Ice Age appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Ice Age presented a generally excellent image.
Sharpness appeared terrific. At all times, the material remained distinct and accurate. I noticed no signs of softness during this detailed and crisp presentation. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also detected no examples of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, I saw none. I don’t know if this picture came from a film print or from a digital transfer, but it seemed immaculate, with no instances of any kind of defects.
Ice Age featured an earthy, natural palette, and the colors consistently looked fine. The various hues came across as warm and vibrant, and they showed no problems related to noise, bleeding, or other concerns. Black levels seemed deep and dense, but I thought shadow detail looked a little heavy at times. For example, the tiger attack on the human village appeared somewhat too thick. However, this might simply have been a question of personal taste and not an issue related to the transfer itself. In any case, Ice Age looked wonderful as a whole.
While I expected terrific visuals – after all, not many computer-animated blockbusters don’t look amazing on DVD – I didn’t anticipate a soundtrack quite as excellent as the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix of Ice Age. This active track made marvelous use of all five channels. It placed elements appropriately and showed very positive localization and blending. For example, one scene featured a waterfall on the left side of the screen. The roaring water neatly occupied both the front left and rear left speakers, which made it nicely involving.
Different elements also moved cleanly from channel to channel. Whether side to side or front to rear, those pieces meshed together seamlessly. The whole package blended neatly and presented a lively and engaging soundfield that really helped embellish the film.
Audio quality also came across as solid. Speech seemed natural and warm, and I noticed no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded reasonably vivid and dynamic. I felt the score needed a little more oomph at times, but it usually offered a rich representation of the material. Effects also packed a nice punch. At times, I questioned whether Manny’s footsteps seemed too gentle; they didn’t provide the loud bass response I expected. However, I felt this probably occurred as a design decision; since Manny played such a heavy role in the film, it’d become distracting to constantly hear those stomps. Otherwise, low-end material sounded deep and resonant. To my surprise, the audio of Ice Age lived up to the visuals, as the sound provided a very fine addition to the project.
This new “Super-Cool Edition” of Ice Age offered identical picture and sound when I compared it to the original 2002 DVD. However, it added some new extras. I’ll note those with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, that means the component already appeared on the 2002 disc.
DVD One starts with an audio commentary. It included director Chris Wedge and co-director Carlos Saldanha, both of whom sat together for this running, screen-specific piece. Overall, this seemed like a good but unspectacular track. At the start, Wedge heavily dominated the piece, but Saldanha became much more involved as it progressed. Both provided some nice notes about topics such as why the film opened with Scrat, changes to the original script and other alterations made during the production, and different animation challenges. Unfortunately, quite a lot of the track consisted of simple praise for the film and its participants, and this watered down the proceedings noticeably. As a whole, the commentary gave us some good information about the production, but too much happy talk made it less compelling than it should have been.
Six Deleted Scenes appear. Each of these runs between 48 seconds and 141 seconds for a total of eight minutes and 38 seconds of footage. Most offer fairly complete animation, though one - “Sabre Stake Out” – remains pretty rough. Sid features prominently in all but one of the clips, and we see a few alternate introductions to that character. Overall, these scenes seem interesting to see.
One can watch the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Wedge and Saldanha. They provide some general information about the segments and – more importantly – they tell us exactly why the snippets failed to make the final cut. The commentary offers some useful information and seems better focused than the material the men offered during the main film.
In a twist, the DVD allows us to watch the deleted scenes on their own or as part of a *Nutty Movie Mode. That uses branching techniques to allow you to see the cut segments during the movie. When an acorn icon appears, hit “enter” and watch the sequence where it would have shown up in the final flick. This doesn’t work flawlessly. For one, some of the scenes offer alternate versions, so they become redundant. In addition, they're not anamorphically enhanced, so they may look odd on your set. Despite the problems, though, I like the availability of the option.
Disc One opens with some *Previews. We find ads for Fox animated flicks and Cheaper By the Dozen.
On DVD Two, we get lots of additional materials. We open with an 81-second *trailer for Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. Referred to as Scrat’s Missing Adventure, we find an animated short called “Gone Nutty”. Scrat the squirrel again obsesses over acorns in this cute and inventive cartoon. Presented anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1, “Nutty” lasts four minutes and 48 seconds.
