Pixar came at us first with the all computer animated feature, "Toy Story" - and it was brilliant. As an animator myself I was thrilled to see this finally happen and continue to happen with better and better films like "A Bugs Life", "Toy Story 2", "Monsters Inc.", and the 2 PDI productions, "Antz" and "Shrek", as well a more realistic and experimental CGI films like "Final Fantasy". There has also been a wonderful enhancement of many traditionally animated films with CGI like "Tarzan" and the "Treasure Planet". A new player to the big screen arena is Blue Sky Studios with their amazing film "Ice Age". Blue Sky has been around since 1987, and is responsible for many effects of high profile films such as "Alien Resurrection", "Joe's Apartment", "Star Trek: Insurrection", and "Fight Club". The company was born out of an earlier group called "Magi" who were responsible for much of the computer animation in the 1982 groundbreaking film "TRON". After seeing "Ice Age" I am fully reminded of why I love animation so much and the power it has to deliver heart-warming material, loveable characters, and a boat load of laughs.
Our story revolves around three distinctive misfit characters with very different agendas who find a bond in attempting to return a missing baby boy to his tribe after his mother dies. Sid the Sullen Wooley Mammoth, Diego the sleek and fiendish Saber-toothed tiger, and Sid the silly bumbeling sloth. On their adventure they find friendship, team work, and fast action when they race down a huge ice slide. Every so often we get visited by that twitchy, scraggely saber-toothed rat-squirrel SCRAT! Scrat never fails to elicit huge laughs with his relentless pursuit and harvesting of acorns while outrunning the forces of nature. This film blends some wonderful influences from animation greats like Chuck Jones and Tex Avery with more traditional methods to deliver stunning environments, and delightful characters capable of making the audience howl with laughter. The characters are voiced wonderfully by John Leguizamo, Ray Romano, and Dennis Leary, but the real stars here are the unsung and extremely talented animators, technical directors, modellers, and creative teams at Blue Sky studios.
VIDEO: Presented in THX Certified 1.85:1 anamorphic and 1.33:1 full-frame, both included on the first disc. Presentation is direct from the digital source. Sharpness and detail are outstanding. The picture quality is consistently spectacular. The chosen color palettes look terrific. This is one thing often overlooked in many animated films.
SOUND: Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The sound mix is active and alive bringing a whole new dimension to this piece of art. The surrounds are used diligently and accurately bringing the room alive with the environments and action of Ice Age.
Commentary from co-director Carlos Saldanha and director Chris Wedge. A bit self-serving but certainly a lot of great recolections and musings from Chris about the production and the Blue Sky team.
Behind The Scenes: Ice Age: 15-minute promotional feature (hosted by Ray Romano) Not very interesting and obviously only to build interest in the movie. A lot of the same segements are used here from other parts of the extras.
The Making of "Ice Age": This documentary is split into several sections - "The Beginning", "Acting in Animation", "Creating Ice Age Characters", "Modeling", "Storyboards", "Animating Ice Age" and "The Finishing Touches". It would be nice if they just made this into one single film with chapters instead of seperate clips.
Featurettes: The "Under The Ice" section offers several additional featurettes, but they are too short. We get "Sid Voice Development" (John Leguizamo's development of the voice of Sid), "Using 2D in a 3D World", "Making a Character", "Art of Rigging", "Animators Acting", "Lighting and Materials" and "Art of Effects". As an animator this is the stuff I really like in my DVDs. I just wish there was more of it and deeper analysis of the production.
Trailers: The teaser and two theatrical trailers for "Ice Age" (all only in 2.0 audio, unfortunately) and a DVD trailer for "Like Mike".
Scrat Revealed: 3 short promos for the film starring Scrat.
Scrat's Missing Adventure: OK, this is where we get to see Scrat really shine. This is just gut-busting laughter inducing genius animation folks - it doesnt get much better than this.
6 Deleted scenes - "Paying Toll With Aardvarks", "Sid and Sylvia Intro", "Sabre Stake Out", "No More Fruit For You", "Sid and the Ladies" and "Sid and Sylvia", all with optional commentary from the directors.
Animation Progression: This section allows the viewer to watch four different stages of a final scene, using the "angle" button on the remote to switch between stages. The scenes are "Opening", "Almost Home" and "Tigers Attack" and the stages are: Storyboards, 3D Layout, Un-rendered animation, Final Render, Composite of all stages. I would like to have seen a little on the making of each one of these stages. MORE MORE MORE!
Also: Sid On Sid featurette, design gallery, "International Ice Age" clip, three small interactive games, THX Optimizer audio/video tests and "Bunny", an animated short by director Chris Wedge.
Summary: What can I say beyond screaming my love for this film? Yes, this will hold high status in my opinion of the current 3D animated feature race. The new generation of 3D animation will get better and better as Pixar, Blue Sky, PDI, and other smaller studio teams work their magic on these colorful and imaginative films. Maybe someday my name will be in the credits for one of these films. Until then, I will oggle the genius that films like Ice Age demonstrate and be thoroughly inspired as I work to polish my own animation skills.