At the risk of stating the obvious, the number one purpose of a birthday party is for that child to know that they are special and deeply loved. And when my daughter wanted a party based on the movie Rio, it was important to us to deliver.
But while Disney has elevated movie merchandising to an art form, DreamWorks takes a measured approach. So my wife and I had to get creative. You can’t just swing by the party store and pick up the “Rio pack” of plates/napkins/hats next to Cars, Tangled, and the Fairy crew. If you’re in a similar dilemma, here are four ways to get it done.
A Rio Party is for the Birds
The movie is about two blue macaws who are the last of their kind, and everyone hopes they’ll get together to make endangered babies rather than being sold off by smugglers.
We tried to bring birds into the party any way we could, including playing Angry Birds in real life with plush dolls, a separate post which is coming soon. That was a big hit. Our clue-following treasure hunt brought in bird language (“If we were birds we’d call this our nest…” meant look under the bed), and we brought out every bird puppet and stuffed animal we could find.
A Rio Party is Tropical
As a general theme, go tropical. Drink umbrellas, palm tree decorations, tropical fruits… If people really know the movie you could put earmuffs on a pineapple, for Blu the macaw who was raised in Minnesota. Colored feathers would fit well, and we thought about a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-endangered-macaw (ran out of time). We did have a very competitive game of Simon Says, which could include: bock like a chicken, crow like a rooster, stand on one foot like a flamingo, etc.
Cupcakes: My wife melted candy-making disks and formed leaves with a squeeze bottle. The tropical candy and flowers were a nice touch too, don’t you think? The kids were so enamored with these cupcakes that we didn’t bother to break out the ice cream.
To really make it authentic, I have Brazilian friends who are willing to work with me to write up a Brazilian kid-friendly menu. Interested?
A Rio Party is Blue
With a main character named Blu and a distinctive blue/yellow color theme, it was easy to make the whole house seem like the cover of the Blu-ray case. We used mostly balloons and movie posters (see below), and didn’t get around to putting up streamers, which cut down on clean-up at least.
In the bag of party favors was the cleverest item of all I think. My wife had the idea to include a packet of blue Bachelor Button flower seeds, a wink to the single-male-needs-better-half plotline. Did anyone get the connection? Not sure – it’s not a movie everyone has seen.
Make it Seem Official
We didn’t want to risk birthday-girl disappointment over getting just a generic “tropical” party so we brought in a little name-brand merchandise where we could find it. Here are things we bought, or considered:
- The movie made a smart marketing partnership with the Angry Birds game, and Rio characters are available as Angry Birds plush dolls. They are spendy but well done (we bought Blu)
- There are several well-rated picture and activity books, which make great gifts for the birthday boy/girl, or could be dissected for decorations or party favors.
- You can print coloring pages which is the activity we planned while guests were fluttering in the door
- There is a free coloring book app for iOS and Android. Let your kids color these up multiple ways, print these out and plaster the walls. Tap all the blue letters on the title screen (R, B L U) to unlock all the characters.
- Some posters are available at Amazon like this.
- Cupcake toppers and a cake topper are available
- The movie website has a number of printable activity sheets including a foldable glider / paper airplane which could be made at the party, hung from the ceiling, or sent home
We hope this is helpful for anyone trying to solve the same party problem. Did we go overboard? Can you share more ideas around this, or about any time you took a “lightly merchandised” theme and turned it into a convincing party?