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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Ice Age: Special Edition
Ice Age: Special Edition
Fox // PG // November 26, 2002
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted November 23, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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The Movie:

The films of Pixar ("Monsters, Inc" and the "Toy Story" series) as well as PDI ("Antz"), have amazed us over the past few years with the advancement of computer-generated animation instead of the traditional, hand-drawn style. "Ice Age", a bit of a mixture of previous animated plots (there's definitely a noticable amount of "Shrek" to the proceedings), does not stun with the detail of the animation, but the scope. The icy wilds have been realized with remarkable style and even little things - droplets of water in the midst of a larger splash landing realistically - are impressively rendered.

The film opens with a massive herd of animals heading South for the Winter, attempting to outrun the oncoming snow and cold. Yet, a small group of animals are actually heading the other way; Manfred (Ray Romano), a grumpy wooly mammoth, Sid (John Leguizamo) a sloth, and Diego (Denis Leary), a tiger, have all become involved in trying to take a human baby that has been separated back to its family. Diego, on the other hand, may have other plans for his three traveling companions, as other tigers seem to lurk around every pass, awaiting the group.

"Ice Age" does start off a little on the flat side, as the introduction stage of the film needed to pick up the pace a little bit. Once the final team goes on the road in search of the humans, things start to pick up a little bit. There's a few inspired sequences, such as a terrifically funny one involving dodo birds and their attempts to secure their stash of food and other where an ice cave turns into something of a theme park ride. You've probably seen part of the best bits of the film in the trailer, a short, self-contained piece that shows a little creature named Scrat (a squirrel/rat) attempting to hide his beloved acorn and nearly being crushed by a glacier as a result. The film is not about Scrat, but his attempt to find a secure place for that acorn is a bit of a subplot that occasionally runs back into the main story and, most amusingly, ends off the picture.

The voice acting is quite good throughout the movie. Leguizamo's fast-talking sloth really could have gotten tremendously annoying, but surprisingly, I found his bits entertaining. Romano's dry gloom provides a good counterpoint as well, even if their teaming echoed the Shrek/Donkey pairing from "Shrek" a little too closely. Leary believably breaks down his character's gruff surface over the course of the film, as well.

The film may not be as consistently inspired as "Shrek" or the "Toy Story" series, but "Ice Age" deserves to stand up with many of the other recent animated efforts. The film certainly has enough humor for both adults (a sight gag about evolution got a big laugh from the audience I saw it with) and children. I'm hoping there will be further adventures with these characters and a larger adventure for Scrat.


VIDEO: "Ice Age" is presented by 20th Century Fox in THX Certified 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full-frame, both of which are included on the same side of the first disc. Similar to the treatment of many other computer-animated films recently, "Ice Age"'s presentation is direct from the digital source. Sharpness and fine detail are impressive, as the picture appeared almost consistently stunning.

I say "almost" because, although the majority of the film looked magnificent, there were a few very minor concerns. Some minor artifacts were visible on occasion, although I didn't find them particularly distracting. On a positive note, no edge enhancement was seen. Also due to the direct-from-digital presentation, print flaws were not an issue.

The film's bright, rich color palette looked consistently terrific throughout; while some sequences in the film take place in a white, Wintery background, more vivid colors break through fairly often and stand out quite boldly.
SOUND: "Ice Age" is presented by Fox in Dolby Digital 5.1. Although it's unfortunate that no DTS track was included, this soundtrack proved to be absolutely terrific. In the animation realm, this sound mix only falls a bit short of the kind of outstanding work that Gary Rydstrom has done with the Pixar films. Surround use is near-constant, and the rear speakers often do a wonderful job of opening out the action into the room. Although there are plenty of fantastic surround-sound moments, the opening - as Scrat tries to not get run down by an oncoming glacier - is certainly one of the best. The Dodo bird sequence is certainly a fun example of great sound design, too. Audio quality is stellar, as well; dialogue remained crisp and clear, while sound effects were also quite pleasantly distinct. While maybe not up there with some of the best sound presentations on DVD, I found several scenes to make for good demo material.


Commentary: The DVD offers a commentary from co-director Carlos Saldanha and director Chris Wedge. Although these two aren't quite as funny as the Pixar commentary tracks usually are, they are at least enthusiastic and witty, with some pretty funny jokes about the making of the picture and a few interesting stories to tell about points along the way through the production. Still, there are some rather slow patches and a bit too much about how great everyone was. Worth a listen.

Behind The Scenes: Ice Age: This brisk 15-minute promotional feature (hosted by Romano) does include a few more laughs than the usual promotional piece, but there's still nothing terribly informative about it. Composed of a lot of clips and a few interviews, once will probably be enough for most here.

The Making of "Ice Age": This documentary is split into several parts (which would be nice, if there was actually a "play all" option, but there isn't) - "The Beginning", "Acting in Animation", "Creating Ice Age Characters", "Modeling", "Storyboards", "Animating Ice Age" and "The Finishing Touches" are the smaller pieces of the greater whole.

Featurettes: The "Under The Ice" section offers several additional featurettes, but unfortunately, some of them are terribly short. We get "Sid Voice Development" (where actor John Leguizamo offers the chance to hear some of his early attempts at trying to get 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".

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: Fans of the character will be thrilled to find another short starring the character that's as funny - if not funnier - than Scrat's scenes in the film itself.

Deleted Scenes: 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" are offered here, all with optional commentary from the directors. Some funny moments here, but I didn't think any of the scenes should have been in the final picture.

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.

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.

Final Thoughts: I found "Ice Age" even funnier and more entertaining the second time around - it's quickly becoming one of my favorites from 2002. Fox's DVD edition provides wonderful audio/video quality, not to mention a set of enjoyable supplements. Highly recommended.

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