Blue Sky Studios (March 15, 2002), Twentieth Century Fox (November 26, 2002), 2 disc set, 81 mins plus supplements, 1.85:1 original anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, Rated PG, Retail: $29.95
Ice Age begins with Scrat running around in the snow in search of the perfect place to bury his acorn. He scurries across the white snow like a small dot and when he finds the perfect spot he tries to bury it. Unfortunately for him, the pressure on the ice causes a giant crack to form which runs along the ice to break a nearby iceberg which comes flying in his direction. Lucky for the small animal, he survives the crash and lands with his acorn intact, but is then stomped on by some migrating animals. This is where we find Manfred going in the opposite direction of the crowd. The introduction enhances the environment and the powerlessness of the characters against it. There are many jokes and gags in this introduction. There is an animal on the verge of an evolutionary breakthrough (“I can fly!”) and some kids playing extinction in a lava pit (“You can play extinction later kids.”). We are soon introduced to Sid who awakens from his sleep to find that all of his pack has started migrating without him. Soon, Sid encounters trouble with some angry rhinos that are scared away by Manfred who unwillingly protects the annoying Sid. Faced with impending danger, Sid decides to stick around near Manfred even when Manfred tells him to go away.
This is when we meet the humans in the story. A campfire is attacked by a pack of Saber-toothed tigers whose leader wants the baby son of the tribe leader. The tigers are really scary and cats haven’t looked this menacing since The Lion King’s Scar or The Jungle Book’s Sher Khan. When the baby’s mother runs away, Diego, one of the members of the pack, goes after her, but soon loses her when she jumps from the top of a waterfall. At the bottom of the waterfall, the mother places her baby on shore in front of an amazed Manfred and Sid. Sid wants to take the baby back to the human village, a suggestion that Manfred refuses to take part of. Suddenly, Diego appears to take the baby, but his intentions are questioned by Manfred who decides that they all should go together and return the baby. When they find the human village abandoned, Diego tries to convince the others that he knows where the humans are headed and will take the baby back. However, Manfred, doubtful of Diego’s intentions, decides that they will all go together. This is when their journey begins as they face ice, fire, a baby, a flock of dodos, and each other.
The Sweatbox Review:
This year has been a very peculiar year for the movie business, especially when it comes to boxoffice receipts. One of the year’s most popular movies is an independent one, some old franchises did not measure up to their potential, and the year’s biggest animated movie is not from Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks. Debuting last spring, Fox’s Ice Age is one of the year’s most entertaining pictures and has brought Fox back on the map as an animation powerhouse. After months of teasers and trailers bombarding movie screens everywhere, Ice Age finally debuted to record numbers. In recent years computer animated movies have been exclusive to the Disney/Pixar collaborations, but lately all studios have been joining the revolution with last year’s Shrek by Dreamworks leading the way along with Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius by Paramount/Nickelodeon. If Ice Age is any indication of the future of animation, we can bet on more successful collaborations between Fox and Blue Sky Animation.
Fox has had mixed results in the animation field with some successes such as 1997’s Anastasia and misses such as Titan A.E. In fact, after the debut of Titan A.E. many felt that the Fox Animation department would be closed down, and, in fact, it later was. Fox’s sole animation project was done by a small animation department far away from Hollywood. Blue Sky has been involved in movies for a long time producing special effects for many productions such as Alien Resurrection, Fight Club, and Joe’s Apartment. In 1998, one of the heads of the company, Chris Wedge, released a very innovative short called Bunny which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short the following year. People at Fox noticed and got in contact with the company for an idea they had about an animated feature set in the Ice Age.
The result is Ice Age which has become one of the most imaginative films in recent years. The movie follows the journey of three prehistoric animals whose mission is to return a baby human to his father. The three animals are Manfred, Manny for short, a wooly mammoth, Sid a giant sloth, and Diego, a saber-tooth tiger. Under very unusual circumstances, they get together and bond along the way. Manfred is voiced by comedian Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond) who does an excellent job as the cynical mammoth. Comedian John Leguizamo plays the annoying Sid, and Denis Leary lends his voice talents to the shifty-eyed Diego. Rounding off the voice talents include Jack Black, Cedric the Entertainer, and Goran Visnjic. There is also a voiceless saber-tooth rat (some voice sounds are provided by director Chris Wedge), or squirrel/rat named Scrat who also appears regularly throughout the movie providing much of the comic relief.
