Ice Age – The Meltdown is a funny, well-animated sequel that offers up a new adventure for the memorable characters from the original Ice Age film. As a great bonus, it’s nicely balanced for audiences young and old.
20th Century Fox Animation is still a poor second cousin to Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios, but for sheer entertainment value, Ice Age – The Meltdown doesn’t get knocked completely out of the water by top-shelf blockbusters like The Incredibles. Sure, the animation is weaker, and story is less inspired, but the voice work is excellent, with the talent of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah, Denis Leary, Jay Leno, and the list goes on.
What this film has going for it is it’s simply fun to watch. The story this time around has the ice age coming to an end with a big, um, meltdown. The prehistoric animals must get themselves all the way across the large basin they call home to escape an impending, disastrous flood. Our heroes – Manny, the almost-last-mammoth alive, Sid, the lovable-loser sloth, and Diego, the not-so-tough-after-all saber-toothed tiger – find themselves teaming up with an identity-challenged mammoth, Ellie (Queen Latifah), and her possum “brothers” Crash (Sean William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). Together, they journey toward salvation.
Meanwhile, Scrat, the delightful saber-toothed squirrel, is too busy stalking his acorn to notice the world is about to end. The hilarious sequences with this manic little guy serve as comic transitions for the main story, and they also keep us posted on the progress of the big flood. But mainly, they’re just plain funny.
When this film first hit theatres, critics attacked it for its obvious attempt to push an environmental agenda. Sure, there’s a thinly-veiled message here, but who cares? Kids should be concerned about the environment, so why not exaggerate to make a point?
Overall, we’re talking about an enjoyable prehistoric animated romp, and a sequel that maybe outdoes the original. This is an all-ages-friendly film, and that’s a pretty rare thing.
So how’s the Blu-ray?
Ice Age2 is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is brought to you through an old style MPEG-2 codec at an average of 30 mbps. The picture still looks pretty darn good, but we’re talking older technology. This was a money-saving effort which allowed less work to create this master.
The DTS-HD Master Audio track is almost as exceptional as the image. Dialog is clear, there’s plenty of use of the surround channels for directional effect, and the energetic score is well articulated. The best parts, however, are the geographical effects, like when huge chunks of melting icebergs break off and crash downward. Here the percussive nature of these events comes alive, and your sub will have plenty to do.
The animated short is called No Time For Nuts, and it features our favorite saber-toothed squirrel, Scrat. It runs about seven minutes, and it’s definitely the best piece of bonus material on the disc. Skrat discovers a time machine and chases his acorn across the time-space continuum. What fun!
There are two audio commentaries; one with director Carlos Saldanha, and one with everyone else who worked on the movie. OK, maybe not quite that many folks, but the “crew” commentary sure has a lot of voices, from the producer on down to the lighting supervisor. Surprisingly, this commentary works well even with so many cooks in the kitchen, and there’s a lot to learn about the film’s production. As for Saldanha’s commentary, he talks a heck of a lot, but he’s also pretty repetitive, and he points out a lot of the obvious. I guess it would be OK for a youthful audience.
Next is Crash & Eddie Stunts, a three-pack of ultra-short featurettes. These are amusing bits with the two possum brothers, but we’re talking about just 60 seconds of content. Not much of a featurette.
On the other hand, we have The Animation Director’s Chair, which is a featurette with some substance. You can choose from six scenes, and then select which stage of production to review – storyboard, layout, animation, final, or combo, which lets you see all stages at once. It’s neat to see how close the storyboards were to the final version, especially for the “Fish Story” sequence.
Next up is Lost Historical Films…Student Films on the Ice Age Period, a sub-collection of featurettes on some of the prehistoric/fictional animals featured in the movie. There are six short, black-and-white clips mixing facts and fun, covering guys like The Sloth: “Nature’s Lovable Lisper” and The Saber-toothed Squirrel: “Nature’s Nutty Buddy”. All but one have an old-time narrator, with the exception being John Leguizamo’s lisping narration for the Sloth.
Then there’s Scrat’s Piranha Smackdown Sound Effects Lab, a humorous featurette that offers five different ways to enjoy the 35-second Scrat-Piranha sequence. Each option replaces the film’s sound effects with a different collection of sounds, from Car Noises to Human Noises (read: burps and farts).
Finally, there is an Artist Gallery Channel option which brings up conceptual art and storyboards during playback.
If you enjoy animated films, you’ll like Ice Age – The Meltdown, as it’s a solid example of what’s right with animated family fare in the 21st century. The Blu-ray has great audio and a wide range of special features that will have the most appeal for young viewers.
This review contains material written by Gino Sassani.