At one time every animated feature film (not that there were a lot of
them) was compared to Disney. Disney was the undisputed leader in
animation with a track record of releasing entertaining and exciting product
that children and their parents would both enjoy. Somewhere along
the line (where is debatable) Disney dropped the ball. Luckily Pixar
was there to pick it up. With a string of CGI animated hits, Pixar
is the studio that all computer animated features are now compared to.
While Pixar is still the king, they have some series competition as is
easily seen with this Blu-ray release of Ice Age. This hilarious
look at a coming catastrophe is well animated and has a touching and entertaining
story to go with it. The movie looks and sounds better than it ever
has on this BD release, which makes this a must-buy for animation fans.
Most people reading this have probably already seen the film, but for
those who haven't here's a quick recap: After being saved by a grumpy
wooly mammoth named Manfred (Ray Romano), the obnoxious ground sloth Sid
(John Leguizamo) decides to tag along with the giant and powerful mammal,
much to Manfred's dismay.
Meanwhile a pack of Sabertooth Tigers are hunting humans. After
the human tribe wiped out half of the pack's number, the leader wants to
eat the human chief's infant child as revenge. Attacking the tribe,
the mother manages to evade the tigers but falls into a river in the process.
Manny, as Sid has started calling his newfound friend and the Sloth
stop for a drink just in time to have the human baby entrusted to them.
The mother, too weak to save herself, drifts down the steam to certain
death. Sid is able to convince Manny to take "Pinky" along with them,
and the trio is soon joined by Diego (Denis Leary), a tiger who has been
charged with bringing the infant back to the pack alive. With the
human tribe migrating for the winter, Diego manages to convince Sid and
Manfred to follow them, all the while planning on double crossing the two
friend in order to get the human child.
Like the best animated features this has something for young and old
alike. For the kids there are a lot of fun action sequences and some
laugh-out-loud funny bits. For the adults, the plot is intricate
enough and the characters engaging so they won't find themselves looking
at their watches every five minutes.
There are some great scenes too. The roller-coaster ride through
the ice tunnel always fills my house with laughter as does my favorite
sequence, where Sid encounters the dodo birds. The creator also struck
gold when they came up with Scratch, a little pre-historic squirrel who
is trying to hide his last acorn against the coming ice. He starts
off the film, by causing an avalanche, and pops up now and again just when
the plot starts to drag a bit. The inclusion of this character is
a nice way of showing the passage of time as well as punching up the boring
The Blu-ray Disc:
It should come as no surprise that the 1080p encoded AVC image looks
just fantastic. With the feature being totally animated by computer
the digital-to-digital transfer is impeccable, and the movie looks better
than it ever has. The image is very sharp throughout, and the detail
is excellent. The prehistoric Rhino's body had more texture than
I remember from the SD DVD (which looked good itself) and individual hairs
that make up Sid, Manfred, and Diego's fur are much more clear and well
The colors that make up this movie are also impressive. There
are a lot of shades of white, from the clouds to the snow and ice to the
fur on Sid's stomach, and they are all distinct and never blend in together.
The other colors are strong and deep, like the beautiful blue of the ever
present sky. Blacks are dark and solid and never crushed.
Digitally things look great too. There isn't any digital noise,
something that I wouldn't have been surprised to see, and other common
defects in animation, macro blocking and aliasing, are also absent.
The only problem that was apparent is some posterization in a few scenes,
areas where one color doesn't blend in smoothly with another. Aside
from that minor defect this is an impressive looking disc.
The movie features a DTS HS Master Lossless audio track that is just
as exciting as the video. It was so outstanding that I had to screen
sections from my SD DVD in comparison. Make no mistake about it:
This soundtrack blows away the audio on the earlier releases. I've
always been impressed with the way the audio was mixed for this movie,
there are a lot of sonic surprises that work well, but this disc takes
the aural component of the film to the next level. The action sequences
are very dynamic and impressive with deep rumbling bass that will shake
the windows and rattle your teeth. In these scenes sound totally
envelops the viewer with action coming from all corners of the room.
They didn't just throw the same avalanche sounds to each speaker however.
There are different noises coming from different speakers creating a textured
audio experience that feels very realistic.
Many action films have great battle scenes (sound-wise) only to have
the mix devolve into basically a stereo soundtrack afterwards. That
does not happen with this film. The quietest crinkles as ice starts
to break are crisp and clear and well positioned in the room. More
than once an audio effect made me want to turn my head to see what was
going on behind me. There's a lot of directionality to the sound
effect and it's quite effective. This whole disc sound excellent.
There are also DD 5.1 tracks in Spanish and French, as well as subtitles
in English, Spanish, Cantonese, and Korean.
After raving about the movie, the image, and the sound, bet ya thought
I was going to launch into a paragraph praising the bonus features too.
I only wish I could.
One on my pet peeves is how the Blu-ray studios are ignoring the perceived
value of their product: what a consumer emotionally feels its worth.
If you give someone two toy cars that are the same size and ask them which
one is the better product, they'll generally choose the heavier of the
two. It's an emotional response; this toy is heavier so it must be
better. The same thing happens with video media. Sure, this
edition of Ice Age looks and sounds much better than the earlier releases,
but looking at the cover it doesn't seem to be a good value: it's
missing some of the bonus features that the SD DVDs have. Even if
those features sucked, people would feel that they were being cheated.
This disc is a perfect example since the SD version looks really good.
Until you see the Blu-ray. Same movie + higher price - extras = no
Okay, enough of my rant. What do we have here? First there's
a commentary track from co-directors Carlos Saldanha and Chris Wedge.
It wasn't nearly as entertaining as the Pixar commentaries. (Face it, every
CGI feature is going to be compared to Pixar, even the commentary tracks.)
The pair do have some interesting anecdotes, but they spend a bit too much
time narrating the action "Oh, look what happens here!" It's worth
a listen but doesn't rank up there with the best commentary tracks.
There are also six deleted scenes with optional commentary. These
were pretty good overall and could have made it into the finished film.
The best extra, hands down, is Scrat's Missing Adventure where the
down-on-his-luck squirrel gets another moment in the spotlight. This
was funnier than the film itself and I'm really glad they included it.
A series of trailers rounds out the disc.
This is a very funny movie that has some endearing characters and some
truly inspired moments. The Blu-ray disc makes this movie look and
sound better than it ever has in a home theater; it's just too bad that
Fox wasn't willing to port over all of the extras from the previous editions.
Even so, this is a great film that will go over well in any household that
has children. Higly Recommended.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do
not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.