*Extreme Cool View presents an unusual way to watch the movie. This 75-minute and 42-second feature shows the film in the upper left corner of the screen while we get other bits and pieces in the lower right. As described in the menu, “this exciting feature combines the movie with Scrat’s Frozen Fun Facts and Behind-the-Ice Interviews with the filmmakers and actual Ice Age experts”.
These elements include information from Wedge, Saldanha, producer Lori Forte, modeling supervisor Mike Defeo, modeler Alexander Levenson, George C. Page Museum education director Scott, Dennis, Ice Age expert Dr. John Harris, the Page Museum’s Christopher A. Shaw, lighting leads David Esneault, Mitch Kopelman and Jodi Whitsel, and a few unspecified others. All together, these pieces go through much of the movie-making process, and they do so in a reasonably concise and informative manner. Fans won’t find any revelatory details, but it offers a good look at the specifics as they relate to Ice Age.
Some educational snippets show up as well. We get basics about the Ice Age, the animals featured in the film, and related issues. In between these video elements, we find “Scrat’s Frozen Facts”. Those offer a text commentary for the movie along with more educational pieces.
All together, the “Extreme Cool View” is informative and enjoyable. We get a nice look at the film as well as good background about the real Ice Age and critters. My only complaint: though “View” borrows heavily from the prior release’s “The Making of Ice Age”. However, it doesn’t present everything from that program. For instance, we lose notes from the actors. Despite those omissions, I still like “View”.
Sid on Sid goes for three minutes, 12 seconds and provides a clever spoof of the traditional audio commentary. We see Sid as he watches parts of the movie and gives us behind the scenes notes about them. Voiced by Leguizamo, the snippet is short enough that it doesn’t wear out its welcome, so this adds a fun touch to the set.
For something a little different, check out Scrat Reveals. This section offers three interstitials that I guess appeared on Fox TV. In each short clip, Scrat does something that causes the ice to reveal the Fox logo. It’s an odd little piece, but it’s sort of interesting.
If you wonder what Sid sounds like in Swedish, move to International Ice Age. The two-minute and 52-second clip offers bits translated into French, Italian, German, Swedish, Polish, Greek, Cantonese, and Korean. Similar pieces on Disney DVDs tend to offer more options, and the absence of Spanish seems weird, but this bit is moderately amusing nonetheless. Too bad they failed to offer Manny in Mandarin and Diego in Danish!
Under the Ice breaks down into eight separate pieces. Behind the Scenes of Ice Age lasts 14 minutes and three seconds. Hosted by Ray Romano, it includes the usual complement of movie shots, behind the scenes images, and interviews. We hear from Romano himself as well as actors John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, and Cedric the Entertainer, director Chris Wedge, producer Lori Forte, co-director Carlos Saldanha, executive producer Christopher Meledandri. Animator Nina Bafaro, and lead animator Michael Thurmeier. The program doesn’t expand the boundaries of this sort of piece, but it moves by briskly and offers a reasonable amount of decent information. In addition, the bumpers from Romano provide some amusing bits.
The remaining seven pieces of “Under the Ice” each offer brief featurettes about different subjects. At three minutes and 38 seconds, Sid Voice Development is the longest of the seven, and probably the coolest. We watch pictures of John Leguizamo as well as some production images and other film bits and initially hear him discuss his approach to the role. That part seems good, but it gets better when we listen to a few minutes of Leguizamo’s different takes on the voice. He runs through a slew of variations, and it’s terrific to hear this creative process.
Compositing lead Andrew Beddini takes us through a discussion of Using 2D in a 3D World. In this 69-second piece, we look at some movie shots and learn how the studio executed the cave painting sequence. Making a Character runs 67 seconds and offers comments from supervising modeler Mike DiFeo. He chats about how they translate clay maquettes of characters into the computer models.
In The Art of Rigging, we find 83 seconds of commentary from lead technical animator Mark Piretti as he covers how the animators work on the character movements. Animators Acting lasts 51 seconds and features co-director Saldanha. He goes over the challenges of bringing emotions to the animated screen.
Master lighting lead David Esneault chats about Lighting and Materials. In this 66-second clip, he quickly relates how the animators convey realistic appearances, especially about the lighting. Finally, in the Art of Effects, we get a 64-second piece in which technical director/effects Tim Speltz discusses those elements of the production. Overall, this six animation-related featurettes seem brief but fairly informative. One comprehensive program would have been more satisfying than these quick bits, however.
Another animated short called Bunny appears. This seven-minute and 19-second cartoon comes from 1998, and it earned an Oscar for Best Animated Short. An unusual and surprisingly touching computer-animated piece, “Bunny” merits a look.
