Brazilian Carnival Glossary: Carnaval Producer Explained

On this article we will explain the professional role of the “carnavalesco” figure or Carnaval Producer, in English. We believe the description of his role and profile is essential not only towards the understanding of parades, but to the Brazilian Carnaval culture itself. Without their existence, the parade/show could not be thought upon, organized or executed. His attributions exceed the planning or physical execution of the Carnaval show. Just like a play director, they create dreams and invite everyone to join them. As you will see below, they are the ultimate responsible for selection of plot-themes and how the fabulous stories are staged at the carnival parade. From their imaginative minds, spectators from all over the world are able to see how a carnival story is told. From the days of quasi famous samba-school artists of the 30´s, to legendary Carnival Producers like Fernando Pamplona from Salgueiro and Joãozinho Trinta from Beija-Flor, we will describe below some of the “Carnavalesco´s” early origins, involvement with samba-schools, attributions, and historic representatives.

The carnival producer, “Carnavalesco” in samba/carnaval language is the main responsible for the ‘carnival’ show presented by the Samba-Schools at the parade. Although the expression “carnavalesco” (Carnival Producer) is old within the samba-schools world, its meaning has suffered several changes throughout the years. In the initial parades of 1930´s and 1940´s, carnival producers had varied and somewhat unspecified functions, since everything was still done in a very improvised and amateur manner. Most of them had impressive artistic talent, but no formal art education, from a university or academy. Their knowledge on materials, fabrics, structures and the engineering came ‘from the streets’. Most of these early Carnival Producers were members of the Samba-Schools they supported and were associated. They were loyal enthusiasts and would never leave that school for another one. As an example, at Portela, the second oldest Samba-School in Brazil, the Carnival Producer was one of its founders itself, Paulo da Portela. Payment was also out of the question. They would develop their artistic talent for their love and devotion to the Samba-schools and Carnaval.

Some of the works executed the “Carnavalescos” at this stage included the creation of carnival costumes, trimmings and adornments. They would also supervise the collective and voluntary work done by art-skilled samba-school members and associates. These early “Carnavalescos” were already responsible for organizing suppliers and overall production schedule. On the other hand, at these incipient years, the hiring of carnival producers from outside the community/ samba-school occurred in very small proportion. Historians point out craftsmen from Casa da Moeda (Brazilian Mint) and from Navy Arsenal in Rio de Janeiro, as some of the first external resources recruited by samba-schools. Another Carnaval researcher stated the “Vizinha Faladeira Samba-School”, the most famous samba school from the 1930’s, did hire Garrido Brothers – celebrated scenery painters of the time; for the execution of some tasks at the carnival parade of 1935. But as a rule, in these initial days of the Brazilian parades, 95% of all carnival producers were really samba-schools members.

Carnaval producers are kind of art directors. They work together with their team and this work can be divided in two phases: the first is the arrangements before the carnival, and the second is during the carnival.

The “arrangements” involve seven steps, starting with the theme creation, which is one of the most important moments. That is when the subject for the enredo (the theme) is chosen, and consequently the enredo is developed. The success of the presentation will depend on the potential, creativity, and novelty from the theme. In addition, the title of the theme is extremely important, it must give an idea about the theme and make people get curious and long for the parade.

After the theme is set, the script is written. The Carnaval producer then researches and learns more about the subject, sometimes by asking about it to a journalist, a historian, or a writer, in order to develop the theme. He must know the samba-school very well, its potential and what can be done, since everything related to the parade, like the structural order, the wings and how material resources will be used.

The carnaval producer must be very creative and imaginative to design characters, trimmings, and adornments. He counts on a professional designer and a plastic artist, as well as engineering and architecture advisers for planning and building the floats.

Then the Carnival Producer produces a theme abstract that is a written summary of the theme. It should be clear, objective and presents the main theme passages, as well as the main topics that will be explored and developed. He also delivers this abstract to the composers of the samba-enredo (samba-theme) and tells them what he/she wants in the lyrics.

Distributing the costumes to wings and floats as drawings is also a task for the “carnavalesco” . He/she guides all components as to the specific material to be used. The costumes production is made under his/her supervision. The carnaval producer must participate on the choice of the samba, since the music is one of the factors for the success of the samba-school in the carnaval. Further, the Carnaval Producer must supervise the works in the barracão / Samba City, he must be there full-time guiding the teams and supervising the tasks.

Finally, during the big day at the carnaval parade, the process is divided in three key steps. First, he actively participates on the transportation of trimmings, adornments and floats from barracão / Samba City to Sambadrome on the parade’s eve.

Next, the carnaval producer, together with other samba-school’s members, must organize the school for the parade. This is what we call “Armação” (assembling area). There is a schedule to be strictly followed, so that, the team places the trimmings, the adornments, and the components on the indicated sectors, according to such schedule, thus, preparing them for the parade. During the parade, all “carnavalescos” run non-stop along the samba-schools observing and analyzing their performance, correcting or warning the corresponding sectors as to eventual faults.

Legendary Carnaval Producers include the following representatives: Arlindo Rodrigues, Clovis Bornay, Julinho da Mangueira, Fernando Pamplona, Joazinho Trinta, Paulo da Portela, Max Lopes, Rosa Maria Magalhaes, Fernando Pinto and Renato Lage.

Obs: We have used the word “Carnaval” and not Carnival, since we are referring to the specific Brazilian Carnival festivity, which has a proper name.

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