
Blu and Jewel
Species: Spix’s Macaws
In Rio We Learn: My dad used to say, “put your brain in a blue-jay and it’d fly backwards.” Well, put Jesse Eisenberg’s brain in a blue parrot and it turns into a dithering, feathered bundle of awkwardly amusing neuroses.
Real-Life Fact: As in the film, because of over trapping and their very specific nesting habits in northern Brazil, Spix’s Macaws are critically endangered and possibly extinct in the wild. The last Spix’s Macaw in the wild was last seen 11 years ago, and there are less than 100 in captivity.
Voiced By: The Black-eyed Peas’ Will.i.am (X-men Origins: Wolverine)
Species: Red-crested Cardinal
In Rio We Learn: Clearly Will.i.am has experience working with flighty, preening birds that screech, squawk and jump around flapping their wings.
Real-Life Fact: Despite its similar appearance, the southern Brazilian bird isn’t part of the cardinal family we’re familiar with in North American backyards and sports stadiums.
Species: Yellow Canary
In Rio We Learn: Much like a certain other famous cartoon canary, Jamie Foxx’s bird can sing, shake his tail feathers, and fears no puddy cats.
Real-Life Facts: Yes because of their delicate constitutions, canaries were once used in coal mines to detect methane or carbon monoxide. But no, the Canary Islands in Africa are not so named because the small yellow birds originated there–it’s the other way around. The birds are named for the Islands, which take their name from “canis,” Latin for “dog.” So technically canaries are “dog birds.”
Species: Toco Toucan
In Rio We Learn: Viva la difference! Rafael’s wife Eva (Bebel Gilberto) is a Keel-billed Toucan, not a Toco–hence her light-green bill.
Real-Life Fact: It may look like it’d tip the toucan over, but the southern Brazilian bird’s giant bill (proportionally the largest in the bird world) is actually very lightweight thanks to a composite construction that includes a tough outer shell and a foam-like interior filled with air spaces. That big bill not only comes in handy for peeling fruit and cracking seeds, but also acts as a thermal radiator to help cool the toucan down.
Voiced By: Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords, Dinner for Schmucks)
Species: Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
In Rio We Learn: Even in the bird world, fame is a fickle, fleeting thing–and there’s nothing more dangerous than a faded, embittered star.
Real-Life Fact: The loud Australian birds can be headstrong, manipulative, and ill-tempered. They thrive in urban environments where in large numbers their noise and love of eating wood (including outdoor furniture and housing timber) makes them pests.