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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Ice Age (2002)

"The sooner we find the humans, the sooner I get rid of Mr. Stinky Drool Face. And the baby, too."
- Manny (Ray Romano)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: November 25, 2002

Stars: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary
Other Stars: Cedric the Entertainer, Jack Black, Diedrich Bader, Goran Visnjic, Jane Krakowski
Director: Carlos Saldanha, Chris Wedge

MPAA Rating: PG for (mild peril)
Run Time: 01h:21m:02s
Release Date: November 26, 2002
UPC: 024543046646
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-A-A A-

DVD Review

The newest entry in the high-stakes, computer-generated animation market comes from relative upstarts Blue Sky Studios, with a hearty backing from Fox. The big three—Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks—have some genuine competition now, and the studio's feature debut, Ice Age, has all of the visual and comedic makings of a real animated classic, with the possible exception of a freshly written, marketable pop song (though the film does make good use of an old Rusted Root track). Blue Sky made their first blip on the radar in 1998 by snagging the Academy AwardŽ for their equally touching and disturbing animated short, Bunny, which is thankfully included as part of this two-disc set. Bunny director Chris Wedge, along with co-director Chris Saldanha, helm their first feature-length project here, and do an outstanding job.

At the onset of the big prehistoric global frost, Ice Age opens with a long parade of assorted beasties making their way south on the so-called Great Migration. A caustic, sullen mammoth named Manny (Ray Romano, who kind of sleepwalks through his line reads) is going in the opposite direction, alone, for reasons that are made poignantly clear later on. Manny inadvertently saves the life of a slightly dim sloth named Sid (John Leguizamo) from a pair of angry rhinos, and then finds himself stuck with an unwanted, constantly talking travelling partner. When Manny and Sid come across an abandoned human baby, they are joined by Diego (Denis Leary), a potentially dangerous sabre-tooth tiger who has his own secret agenda for wanting to help. As the core of the plot unfolds, the trio then decides to try and return the baby to its southward tribe.

Borrowing thematically from the often retold western classic The Three Godfathers (best told as the 1948 John Ford/John Wayne outing), this is basically the story of a trio of animal outcasts who find themselves accidently in charge of caring for a baby, and their various trials and tribulations as they make their way across a dangerous landscape. As with most mainstream animated features, the bickering group (well, Manny and Diego grumble while Sid seems happily oblivious) slowly learn to not only properly care for the child, but eventually for each other as well. With a runtime of just 81 minutes, there isn't any padding in the Michael J. Wilson/Michael Berg script, and while it is a remarkably short film, it is loaded with stunning visuals and solid comedy, most of it from Leguizamo's lispy Sid.

With regard to Blue Sky's visual style, I just can't say enough about the quality of the animation in Ice Age, and it should be noted that much of the film's most exceptional work comes from detail found in the backgrounds. Ice, snow, running water and fire is rendered with such an amazing level of detail that I had trouble convincing my daughter Sammy that the river sequence was actually computer generated, and not "real" life. Hair and fur on the principal characters, often a tell-tale giveaway on sub-par animation, moves and reflects light wonderfully. Take note of the slick sheen on Sid's fur during the rainstorm sequence, and I think you'll appreciate the skill involved in this production.

But enough of me blathering on about how cool Ice Age looks. You probably just want to know if you and/or your kids will like it, and the answer there is: certainly. It's got slapstick, clever jokes, properly threatening villains and Leguizamo's steal-the-show performance as Sid that should work for just about anyone, no matter what age.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: Ice Age comes in two image transfer flavors: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 pan & scan, both of which are included on the same side of disc one. I imagine the widescreen transfer might have fared a little better (a few minor compression issues are apparent) on a somewhat less crowded disc, but that is not to say that there is anything significantly wrong here. This release can just about stand tusk to tusk with any stellar Pixar DVD release, and that is really saying something, as at the very least it adds another major player to the high-quality animated playing field.

