Follow that Acorn

Ice Age brings a little warmth to the coldest period in history. Before Disney unfairly shut it down, Blue Sky Studios was my third favorite computer animation company. Ice Age isn’t a huge game changer, but it was suitable competition for Pixar and DreamWorks. Earning it an early Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature. The idea for Ice Age is as old as the now defunct 90’s 20th Century Fox animation studio. It was originally meant to be a more dramatic traditionally animated adventure with Don Bluth in mind. Although it would’ve been different, I’m glad they switched to a more comedic computer animated buddy film.

Blue Sky got its start as a special effects company before evolving into a movie studio. Director Chris Wedge showed what he could do with the Oscar winning short film Bunny, but Ice Age was a major step forward for computer animated animals. Although crude by today’s standards, it was unique for featuring a cast of talking prehistoric creatures. I’ll never forget seeing the movie for the first time when I was 6. My dad intended to take my brother and I to Ice Age, but we ended up seeing The Time Machine instead when the former was sold out. Ice Age has been a childhood favorite ever since that little setback was straightened out…

1. Ice Age

Manny, Sid, and Diego travel with the kid

Ice Age isn’t exactly an accurate depiction of the Pleistocene era. Aside from their stylized appearances, many of the prehistoric animals didn’t co-exist. Yet animators closely studied natural history museums in order to correctly capture the time period. Snow and ice feels cold without being overly realistic. Ice Age begins in the snow with its breakout character front and center. Scrat is a Cronopio, or saber-toothed squirrel that’s more like a cross between a squirrel and a rat. Although intended as a one off character, Scrat is too fun not to have his own subplot throughout the movie. Only occasionally interacting with the main characters. Scrat is a mute fidgety creature voiced by Chris Wedge himself. All he wants is a spot to bury his beloved acorn, but he constantly faces humorous setbacks.

Such highlights include causing a crack in the ice that creates a massive avalanche, getting struck by lightning, popping his acorn in a fire, and being unfrozen 20,000 years in the future. He even stars in the Oscar nominated short Gone Nutty. A whole herd of prehistoric animals are only seen in an opening migration. It’s there that we’re introduced to the most unlikely herd you’ll ever see. Manfred, or Manny represents the ice age the best as a well known woolly mammoth. He’s first depicted as a grumpy loner who heads away from civilization. Despite mostly being known for TV, Ray Romano has the deep voice of an elephant mixed with witty sarcasm. Manny seems mean at first, but there’s really a big heart hidden under all that fur. His patience is really tested when Sid the Sloth enters his life.

Sid is a Megalonyx, or ground sloth that I never heard of before the movie. Although you’d expect a sloth to be slow, John Leguizamo turns him into a blabbermouth with a distinct lisp. Sid is abandoned by his own family and chased by angry prehistoric rhinos voiced by Stephen Root and Cedric the Entertainer. They’re forever stuck together when Manny saves his life, but their odd couple dynamic is only complete when Diego joins them. Diego is a Smilodon, commonly known as a saber-toothed tiger. As a predator, Diego’s motivations are a lot more complex. Only Denis Leary is sardonic enough to keep you questioning his true intentions. Diego is secretly working for throwaway villain Soto. Your basic predator out for revenge on mankind.

Ice Age is the only film in the franchise to depict early humans. Their tribe is ambushed by Soto and his pack of distinct saber-toothed tigers. Diedrich Bader is the smarter Oscar, Alan Tudyk is the fatter Lenny, and Jack Black voices his first animated character as the unhinged Zeke. Diego goes after the chief’s infant son Roshan, but fails to attack his mother. Ice Age is a hilarious comedy, but her sacrifice is what really gives the movie heart. Diego smooth talks his way into the herd by promising to find the kid’s father. Ice Age is basically Three Men and a Baby with a mammoth, sloth, and saber. Since the cast was allowed to improvise, most scenes are comedy gold. I couldn’t stop laughing at the diaper changing scene and the melon scene that follows. Their encounter with dottos is especially funny since they keep dying.

The frozen tundra is only seen again at the 39 minute mark. The herd starts to bond more in a fun montage set to “Send Me on My Way” by Rusted Root. They eventually enter a cave that correctly predicts every sequel in the franchise. Leading to a thrilling ice sliding sequence. Sid is the same lovable doofus by the end, but Manny and even Diego really start to care about the kid overtime. Manny’s most touching scene is reliving past trauma through cave drawings. After Manny saves him from falling into lava, Diego changes when he chooses his new herd over his old pack. Diego was supposed to die, but the franchise wouldn’t be the same without him. When the kid is returned, Manny, Sid, and Diego head off into the sunset joking about global warming. Ice Age is uncommon and exactly what an up and coming animation studio needed to become successful.

2. Ice Age

Scrat buries his acorn

Followed by: Ice Age: The Meltdown

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