Director: Chris Wedge
Release Date: March 15, 2002
Rating: ★★★★
Review:

Ice Age © Blue SkySet in the last ice age (ca. 20,000 years ago), a mammoth and a ground sloth try to return a human baby to its tribe, helped by a saber-toothed tiger with a hidden agenda.

The Ice Age itself is depicted well, with lots of crispy ice and snow, and fauna that matches the period. We watch various North-American ice age mammals, like mammoths, ground sloths, saber-toothed tigers, Glyptodonts, and even the South American species Macrauchenia (which looks like a llama with a trunk). The only mishaps are the two Brontotheres, mistakenly referred to as “rhinos”, a group of species that had died out 34 million years earlier. Fortunately, the makers didn’t fall for the trap of making dinosaurs co-exist with early humans (although we see one trapped in the ice, in a scene that is nonsensical anyhow).

‘Ice Age’ was Blue Sky’s first feature film. It was made for 20th Century Fox, who had just dumped Don Bluth’s Phoenix Studio. With this film Blue Sky/20th Century Fox posed serious competition to Dreamworks and Pixar with a different, yet equally interesting style of computer animation, which was more based on caricature, exaggerated animation and angular designs. The latter unfortunately lead to rather ugly designed humans.

The story of ‘Ice Age’ has uncanny similarities to the computer animation successes of 2001, ‘Shrek’ (a moody giant and an annoying chatterbox travel together), and ‘Monsters, Inc.‘ (strange creatures trying to get a little human kid home). So in this respect, the film tells us nothing new. Its extras can be found in the cartoony character Scrat, whose antics bridges the main action, and in the numerous gags on evolution.

The highlight of the film, however, is the 2D animation of mural paintings depicting Mannie the mammoth’s painful memory of the loss of his wife and son. This is a stunning tour-de-force of both daring and emotional animation, still a rare feat in computer animated feature films.

‘Ice Age’ was a huge success, and has spawned a number of sequels, none of witch mastered to keep the lean storytelling of the first film. Moreover, the stories had less and less to do with the ice age setting. Even worse, in ‘Ice Age 3’ dinosaurs had to come along, after all…

Watch the trailer for ‘Ice Age’ yourself and tell me what you think:

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