Image detail is exceptional, from naturally lifelike hair and fur (even Sid's dirty green coat) to some truly jaw-dropping rendering done on a raging river sequence. Colors hold up well, too, with deep blues and brilliant whites in a number of different shades. Black levels are dead-on, as well.

Beautiful.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The THX-certified 5.1 Dolby Digital English audio, as with most of the recent school of high-end animated features, is loud, clean, and incorporates all available channels in a particularly well-mixed and fun sound experience. The numerous discrete rear channel cues help create a truly enveloping soundfield of the type that is sadly lacking on a large number of non-animated major studio releases. From the deep rumble of a rapidly advancing glacier to the swirling growls and roars during the sabre-tooth tiger attack, the audio mix is extremely lively, and more than adds to the enjoyment of the film.

French and Spanish 2.0 Dolby surround tracks are also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Like Mike
3 TV Spots/Teasers
6 Deleted Scenes
16 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Chris Wedge, Carlos Saldanha
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Scrat's Missing Adventure
  2. Animation Progression
  3. Bunny
  4. Design Galleries
  5. Games
Extras Review: Disc 1
The first disc houses both the full-frame and widescreen versions, as well as the enjoyable full-length, scene-specific commentary from co-directors Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha. Their track is not nearly as dry as you might expect, considering that the bulk of their comments concern the development of the animation and its various potentially dull technical layers. The film's relatively short runtime works to their advantage, and the track is driven by Wedge, who provides an easy to follow, cohesively casual technical assessment of the production. Saldanha's slightly repetitive "This is my favorite..." preface to most of his comments is a mild distraction, but it's really Wedge who generates the majority of output. Not overly technical, but this does give even the most uninformed viewer a simple, clear idea of the complexity of putting together a piece of modern CG animation.

There are also three fairly non-challenging games, apparently designed for the under 7 demo. Hide and Eek puts the gamer as Scrat, who is hunting for a hidden nut, while Frozen Pairs is a version of the ol' nothing-but-a-time-killer of trying to find two matching character pictures out of a set of five. Playing Darwin allows the kiddies to mix and match body parts (head, chest, feet) of the film's principal characters, with a small background bio appearing when one is completed correctly.

As if the lackluster games mentioned above weren't enough, the DVD-ROM extras on disc one include a handful of similarly simple kid-friendly games, as well as a number of printable calendars, mobiles and the like.

The film is cut into 20 chapters, and features subtitles in English, French, and Spanish. The THX Optimizer audio/video setup section is also on this disc.

Disc 2
The second disc has a nice assortment of brief behind-the-scenes segments (though the lack of the Play All option is a bit cumbersome for those of us who would prefer to watch in one big chunks), deleted scenes, as well as a couple of bonus animated pieces.

Scrat's Missing Adventure (04m:48s)
This short, entitled Gone Nutty, highlights the beleaguered critter from Ice Age as he once again struggles to gain control of an oversized nut. Funny stuff, and it features a great Pangea gag for all you fans of ancient plate tectonics. Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, Gone Nutty is available in 5.1 and 2.0 surround, as well.

Deleted Scenes
These six deleted scenes, presented in 2.0 surround, are available with or without an optional commentary track from Wedge and Saldanha. Some of the scenes are rough cuts, with no sound effects, and none of them feature any score elements. It's interesting to see how a couple of scenes were drastically altered for the final cut, including a great confrontation between Sid and fellow sloth Sylvia that is actually funnier than what is used in the finished product. The scenes are:
Paying Toll With Aardvarks (01m:27s)
Sylvia and Sid Introduction (01m:45s)
Sabre Stake Out (:59s)
No More Fruit For You (01m:12s)
Sid and The Ladies (:47s)
Sid and Sylvia (02m:18s)

Sid On Sid (03m:10s)
Sid's certainly comedically the best part of Ice Age, and here the sloth does an MST3K-style riff of a few clips from the film. Leguizamo is terrific delivering what I expect were a series of ad-libs, and this segment ends way too soon.

