003797Reviews & Counting
Ice Age
DVD disk
10.05.2004 By: Mike Sampson
Ice Age order
Chris Wedge

Ray Romano
Denis Leary
John Leguizamo


star Printer-Friendly version
Just as the Ice Age is about to begin, animals across the prehistoric globe start heading south towards warmer climates. That's when fast-talking/slow-moving sloth Sid meets up with saturnine woolly mammoth Manny. There they witness a pack of sabertooth tigers attacking a camp of humans. A mother is separated from her baby and Manny and Sid rescue the child as she floats in a river. They embark on a journey to return the baby to its father and soon meet a tiger named Diego who may have alternate plans for their human cargo. Meanwhile, a peculiar creature named Scrat is getting himself into all kinds of trouble...
When I first saw the character designs for ICE AGE, particularly Scrat and Sid, I winced. These weren't exactly the fuzzy, cuddly characters of TOY STORY or A BUG'S LIFE. They had a harsh edge to them, but as a I watched the movie again on DVD, I realized it's their design that brings a sense of creativity to the film. These aren't your standard cookie cutter characters that were created simply to sell plush dolls. They're different, sometimes goofy looking, yet oddly convincing characters.

The film is great entertainment that surprisingly holds its own against the standards set by the TOY STORYs and SHREK. The film, while technically extremely advanced, is actually a throwback to the animation of the 50s, with a style reminiscent of early Chuck Jones cartoons.

Like Pixar's A BUG'S LIFE, this film could've fell victim to its simple premise. With that film, it was reminiscent of THE THREE AMIGOS, while here we get a THREE MEN AND A BABY type story. ICE AGE defies the odds and goes above and beyond the material to create a very endearing, funny, interesting and simply enjoyable piece of animation. What's even more important is that the baby liked it too. Even my 16-month-old managed to sit and watch this thing and he can barely focus his attention on anything for more than a few minutes. So not only does it reach its target audience, but it's fun for us big people as well.
There are an insane amount of extras packed onto two discs here, so let's start with Disc 1. Besides housing the film in both its formats, it's also home to the audio commentary by director Chris Wedge and co-director Carlos Saldanha. Wedge does most of the talking throughout the commentary and does a good job of not getting too bogged down in computer talk. It's not like listening to Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn talk up SWINGERS, but it's better than 90% of the commentaries out there. Also included are three games for the kids like "Hide and Eek," "Playing Darwin" and "Frozen Pairs." This isn't exactly GRAND THEFT AUTO so don't expect much in the way of a real challenging adventure. This is a cartoon remember?

Now we move on to Disc 2 which is enough to make any DVD reviewer have a coronary. There are just extras upon extras upon extras stacked here and I'll try to cover everything, though I may miss a few things that were hidden on there (there are easter eggs if you look hard enough!).

The first thing I found when I dropped this disc in was "Gone Nutty," a short featuring the lovable Scrat. It shows us the little guy struggling to fit another acorn in his stash. It's good for a few laughs and has a great ending that explains exactly how seven continents came to be from one land mass.

Being a big fan of deleted material, next up for me were the deleted scenes. There were six in all presented on the disc although not every one had completed animation. The "Sid and the Ladies" and "Sid and Sylvia" ones were the best and it's nice to see some deleted scenes that aren't a complete waste of time. You can also elect to listen to the optional commentary by Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha on the scenes.

One of my favorite parts of this DVD was the Animation Progression feature that allows you to view three scenes from the film in various stages of animation development. You can finally dust off that rarely used angle button on your remote to flip through the 5 options: storyboards, 3D layouts, unrendered animation, final print and finally all four stages at once in four corners of the screen. Being an animation buff myself, I never get sick of seeing just how much work goes into creating such simple scenes.

Now we get into the real meat and potatoes of this disc - the Under the Ice featurettes. Here you have 9 different sections, all with 7 different subsections. Trust me, it's enough to make your head spin. I won't get into every little detail of what was presented here (otherwise this would be the longest review in the history of man) but I will say that I enjoyed the Acting in Animation sequence the best. I've always enjoyed watching actors voice the characters from animated films. But all the features here are very informative and aren't long enough to bore you to death. They include behind-the-scenes info on storyboards, animation, modeling and the finishing touches. Rounding out these features are six shorter, more technical sections with titles like "Art of Rigging" and "Using 2D in a 3D World."

One of the features that didn't quite work for me was International Ice Age which is basically a scene with different language tracks played throughout. It's not quite that funny or interesting to hear the characters speaking in French, Italian, German, etc. Went on a bit long for me.

The next two features highlight Sid the Sloth. Up first is Sid on Sid which is basically the Sid character doing a Beavis and Butthead style commentary on his scenes from the film. Without a guy like John Leguizamo doing some funny improv stuff this wouldn't be worth a look, but here, it's a great treat. The next Sid feature is Sid Voice Development which follows Leguizamo as he works with director Chris Wedge to develop the complex vocal style of Sid. Again, damn interesting and gives you an idea as to the kind of talent a guy like Leguizamo has (and I don't normally think he's all that funny!) as he goes through a bunch of options for what Sid's voice could sound like.

Finally, we get the inclusion of Chris Wedge's Academy Award winning short film BUNNY which is always a welcome treat. There's also a rather large gallery of stills, trailers for the film (and oddly enough for LIKE MIKE), and bumper commercials Fox TV ran during the Olympics.
If you're looking for a surprising yet warm and fuzzy movie that's sure to please the little person in your life (I mean a son/daughter/niece/nephew not a dwarf) and will also tickle your fancy, I highly suggest ICE AGE. I was very skeptical going into this flick, but damned if I wasn't convinced. Much like Diego myself, I wanted to rain on this parade, but in the end I realized that I actually enjoyed the ride. At times, I felt like it might be a bit of overkill with the extras and found some things a bit tough to navigate through, but those were minor complaints. A present sure to make anyone happy this Christmas.
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