I’ve often spent a lot of time talking about how Pixar has dominated 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 Wile E. 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. In retrospect of two sequels, it’s neat to look back to before these original core characters met for the first time.
Ice Age 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 30 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 track is almost as exceptional as the image. The subs come alive in ways I was not really prepared for. 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 make it not hard to forget you’re watching an animated film.
Deleted Scenes: SD These scenes come in various phases of completion, but all are at least animated and voiced. This goes beyond the standard storyboard animation that is usual for these films.
Scrat Short: (4:45) HD Find out where he keeps his stash.
This franchise is my favorite non-Pixar computer-animated features. After watching the first film again and for the first time in high definition, I find it holds up well to many viewings. What I find even more important is that the franchise continued to get better over the span of at least the first two sequels. I still liked the original but found the second and third films to be even more fun. How often does that happen? One question, though: “Why don’t they call it The Big Chill? Or The Nippy Era? I’m just sayin’, how do we know it’s an Ice Age?”