One thing I must mention is that Ice Age is very funny. It does not try to be funny with potty humor (although if that’s your thing, there are a few jokes), but makes by with witty physical and visual humor. There are several different types of comedy in the story, with cynicism coming from Manny, sarcasm from Diego, and physical comedy from Sid and Scrat. Scrat’s scenes with his acorn are some of the funniest in the movies. The filmmakers looked at the old Warner Brothers movies for inspiration, and they found it. Scrat pops up in several parts of the film, trying to bury his acorn and the sequences are successful. Another hilarious sequence involves some militant dodo birds that are preparing for the Ice Age. The birds are preparing for the Ice Age like some people did for Y2K three years ago when people were stockpiling food in their basements. In this case, the dodos are stockpiling three melons and they try to keep our friends away with hilarious results.
The story also has a lot of heart. Many people I have talked to mention how they were in tears by the end of the movie. It is probably one of the year’s most touching movie and the relationship between the three characters evolves throughout the movie. As their bond grows deeper, Diego has to make a difficult choice between his old life and his new friends. A particularly teary-eyed scene was in the middle when we begin to learn more about Manny’s past. One interesting interaction in the movie is that between the animals and the humans. No words are exchanged, obviously, in their encounters, but the character’s eyes tell most of their feelings. When the baby’s mother deposits her baby at Manny’s feet, there is almost a spiritual connection between them, and the same happens in the film’s touching ending.
Is This Thing Loaded?
Fox has provided every possible bonus feature I could think of, and has provided a second disc to give us all that they have to offer. They have packed the second disc with behind the scenes, deleted footage, the development stage, trailers, concept art, and much more.
The first disc features an audio commentary by director Chris Wedge and co-director Carlos Saldanha. The commentary gives good insight into the animation project, and it is easy to tell that both are very proud of Ice Age. They point out how they planned out the story, and which sequences are their favorites. It’s an entertaining commentary that should satisfy the curiosity of those that really enjoyed the movie. If you like commentaries, I would suggest a session. The first disc also features three games entitled “Hide and Eek” (find Scrat’s Acorn), “Frozen Pairs” (find the differences between pictures) and “Playing Darwin” (mix the body parts of the different characters).
The second disc is where all of the goodies are bundled, and all I can say is that the Ice Age bonus disc is one cool disc. There are behind the scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, a look at the development process, two shorts, and promotional material.
The two animated shorts are the brand new Scrat’s Missing Adventure and the Academy Award winning short Bunny. Scrat’s Missing Adventure falls in line with many of the other Scrat segments from the movie. It shows Scrat in his perpetual search to bury his acorn to hilarious consequences. It is very funny and highly recommended. The other short is Bunny which got Mark Wedge the Academy Award in 1998 for best animated short film. It is the story of an old bunny that is making something in her kitchen and is being pestered by a fly, and it is also about the afterlife. The computer animated short is presented in widescreen and it was an experiment for Blue Sky for future computer animation projects. It is very colorful and it is a very touching short. You can watch the short with an intro by Chris Wedge as well as an audio commentary
The six deleted scenes released in the DVD mainly involve sequences cut out revolving around a female sloth named Sylvia. Sylvia was originally going to be the love interest for Sid who originally was going to have commitment issues. The six scenes are “Playing Toll With Aardvarks”, where Sid is portrayed more like a hustler, “Sylvia and Sid Introduction”, “Sabre Stake Out”, “No More Fruit For You”, “Sid and the Ladies”, and “Sid and Sylvia.” The reason for the removal of Sylvia was a change in Sid’s personality. Some of the later scenes involving Sylvia and the other lady sloths did not screen well with test audiences due to some unnecessary sexual references. Personally, I like the movie without the scenes, although they are interesting to watch by themselves. You can watch the scenes in English, Spanish, and French, and with an option commentary by Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha.
The section called “Sid on Sid” shows the animated Sid talking about selected scenes and characters. He talks about his favorite scenes and how it was like to work with the other characters. This section is oriented at children, and it is fairly funny.
“Scrat Reveals” is a section where they show three clips where Scrat reveals something when he cracks the ice, or in other parts where he is working on his acorn. The three sequences are “Mt. Rushmore”, “Push” and “Block.” I don’t know whether these clips were featured on the Fox Network, but it looks like they could have since they all reveal “Fox” inscribed in ice.
The “Animation Progression” feature allows you to view three different scenes in all four animation stages. You can choose, with your “Angle” button, between the storyboard, the 3D Layout, the un-rendered animation, and the final render. For those that like quick comparisons, there is also a “view all” option. The three segments available are the “Opening”, “Tiger Attack” and “Almost Home.” It is very interesting to see how the animation evolves from stage to stage and this gives the viewer a unique perspective.
