WHY I HATE RIO PART 1: THE BIRD DESIGNS
If anybody knows me on my main blog or irl i’m sure you are aware I am an avid theropod enthusiast, I predominantly draw birds. When I first saw posters for Rio I was exited because I did like the first ice age, and I actually did like how Blu looked design wise. I did not see it in theatres, for whatever reason a school friend dragged me to see the 3D yogi bear movie instead (it was horseshit). Eventually I rented Rio on DVD to see with my mom and it was…….meh? and then mostly forgot about it.
But that was younger me before I critiqued movies and had fermented in bitterness. So being a bird lover with a lot of things to say I decided to crack this into two separate posts because covering the designs alone will make this posts long and image heavy.
Why am I cracking down so hard on ‘realism’ in this movie’s designs? Well mostly because the “theme” of this movie is bird conservation. In a realism-based setting. Unlike, say, Seuss’s original Lorax. it has an environmentalist message but has a well developed Seussiverse where nonsensical creatures fit the nonsensical habitat. With rio however, it is based in our world in our present time. I expect the creatures shown to be based on reality. Otherwise you break reality, making your conservation message weaker by showing animals in this context that don’t even exist. These bird designs come off as lazy recolourings where the story and setting is just under researched.
Most clearly this can be seen with the “blue macaws”.
Blu and Jewel are in fact supposed to be a real species of parrot, they are Spix’s macaws (which look adorable). They are critically endangered, and only one wild individual is known that was spotted earlier this year. Too bad they look nothing like the design, they couldn’t even at least make Blue a more turquoise tint.
Rio seems to model all of their macaws as Aras, the genus of larger macaws including the stereotypical scarlet and bluegolds. Spixs arent Aras, they are the only Cyanopsitta species, a smaller macaw which would be about under half of Blu’s size and roughly half a pound in weight.
If you took a colourless image of Blu i would assume he is an Ara macaw, or even the giant Hyacinth’s macaw. (In fact, most images that come up when i look for ‘Rio bird species’ places him as a hyacinths.) They also use Ara calls for his noises…
Call me old fashioned but I think when you’re trying to make a movie about a real critically endangered species, I think you should at least try to competently represent it. Had he been a large species i would have loved his design.
However personally that doesn’t bother me as much as the background birds do. All of the macaws are odd recolours by which i mean hardly discernible species. In the top photo I see what may be a blue and gold, a scarlet or green-wing, and maybe even a red-shouldered macaw… which makes no sense because they are the smallest macaw, at 0.3lbs. BUT THEY ARE ALL OFF COLOUR AND NONE OF THEM INCLUDING BLU HAVE BARE SKIN ON THEIR FACES. i guess for whatever reason they thought it would look ‘too ugly’ :/
I literally had no idea what these bottom ones are, the only bird I’ve ever seen like that first one is a leucestic blue and gold, the green one may be a military macaw???? its just so frustrating to look at. So I went on the wiki and there they called them golden conures and peach fronted conures… that are large macaw sized..
(a golden conure with a large macaw trio, rio’s are the same size and shape..)
Then there’s the stock passerines… these guys are supposedly finches and there’s again a variety of recolours in the movies. but they are all just ‘ball with eyes’, a bird design stereotype that i really hate. I thought the blue one may be fairy wren but those are only endemic to australia soo
Other background birds included in Rio 1 are waders and other passerines or near passerines. I’m alright with the jamie foxx and will i am birds. I actually enjoy the cockatoo design as well as the toco toucan, but there’s more birds I dislike than ones I like.
I’m also bummed they had no raptors because south america some really cool ones like the harpy eagle, an abundance of diverse owls, and falcons. Other neat birds include hummingbirds, woodpeckers, herons, guans, hoatzin, cock-of-the-rock, curassows, and the potoo, just off the top of my head. Basically it just feels under researched on blue sky’s part when they set out to have a movie about birds and endangered species, but i’ll talk about my resentment for the plot later…
design nitpick round:
- the parrots’ feet are missing a toe. parrots are zygodactylous, they should have two toes in front and two in back. so do woodpeckers.
- the baby parrots are already immediately fledged with all their feathers, just looking like mini adults with a large head. just for once i would like to see nakey altricial birds in cartoons..
- how did a toco toucan and keel billed toucan mate and have offspring.