|Ice Age (2-Disc Special Edition)|
|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 26 November 2002|
The action-packed opening of Scrat the saber-toothed squirrel trying desperately to bury an acorn he has found, only to trigger an avalanche of ice, seizes us and doesn't let go. Scrat launches the story and maintains a presence throughout the film that ties so many things together and reminds us that nothing can be taken for granted. Chapter 1 delivers a senses-shattering attack as the ice cracks and rips through the surround sound system, exploding loud enough to fire through the subwoofer. Scrat's nervous eye twitching shows the lengths the animators went to in order to bring their story to real life in an animated world. The thud of the shattered ice shards, falling like deadly shrapnel in the wake of Scrat's run for his life, smacks into the icy floor, blasts through the center, left and right speakers and triggers the urge to duck and cover. The thump of Scrat getting stepped on by the mammoth rocks the subwoofer.
In Chapter 2, the idea of the Ice Age is quickly introduced, with herds of various species migrating south to avoid the Arctic death that creeps up on them. All of the scenes throughout the movie, like the one with the prehistoric armadillo trying to invent flying in the background, generally carry layers of comedy or depth of character or environment that reward multiple viewings. The introduction of Manfred the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), going in the opposite direction of all the herds, clearly states the course of his life and the nature of his character.
Sid the Sloth (voiced by John Leguizamo) is introduced in Chapter 3. Waking in a petrified tree, Sid discovers that the rest of the sloths have slipped off without him. The annoying traits of the character quickly clue us in on why Sid was abandoned. Caught up in his own problems, Sid runs afoul of a couple of prehistoric rhinos. The conversation between the rhinos switches between the left front speaker and the right front speaker, mirroring the rhinos' positions on the screen. The thunder of the rhinos' hooves rockets through the subwoofer. Fleeing for his life, Sid runs into Manfred, who has no intention of getting involved. The crash and clatter of battle cycles through the center and left and right speakers, making us feel as though we are in the center of the action.
Manfred's sarcastic nature and Sid's chatty side are revealed in Chapter 4. The dialogue between the two is awesome. Only a little later, the waterfall crashes through the bleak landscape. The audio portion of the landscape rolls through the surround sound, placing the audience in middle of the unfolding events. A group of humans is introduced, then quickly menaced by a pack of saber-toothed tigers planning on mayhem.
A little later in Chapter 4, Sid follows Manny as they prepare to bed down for the night. Manny carries a trunk full of wood to build himself shelter while Sid carries a single stick, which further illustrates the differences in character. The sound of the sloth and the mammoth's progression across the screen is mirrored through the surround sound system, going from left to right. Later, thunder peals through the subwoofer, and the hailstorm and driving rain plunge through the surround sound. The lightning blast splits the subwoofer with an extended throaty growl.
Menace slinks onto the screen in Chapter 5 with the dawn arrival of the saber-toothed tigers at the humans' campsite. The attacks ring out through the surround sound system, mixed with barking dogs that cycle through the front and back and left and right speakers. The driving music underscores the action, picking up the intensity. A woman carrying her baby flees through the river, splashing through the river from the right front speaker to the left front speaker. Having no choice, the woman dives into the waterfalls with the baby, and we are dragged into a cacophony of noise. Saber-toothed tiger Diego (voiced by Denis Leary) is assigned to retrieve the baby and bring it to the leader of his pride (voiced by Goran Visnjic). However, Manny and Sid find the now-motherless child first. Sid feels they should return the infant to his tribe; Manny is reluctant to take on the responsibility but can’t bring himself to abandon the baby, either.
In Chapter 6, drums bang through the subwoofer and birdcalls echo in the background as Sid and Manny discover the human village has been abandoned. Diego, claiming to be an expert tracker, offers to help Sid and Manny find the humans.
The panic involved in whether or not the baby has a poopy diaper in Chapter 7 brings the personalities of the three creatures to the forefront. The scene wins us over to the three creatures' points of view. Chapter 8 showcases another brilliant animation sequence as the three companions meet up with a group of dodos trying to prepare for the coming end of the world. During a battle for melons, the dodos' voices echo through the surround sound system, making us feel as though we are in danger of getting run over by the rancorous birds. The fighting and later football game for the melons plays out with tremendous success at humor and choreography.
In Chapter 9, crickets chirp through the left front and right front speakers, spreading the night around us. As Diego lies awake, we hear the movement of the saber-toothed tigers through the left front speaker, matching their presence on the screen.
The thump of mammoth feet quakes through the surround sound system in Chapter 10. Later in the chapter, the group halts when a geyser throws up a puff of red smoke. While they wait, a huge glacier slides by them, crunching through the surround sound speakers from right to left. Later, the geyser throws up a green puff of smoke, a prehistoric traffic light that is visually entertaining. At the close of the chapter, a blizzard blows in, and the wind howls through the sound system.
Chapter 11 delivers the rumble and crash of the avalanche launched by an angry shout. The musical tinkle of the icy stalactites that nearly fall on the group jingles through the speakers. A sequence in a cavern of ice shows off both the research and creative spirit that went into the project. The runaway slide through the icy tunnels crashes the surround sound with wild yells and shouts and the slick hiss of sliding bodies. The rasp of saber-tooth tiger claws across the ice as Diego tries to save himself raises goose bumps as they scrape from right to left. "Ice Age" has a lot of fact-based material that shows in the story, but the writer, director, animators, and voice actors have a blast throwing anything they feel like into the mix, making the film much more than an adventure story against a savage and ever-changing background.
The tons of extras packed onto the two-disc set offer up a lot of material that audiences interested in animated filmmaking will enjoy and view again and again. The HBO advance peek hosted by Ray Romano is funny. "Scrat's Missing Adventure" is a wonderful setpiece and a definite argument for investing in this DVD set. Scrat is a character who may find a life beyond the parent film. Also, the animated short film “Bunny” that launched “Ice Age” director Chris Wedge and Blue Sky Studios and made them award winners should be watched.
The most interesting aspect of the supplemental material concerns the development of the animated look, the modeling, the voices and character acting, as well as the energy and drive of Blue Sky Studios. Studio director Wedge comes across as a knowledgeable and generous captain heading an elegant ship, the kind of operation where the people involved enjoy going to work every day. These pieces are so fun and informative that even viewers with no real interest in animated filmmaking or computer graphics will find something to enjoy.
"Ice Age" delivers a simple story that touches the heart and comes wrapped in the penultimate computer special effects available today. Blue Sky Studios had already invented a number of programs for animation, and they had to create several more during the lifetime of the film project. The DVD package is a definite keeper for anyone interested in adding to a personal library of animated films, both for the finished product and for the background information contained in the featurettes. Also, parents wanting a film that can be watched again and again by young viewers during long road trips or for those rainy or cold days will find that "Ice Age" is destined to become a favorite. Manny, Sid, and Diego are heroes with problems that even preschool children will understand and identify with. And Scrat is an absolute hoot for the younger audience.