The “Under the Ice” section is where most of the behind the scenes footage can be found. They have included the HBO special “Behind the Scenes of Ice Age” hosted by Ray Romano as well as “The Making of Ice Age” which gives you another look at the movie. The documentaries are very different and are handled in different ways. The Ray Romano documentary is very funny and different as Ray rehearses for the documentary. “The Making of Ice Age” includes seven featurettes: “The Beginning”, “Acting in Animation”, “Creating Ice Age Characters”, “Modeling”, “Storyboards”, “Animating Ice Age”, and “Finishing Touches”. Other sections in “Under the Ice” are the featurettes “Sid Voice Development”, “Using 2D in a 3D World”, “Making a Character”, “Art of Rigging”, “Animators Acting”, “Lighting and Materials”, and “Art Effects.”
The other features included are extensive design galleries (interactive!), an “International Ice Age” clip that shows a segment from the movie featuring Ice Age in many different languages, as well as the trailers. Included are the teaser trailer (the intro of the movie was used), and the two theatrical trailers. There is also a Like Mike DVD trailer available.
Just when you think that the features are over, you take a look at the DVD-ROM features. In the first disc, you can play two different games that are actually quite challenging and entertaining. The first is “Sid Shreds” which is a 3D freestyle snowboarding game that is actually very fun to play. There are a variety of courses, and tricks to be performed. The player can chose from the characters of Sid or a female sloth named Rachel. The other game is called “Super Dodo Ball.” In this game, the player must play Sid and steal all of the Dodo’s melons. You have to race against the clock, collect, all of the melons, and battle your way through militant dodos. There are three different levels to this game, but I could not get through the second one. It was a very challenging game that I will someday beat.
The DVD-ROM also features a printables gallery. In this place, you can find seven different things to print and color. There is “Hanging With the Herdmobile” that features the different characters that can be hanged (like on top of a baby’s crib), a “2003 Migration Calendar”, “Sub-Zero Heroes Adventure Boardgame”, “Rachel’s Fashion Paper Doll”, “Snowflake Flurry”, “Ice Box Theatre” with a stage and paper puppets, and “Ice Digest” which is an activity pack for kids. Overall, I was very impressed with the DVD-ROM features and Fox must be commended for a job well done.
Ice Age has been released as a two-disc set, that comes in a white DVD case. Inside the case is an Ice Age coupon book that has some activities like puzzles and matching games for children. Another insert has the poster for the movie on the front, the chapter stops on the back, and character profiles inside. There are several ads inside of the coupon book, but I was surprised to see a large Papa John’s ad on the back of one of the disc flaps. It was a little weird at first, but I guess I’ve gotten used to it. It’s just odd to see ads on the actual case itself.
Ink And Paint:
Ice Age is a computer animated movie with one traditionally animated sequence. The filmmakers have created a beautiful movie by using some incredible animation techniques. Blue Sky’s major accomplishment is in the area of lighting. Like in their previous cartoon, Bunny, Blue Sky astonishes in its use of realistic lighting. There are a variety of different lights in the movie from sunsets to the dawn and they are executed with great precision. The sequence where the mother is running away from Diego takes place when the sun is rising and it is beautiful to watch. I also found their water animation to be spectacular and it looks amazingly real. The movie also does not overwhelm the viewer with distracting detail, as the filmmakers made the background and surroundings as simple and clean as possible.
The DVD is presented in both 1.85:1 widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan versions. The transfer is excellent with the whites, which are very present with all of the ice, presented without a blemish. The detail in the character’s fur is well defined and contrast between the many colors is excellent. It’s a beautiful looking disc and Fox and Blue Sky have done an incredible job with it, which is up to par with many of the best computer animated movies out on DVD.
The most impressive part about the sound is the sound effects that have been used. As with all animated movies, the sound had to be created from scratch. The sound transfer to DVD is the best an animated movie can have. The surround sound really works, especially in a particular in a sequence that takes place inside an ice maze where it is used to full capacity with the characters flying by. David Newman’s score is also very good and used effectively throughout the picture. Ice Age is presented in English 5.1 Dolby Surround sound, as well as Spanish Dolby Surround. English closed captions, and Spanish subtitles are also available. As already mentioned, there is also an audio commentary available.
Ice Age is one of the year’s best movies and it is being released in a great DVD package. The movie is funny, heartwarming, breathtaking, and impressive. It is a story about friendship and making the correct choices in life, as well as courage and being a family. The special features are worth your time and nothing is missing from this disc. They have chosen to go in the course of including both the family friendly pan & scan version as well as the original widescreen version with great surround sound. Overall, this two-disc set is well worth your money if you loved the movie as much as I did.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?