Cartoon birds, bunnies rule world box office

Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:32pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Rio," the 3D animated misadventure of a Brazilian macaw, soared at the international box office, earning about $55 million in its opening weekend, its distributor said on Sunday.

Ahead of its Friday debut in North America, the 20th Century Fox release got an early start in 72 countries, opening at No. 1 in nearly all of them.

Top markets included Russia ($10.4 million) and, naturally, Brazil ($8.3 million), where it ranked as the biggest opening ever for an animated cartoon.

The cartoon revolves around Blu, a rare blue macaw (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg of "The Social Network"), who returns to his native Brazil after a coddled existence as a smuggled pet in America.

It was directed by Carlos Saldanha, the Rio de Janeiro-born director of the "Ice Age" trilogy. Both those films and "Rio" were produced by Blue Sky Studios, and distributed by News Corp-owned Fox.

Animation also ruled in the United States and Canada, where the Easter-themed romp "Hop" was No. 1 for a second weekend, overcoming a challenge from a middling band of newcomers.

The live-action/computer-animated hybrid earned $21.7 million during the three days beginning Friday, taking its 10-day total to $68.2 million. Brash English comedian Russell Brand voices the teenage son of the Easter Bunny who dreams of becoming a rock'n'roll drummer in Hollywood.

The family picture was produced by Illumination Entertainment, the animation firm behind last year's hit "Despicable Me," and distributed by Universal Pictures, a unit of Comcast Corp's NBC Universal.

Brand also claimed the No. 2 spot in North America with the costly new remake of "Arthur," which opened with a disappointing $12.6 million.   Continued...

<p>Cast member Hank Azaria (R) and son Hal attend the premiere of the film "Hop" in Los Angeles March 27, 2011. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>