In a small room off to the side of Heitor Pereira’s spacious, comfortable Santa Monica studio are Pereira’s many guitars and hundreds of smaller instruments, mostly unusual percussion contraptions he’s collected from around the world.

It’s almost like a child’s playroom, which is perhaps fitting for the composer’s relentlessly upbeat attitude regardless of deadlines, endless recuts or difficult directors.

Producer-arranger Stewart Levine, who effectively “discovered” Pereira playing for Ivan Lins in Brazil in 1988 and added him to Simply Red, says, “He’s the most curious musician I know. He’s got a restless musical mind.”

“He would listen to everything, from rave music to Debussy, South African music to Russian choral music. There was nothing he didn’t find interesting or exciting. He exposed himself to the whole universe of music.”

When they met, Levine recalls, “he reminded me of Peter Pan. His childlike enthusiasm was so contagious. That’s why his
music works in film. He has a sense of humor, of drama, and this was the perfect home for him.”

Singer-songwriter Melody Gardot, who asked Pereira to produce her Brazilian-flavored 2012 Verve album “The Absence,” adds: “Heitor breathes, lives and exudes music. There is not a moment he is not dancing or singing or imagining something. He’s like a kid, always dreaming.”

Pereira’s warm, delicate guitar stylings back Gardot’s dusky voice (he sings on some tracks as well as co-wrote two). “Watching Heitor work is like watching a magician,” she says. “Making the album was like watching a flower unfold.”

Filmmakers, too, echo these sentiments. Chris Meledandri, producer of the “Despicable Me” movies, as well as the recently released “Minions,” calls Pereira “an extraordinary talent with a never-ending commitment to each film he scores. Whether he is writing a cue to support comedy, drama or action, the music is always soulful. And when you meet Heitor you immediately understand why.”

Adds director Raja Gosnell (“Beverly Hills Chihuahua”): “He’s one of the most authentic people I’ve ever met,” citing the composer’s “joyful attitude toward life and music.”Gosnell, too, mentions that little playroom, “probably 40 guitar-like instruments on racks, all with slightly different flavors and cultural stories, in addition to small sound-making oddities from various cultures. He uses these to create extremely specific sounds that pepper his scores with quirk and originality.

“That’s what I love about working with Heitor. He always finds a way to surprise, and is relentless in pursuing originality.” — Jon Burlingame