I’ve often spent a lot of time talking about how Pixar has dominated the computer animation, at least as far as full length features go. With few exceptions there isn’t anything out there that even comes close. Most films rely on toilet humor and crude innuendo to get a few laughs. A lot of the kids and adults might suck that stuff up, but they can’t hold a candle to Pixar. There are, as I’ve mentioned, some quite notable exceptions. The Fox Blue Sky Studios has had enormous success with their Ice Age films. And when you take a look at the third and latest entry in that franchise, you’ll understand why.
Ice Age came out in 2002 and took the box office like a blizzard piling up a drift of cash that amounted to almost $180 million before it was over. Not bad for a $50 million dollar film. Add in another $200 million in foreign receipts, and a sequel was an absolute forgone conclusion. The film introduced us to some memorable characters. Manny (Romano) was a lovable Woolly Mammoth. Diego (Leary) was a kind and wise saber-toothed tiger. Sid (Leguizamo) was their tagalong friend with not much going on in the noggin. A side story involved a prehistoric squirrel named Scrat who loved his acorns. He had a Wiley Coyote/Roadrunner relationship with acorns and took a lot of punishment to get one. Together they tried to return a lost human infant to his tribe. Four years later the characters were back. Ice Age 2: The Meltdown brought a change in their environment and love in the air for Manny. He meets Ellie (Latifah). Together they must find colder climes as their ice is melting fast. They find their Winter Wonderland, and Blue Sky Studios found another hit. This time the film brought in a crazy $200 million here and another $450 foreign. Before home video the film was close to $700 million in box office. Can you say number 3? Add some dinosaurs to the cast and another $250 million for a total take of nearly $900 million on the third film. If you’re doing the math that’s over $2 billion on 3 films. I think we’re going to see these guys again. Count on it, literally.
Manny and Ellie are now expecting their first child. Their friends Diego and Sid are feeling a bit like third wheels. As they attempt to go their own way Sid stumbles into an underground cavern. There he finds three eggs that appear to have been abandoned. Determined to prove that he can be a great mom, he takes the eggs and begins to care for them as if they were already children. But when they hatch, out pop three little T-Rex babies, but Sid’s not ready to give them up … that is until Big Momma shows up looking for her young. She carries away her children … and Sid, to who knows where. Determined to help their friend, the team follows the path of the huge creature to rescue Sid. Underground they find a strange lost world where dinosaurs never went extinct. There they also discover one lone mammal, Buck (Pegg). The down under hunter befriends the group and agrees to be there guide to help them find their friend. But then he has a score to settle with the biggest dino of them all, Rudy. It all means more madcap adventures for the prehistoric pals in their biggest playground yet. Manny’s no longer the largest animal on Earth. Of course, there’s more antics with Scrat and his endless search for the acorn. This time he runs into a feisty prehistoric flying squirrel. They have to decide what they love more: acorns or each other.
There are a lot of things going for this second sequel. The Blue Sky team keeps coming up with ways to expand their universe and still keep that endearing quality very much alive. Not content to simply rehash a popular story, they take chances and deliver yet a third new and wonderful adventure. The standard cast remains intact, and the addition of Simon Pegg as Buck introduces us to yet another compelling character. This time the scope is so much larger, delivering lumbering dinosaurs in startling creations that can be scary but not so much to frighten the little kids in the audience. A wise decision was made to not give the dinosaurs dialog. It’s the perfect mix of contrasting worlds and creatures. There’s plenty of jokes for all of the age groups, so adults and children alike will be able to watch this one over and over again without getting bored. There a great gag that brings a new twist to the old red or blue wire routine. Adults should also be prepared that the film is loaded with those kinds of catch phrases that your kids will pick up and repeat endlessly. Expect to hear a lot of “Barfed on by a plant, Awesome!”, ”Nice Mucus”, and “Way to go Momzilla”. Actually, you moms might could get used to that last one.
As far as the animation goes, no one comes closer to the excellence of Pixar than these guys do. The renderings are quite breathtaking and look amazingly real. Beyond just the detail and smoothness of the character designs is the environment itself. The landscapes are rich in both subtle and obvious details. It’s almost too much to take in at one time. Now, I’m not talking about the complete sensory overload that George Lucas can’t seem to resist. I’m talking about enough nuance and lavish texture that it really does come off as a real world. It’s hard for me to imagine that it could get much better than this. That is, until Ice Age 4 makes its appearance. I for one can’t wait. But, until then, this will do very nicely, indeed.
Ice Age 3 is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is brought to you through an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average of 35 mbps. This is a beautiful image presentation. The absolute best opportunities for the Blu-ray format to really shine are these computer generated animation features. This one won’t let you down. Colors are magnificently bright and pop with every frame. The renderings are simply phenomenal, and the level of detail here will blow you away. Water and ice are particularly tricky computer renderings, but these look quite real. Textures are great as well, no matter if we’re talking scales or fur. The best part of this image is the lighting. Light is handled in such a realistic way here that it makes it hard to believe it’s not real. The way that light diffuses from the ice ceiling to light this world shows a tremendous amount of research and attention to detail. Black levels aren’t used much in this bright presentation but are exceptional when necessary. As I’ve said, it can’t get much better than this.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track is almost as exceptional as the image. The subs come alive in ways I was not really prepared for. These dinosaurs roar and rumble as good as anything you’ve heard this far. Dialog is perfect. Surrounds are some of the best I’ve encountered in this kind of film. Creaking ice or footprints on snow all have this ultra-real quality that it isn’t hard to forget you’re watching an animated film.
Ice Age Storyboard Maker: Create your own storyboard scene.
Evolution Expedition: (18:24) HD Visit the George C. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar pit Discovery area. Learn about the real prehistoric mammals through fossils then visit the zoo to learn about their contemporary living relatives.
Buck – From Easel To Weasel: (7:12) HD The Buck character really is a scene stealer in this one. This is a nice profile that features Buck’s voice Simon Pegg supplying a lot of Buck’s characteristics.
Unearthing The Lost World: (8:41) HD This feature focuses on the voice cast and the design of the new dinosaur and Buck characters. You get plenty of storyboard and previz footage here along with a lot of the typical behind the scenes stuff.
Unfinished Deleted Scenes: (4:32) SD There are two.
Walk The Dinosaur: (1:32) HD A very short annoying music video with too much boom boom.
Scrat Shorts: (11:54) HD You get two more shorts featuring everyone’s favorite prehistoric squirrel and his never ending search for acorns. Find out where he keeps his stash.
Scrat Featurettes: These are interactive and mostly puff pieces on Scrat. You can even learn to draw him.
Fox Movie Channel Specials: (27:04) SD There are 4 in all. The 6-7 minute segments are mostly promo pieces that ran on the channel.
You get the DVD copy and a Digital Copy of the film.
This franchise is one of those rare examples where each new film is better than the one before. There are great new characters and more from your old favorites. They’re all thrown into a brand new adventure that doesn’t just rehash anything that came before. Plenty of fun and just enough peril to make it interesting. You know what I mean. “We got doom and despair, yada, yada, yada.”