Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I essentially expect perfection from the transfers for computer animated flicks, and that’s what I saw.
No issues with sharpness occurred. The movie offered nicely crisp and detailed images from start to finish. If any softness marred the presentation, I couldn’t find it. Jagged edges and shimmering remained absent, and only a smidgen of edge enhancement appeared. I also found no source flaws.
Dawn provided a palette that featured a broad range of colors. With its variety of settings, the movie offered a nice natural look with lively tones. Blacks came across as deep and rich, while shadows presented good clarity and visibility. This was a very satisfying transfer.
I also felt very pleased with the DTS-HD 7.1 soundtrack of Dawn. With stomping dinosaurs and all sorts of action sequences, the movie boasted many opportunities to feature all five speakers. It did so quite well. Various effects elements zoomed around the room to create a fine sense of immersion. The pieces meshed together smoothly and transitioned well. Localization was clean and precise, and the score featured solid stereo imaging. The mix turned into a broad, encompassing piece.
Audio quality also was very good. Speech seemed crisp and distinctive, as I noticed no flaws like edginess. Music seemed warm and full, while effects added a real bang to the proceedings. Those elements showed good clarity and accuracy, and they offered tight, deep bass as well. The track seemed vibrant and dynamic as it accentuated the movie.
When we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Carlos Saldanha, co-director Mike Thurmeier, producers Lori Forte and John Donkin, art director Michael Knapp, character designer Peter De Seve, and supervising animator Galen Chu. All of them sit together to discuss challenges related to making a sequel, cast and performances, new character designs and their execution, music and audio, working the material into 3D, and various animation/technical areas.
While a chatty and informative piece overall, the commentary does tend to be somewhat dry. I really liked Saldanha’s solo track for the second Ice Age movie, but this one doesn’t live up to the earlier piece’s standard of excellence. It does offer a good overview of the film, though, and it includes a reasonable amount of nice details. It just seems a little more technical than I’d like; I’d prefer more creative information. Still, it’s a good discussion that proves to be generally satisfying.
Plenty of DVDs include storybooks, but Dawn tops them with an Ice Age Storybook Maker. This allows kids to build their own storybooks. It breaks into ages 1-5, 6-11, and 12-up. You select a variety of elements to create a tale. It’s a neat interactive feature for kids.
Next comes an 18-minute and 24-second featurette called Evolution Expedition. It includes notes from George C. Page Museum assistant lab supervisor Trevor Valle, Page Museum collections manager Christopher Shaw, Santa Barbara Zoo keepers Courtney Collia, Wendy Anderson and Samantha Ratti, bird curator Rachel Miller, senior keeper Elizabeth Wilson, curator James Traverse, and the Natural History Museum’s Dinosaur Institute director Luis Chiappe. “Expedition” gives us facts about the animals found in the film as well as their modern-day counterparts. This is a quick but engaging educational piece.
With Buck: From Easel to Weasel, we take a seven-minute and 12-second look at one of the film’s new characters. It includes remarks from Saldanha, Donkin, De Seve, Thurmeier, screenwriter Mike Reiss, lead animator Hans Dastrup, and actors Simon Pegg, Seann William Scott and Josh Peck. “Easel” looks at the design of the Buck character and Pegg’s performance. The featurette zips through the subject matter but includes enough nice details to become enjoyable.
Unearthing the Lost World fills eight minutes, 41 seconds. We hear from Saldanha, Donkin, Thurmeier, De Seve, set designers John Townley and Nash Dunnigan, executive producer/actor Chris Wedge, and actors John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah and Ray Romano. “World” looks at set and character design for the new roles/situations found in Dawn. Like “Easel”, it gives us a quick but satisfying overview of these particular challenges.
Two Unfinished Deleted Scenes occupy a total of four minutes, 33 seconds. We find “Mission” (1:31) and “Headbutters” (3:02). In the first, Crash and Eddie stage a Mission: Impossible-style stunt to help Manny, while the second shows a problem among the dinosaurs when Crash and Eddie inadvertently initiate a dino mating ritual. Both are pretty entertaining; it’s too bad we don’t get commentary to reveal why neither made the movie.
After this we get a music video for “Walk the Dinosaur”. This offers the performance by Queen Latifah that appears over the end credits. The video consists of the dance footage that also showed up over the credits along with shots from the movie. Yawn on both accounts!
Two Scrat Shorts appear next. We find “Gone Nutty – Scrat’s Missing Adventure” (4:46) and “No Time for Nuts” (7:07). “Nutty” was originally found on the original Ice Age DVD. Scrat the squirrel again obsesses over acorns in this cute and inventive cartoon.
“Nuts” comes from the DVD for Ice Age: The Meltdown. Scrat comes across a time machine and chases nuts throughout the centuries. It’s a fairly effective twist on Scrat’s usual shenanigans.
In the same vein, we locate five Scrat Featurettes. We see “The Saber-Toothed Squirrel: Nature’s Nutty Buddy” (1:48), “Scrat: From Head to Toe” drawing tutorial (8:23), “Scrat: Breaking Story” (1:50), “Scrat: News Report” (2:29), and “Falling for Scratte” (8:29). In these, we get a few squirrel facts, learn how to draw Scrat with De Seve, see some clever Scrat-based promos, and dig into the development of Scrat’s new love interest from Saldanha, Wedge, Donkin, De Seve, senior animator Jeff Gabor, and storyboard artist Karen Disher.
Five Fox Movie Channel Specials follow. This area includes “Making a Scene (Ice Age 2)” (9:21), “In Character with John Leguizamo” (2:52), “In Character with Ray Romano” (3:22), “In Character with Queen Latifah” (3:07) and “Making a Scene” (9:10). Across these, we get notes from Leguizamo, Romano, Latifah, Wedge, Saldanha, Thurmeier, Pegg, Chu, set design/layout consultant Arden Chan, environmental rigger/character technical director Jane Chatot, and some Meltdown staff: art director Thomas Cardone, research and development director Carl Ludwig, lighting supervisor David Esneault, materials technical director Raphael Matto, co-head modeling/sculptor Shaun Cusick, head of modeling Mike DeFeo, and fur and feathers supervisor Eric Maurer. The two “Making a Scene” pieces offer details about specific sequences, while the three “Character” bits dig into notes about the roles and performances.
All of these exist as promotion, but that doesn’t mean they lack content. Indeed, they offer a surprising amount of useful material. The two “Scene” pieces provide good dissections of those sequences, and in the “Character” clips, the actors tell us some insightful details about their performances. All five merit a look.
A few ads open Disc One. We get clips for Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian, and Aliens in the Attic. A clip for Pink Panther 2 shows up in the Trailers domain, but no ad for Dawn can be found.
A second disc offers a Digital Copy of the movie. This allows you to transfer the film to a computer or portable gadget. Party up!
Finally, a third platter provides a DVD Copy of Dawn. If you want to own Dawn but aren’t yet Blu-ray capable, it’s a good bonus.
Usually the third film in a franchise is either outright bad or at least a significant drop in quality from its predecessors. That makes Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs a serious exception to the rule, as I think it’s the best of the series. It’s the only one that left me pretty darned entertained inside of disappointed by its missed opportunities. The Blu-ray provides stellar picture, solid audio, and a nice mix of supplements. I like the movie a lot and feel very pleased with this high quality release.