One can watch “Bunny” with a couple of optional bits. We find a 112-second introduction from director Wedge, who sets up the piece with some interpretation of it. The short can also be viewed with commentary from Wedge. He contributes some good technical and background notes about the cartoon in this informative piece.
Trailers includes three ads for Ice Age. We find the teaser as well as two full theatrical trailers. We also get a promo for Like Mike 2 and an “Anti-Piracy PSA”.
Within the *Games domain, we find six different contests. Three of these repeat from the original DVD. “Hide and Eek” offers a very simplistic test in which you have to find Scrat’s lost acorn. It requires no skill and just makes you guess randomly. “Frozen Pairs” seems more challenging, as you must select a match for different movie characters; you choose from three images that nearly replicate a model. It’s not great, but it’s a little fun. “Playing Darwin” has you manipulate body segments of different film animals to match all three. When you finish a character, you get some basic information about that species. Though easy, this game seems like the best of the bunch since it actually offers a modest reward for accurate completion.
As for the three new games, “Cave In” requires you to navigate Sid out of a frozen cave. It gets tedious quickly. “Rock/Paper/Scissors” has you play against a dodo. It’s not particularly challenging or fun. “Ice Match” requires you to remember specific images and find them on screen. It also fails to become engaging.
To satisfy your more technical urges, take a look at the Animation Progression. This area includes three different scenes and lets you watch them from five angles each. You can look at “Opening”, “Tigers Attack”, and “Almost Home”. As for the various angles, those cover “Storyboards”, “3D Layout”, “Un-rendered Animation”, “Final Render”, and “Composite of all stages listed above”. I liked the latter angle the best, as it let me easily examine all three stages at the same time. This fun extra helped demonstrate the varying levels of animation and seemed compelling.
In the Design Galleries domain, we find two sections. “Size Comparison/Behind Ice Age” lets us see how the film’s critters vary in height, and it also gives us some factual information about each species. “Create Your Own Gallery” offers a unique take on the traditional stillframe compendium. It includes 14 subsections of art. 12 detail the film’s creatures, while the other two depict backgrounds and cave paintings, respectively. You can select to browse through as many or as few of them as you’d like and can arrange them in any order. It’s a cool way to provide some user control. In addition, you can go for the “Play All” function and work through the whole bunch. The different sections include between three and 70 drawings for a total of 241 frames of material. One nice touch: each piece of art lists the person who created it.
DVD-ROM users will find some additional Ice Age stuff. “Sid Shreds” offers an arcade snowboarding game. I never played any of the Tony Hawk videogames, but I imagine this one “borrows” from it. The content seemed pretty lame – when I got it to work, that is. It frequently crashed, and the game appeared lackluster even when it functioned properly. I saw some of the worst clipping problems I’ve ever witnessed; Sid usually looked buried in the snow!
Another game appears as well. “Super Dodo Ball” seems less ambitious than “Sid Shreds”, but at least it works. You try to collect melons and avoid/attack dodos. It doesn’t go much of anywhere, but after the clumsy and frustrating “Shreds”, it comes across as a little more entertaining.
“Printables” lets you create a number of Ice Age items with your printer. You can produce a mobile, a calendar, a boardgame, a paper doll, snowflake ornaments, a puppet playhouse, and an activity book with some puzzles. This seems like a rich and useful selection of materials for kids. I found myself rather impressed with the breadth of the “Printables”; usually those kinds of features offer little of use, but this area appears chock full of neat items. Too bad no one bothered to update this area for 2006 – who wants to print out a 2003 calendar?
While I enjoyed Ice Age, I frankly can’t figure out why it became such a big hit. The movie offers a gently amusing diversion but it lacks the cleverness and wit that enhance the best films in the genre. The DVD itself provides a top-notch piece of work. Picture and audio quality appeared excellent, and it also packs a reasonably comprehensive and engaging selection of supplements. Although I remain somewhat lukewarm toward Ice Age, it works well enough to merit a recommendation, especially since this DVD seems so solid.
This “Super-Cool Edition” of Ice Age is a worthwhile purchase for fans who don’t own the prior DVD. However, I don’t think anyone who has that set should bother with the new release. Picture and audio seem identical for both, and the new extras don’t add much to the package. They’re good but not substantial enough to warrant an “upgrade”.
To rate this film, visit the original review of ICE AGE