Animation Progression
Get ready to man your remote's angle button if you're an animation buff, because in this section, three scenes (Opening, Tigers Attack, Almost Home) are broken down into five separate production areas. As each scene plays, you can click between Storyboards, 3D Layouts, Un-Rendered Animation, Final Render and Composite of All Stages to see the differences, similarities and development of how the animation process progresses. Nicely done.

International Ice Age
If the idea of seeing Manny, Sid and Diego dubbed in French, Italian, German, Swedish, Polish, Greek, Cantonese and Korean sounds like fun, then this quickie will satisfy. For some reason I can't quite determine, my daughter really loved this part. Go figure.

Under the Ice
Here's where the Play All option would have come in handy, as Under the Ice is broken down in 9 segments, one of which is further broken down in 7 sub-sections. The scope of these pieces is not overly technical, but it does present a quick glimpse into the mind-numbing process of creating CG animation. Most of the sections are rather short, and seem well-suited for absorption in tiny doses, if that's your bag. Here's what we have:
Making of Ice Age
The Beginning (02m:32s)
Acting in Animation (07m:15s)
Creating Ice Age Characters (03m:00s)
Modeling (01m:58s)
Storyboards (01m:47s)
Animating Ice Age (06m:02s)
The Finishing Touches (04m:15s)

Behind the Scenes of Ice Age (14m:00s)
This is the lamest of the bunch, with the premise of Ray Romano giving scripted "ad-libs" over endless clips from the film. Just not as funny as it might have been.

Sid Voice Development (03m:36s)
Leguizamo and Wedge provide some engaging insight into how the lateral lisp of Sid The Sloth was developed. A neat bonus are highlights from a demo tape made by Leguizamo in his hotel room during filming of Moulin Rouge where tries a number of different vocal styles.

The final six sections in Under the Ice are startlingly short, and don't really get an opportunity to properly explain the complex content. Using 2D in a 3D World (01m:10s), Making a Character (01m:05s), Art of Rigging (01m:26s), Animators Acting (:51s), Lighting and Materials (01m:04s) and Art of Effects (01m:01s) are rudimentary, introductory peeks at the CG animation process, apparently designed for attention-span challenged.

Bunny (07m:19s)
If for nothing else, the inclusion of Blue Sky's 1998 Academy AwardŽ-winning animated short, Bunny, makes this two-disc set's extras worthy of high marks. Designed originally as an in-house project to show off advances in lighting software, Bunny is a funny, disturbing and incredibly moving short about an aging bunny trying to bake a cake while a bothersome moth flutters about. The underlying thematic content might soar over the heads of younger viewers, who may also find the realistic bunny animation a little frightening. Bunny is available with an optional Chris Wedge commentary, and an optional intro (sort of a condensed commentary). If you have not seen this short, DO NOT listen to the intro first, as Wedge reveals the short's dramatic payoff.

Design Galleries
Broken down into three sections (Size Comparisons, The Science, Behind Ice Age), this is essentially a stills/sketch gallery containing upwards of 70 images. Oddly enough, a Play All option is included here. Hmmmm.

Also included is a trio of short Fox teasers featuring Scrat, in addition to three theatrical trailers for Ice Age and a DVD trailer for Like Mike.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

With Ice Age, Blue Sky (and Fox) have added themselves to the exclusive list of impressive animation studios, alongside proven heavyweights like Pixar, Dreamworks and of course, Disney. That's pretty choice company to be in, and this 2-disc set should prove that point to any doubters out there. This is an incredibly engaging film for adults as well as children, and it's 81 minute runtime prevents any unnecessary squirming from restless viewers. Despite the appearance of television-fave Ray Romano as Manny the mammoth, it's John Leguizamo that owns Ice Age as the lispy sloth Sid, and he is simply a scene stealer whenever he is present.

A nice set of short and sweet behind-the-scenes extras is capped by the well-deserved inclusion of Blue Sky's Academy-award winning short, Bunny.

Highly recommended.

 


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