Ice Age

Ice Age (2002)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Extras: Commentary Track, Documentary, Games, Short Films, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Animation Studies, Clips, Teasers and Trailers, and much more

Though not exactly know as a studio that produces a lot of animated features, occasionally 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment does have such a film in their repertoire. "Ice Age" is that film currently, and after a very successful theatrical run it is now coming to DVD as a 2-disc Special Edition. Not only does it contain the film itself but also a flurry of extras and even a completely new animated short, so let’s see how the DVD shaped up.

Earth is on the brink of a new ice age and all the animals migrate south to find warmer climates. However for some animals things don’t go as smoothly as expected. Sid, a simple-minded sloth, simply oversleeps the departure of his family – and no one bothered to wake him – and finds himself alone and forgotten. Soon he is facing dangers he never knew existed in two rhinos, but a woolly mammoth named Wally protects him. Immediately Sid makes himself Manny’s constant companion on their lonely trail south. One day they come across a small group of human hunters. Their campsite is attacked by a pack of sabretooth tigers. In an attempt to rescue her baby, a mother flees the site but drowns in a river. Manny and Sid manage to rescue the baby and decide to return it to the humans, and thus a perilous quest begins.

"Ice Age" is entirely computer animated and quickly shows its attention to detail and high production values. In a time when many filmmakers and studios have the tendency to slap some cheap computer-rendered stuff together, it is great to see that there are filmmakers who completely understand the medium, its capabilities and limitations. "Ice Age" utilizes some of the great lessons learned in traditional cel animation and uses computer rendering technology as a tool, not as a focal point. Upon viewing the movie the story, the characters and the overall atmosphere create a dense, entertaining experience with the technology never distracting from the film.

The art direction of the movie is beautiful and the film offers some great vistas and imaginative creatures with great personalities. Colors schemes are perfectly put together for a rich visual experience while the animation and details always create an organic blend.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is releasing "Ice Age" in <$PS,fullscreen> and <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> on this DVD. The <$PS,fullscreen> image slightly crops the original 1.85:1 image but is still very watchable. The presentation is free of any sort of defects or blemishes, creating an image that is very sharp and rich in detail. Colors are vibrant and well-reproduced without oversaturation while blacks are solid and give the image visual depth. No edge-enhancement is evident and the compression is also free of distracting artifacts.

The DVD features an active and aggressive <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix that is complemented by solid <$DS,Dolby Surround> track in Spanish and French. The audio is very directional and makes very frequent use of the split surround channels. As expected for such a new track, the frequency response if meticulous and manages to reproduces everything from the lowest rumbles to the highest harmonics without distortion. Equally, the dynamic range of the track is flawless with very good reproduction of the subtle moments as well as the most explosive scenes in the film.

A <$commentary,commentary track> by director Chris Wedge and co-director Carlos Saldanha is also part of the release. It offers some exciting insight in to the production of such an ambitious and well-designed computer animated film. Fans of the genre will find plenty of information in their conversation as they shed light on many technical aspects as well as production issues in general.

"Scrat’s Missing Adventure" is a brand new short film that is part of this release. Running about 5 minutes it gives us some more of the hilarious antics of this little rodent in action. Six deleted scenes can also be found on this release, all of them provided in three languages with optional director’s commentary. The scenes are presented in non-<$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> and make for a great addition to the release.

"Bunny" is another short film included on the DVD. It was Chris Wedge’s directorial debut that actually won him an Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 1998. It is a great film that shows a lot Wedge’s visual approach and knack for visual storytelling. The editing and framing of the film is beautiful and already hints at the quality he would later put out in "Ice Age."

"Sid On Sid" is a fun little addition. It is a 5-minute segment in which Sid has the chance to comment on the movie and his performance. We see him watch the film and comment as it goes along. It is so entertaining in fact that it makes you wish Fox would have included a complete spoof <$commentary,commentary track> like this. It would have been hilarious.

A lot of meat is hidden in the "Under The Ice" menu entry on the DVD. It is here where you will find a "Making of" documentary and numerous technical featurettes, such as segments on the voice development, the creation of the characters, computer animation, lighting and special effects and much more.

The DVD also contains an international reel in which a scene is played with a variety of languages in consecutive order to give viewers an impression of what the movie sounds like on other countries.

A multi-angle segment gives you the chance to see three scenes form the movie in different stages of completion. Animated scribbles, rough cinematics, storyboards, and the final renderings are accessible on each video stream here while a fifth one offers all four on the screen at the same time.

"Scat Reveals" are three short clips that are fun but don’t serve any deeper purpose.

Three simply games are also part of the release as well as trailers and Design Galleries. Finally you also get free Papa John’s advertising prominently placed inside the packaging, which feels a bit out of place considering that this DVD is not a free promotional give-away but an item you actually paid money for. I honestly hope that DVD will not turn into another spam medium through which we will be bombarded by pointless advertising and commercials in the future.

"Ice Age" is a cool movie – excuse the pun but it is in place I believe. It is entertaining and funny, and it is beautiful to behold, masterfully crafted. The DVD that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has been putting together is filled to the brim with exciting and informative extras, striking a good mix between in-depth technical content as well as more readily digestable family oriented content. "Ice Age" is definitely a DVD you need to take a look at. Take it from me, and I ain’t no Sloth.