The Other Side of Animation 70: The Ice Age Series Review

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It’s funny, when I promised to do a notoriously terrible animated film for every 10 reviews, I always wanted to talk about easily one of the worst animated films of all time, Delgo, due to how long it took to make, and how little money it made back. However, it seems like notoriously bad movies like popping up and pushing back that review. For example, since it’s the holidays, I wanted to talk about a series that has become infamous for overstaying its welcome and becoming worse after every sequel, The Ice Age movies. The flagship franchise of Blue Sky Studios started out with a competently made movie back in the early 2000s, but then as time went on and there were more sequels to the series, it was becoming apparent that they were getting worse in terms of overall quality. I also wanted to talk about them on a base-by-base situation, but after watching them all, I decided to talk about them in one massive review for the holidays. Now then, let’s dive into this over decade-long franchise.

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I think I’ll give a small synopsis for each of the films. The first film is about a group of odd fellows with a mammoth named Manny, voiced by Ray Romano, a sloth named Sid, voiced by John Leguizamo, and a saber-tooth tiger named Diego, voiced by Denis Leary. The three end up having to take care of a human baby, and set out to bring it back to the tribe while avoiding a cult of dodo birds, and Diego’s gang of other prehistoric cats.

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The second movie, Ice Age: The Meltdown, has the gang trying to escape a massive flood while also coming across another mammoth named Ellie, voiced by Queen Latifah, who at first thinks she is an opossum along with her two brothers, Crash and Eddie, voiced by Seann William Scott and Josh Peck, who are actually opossum. All the while, they are stalked by large prehistoric sea monsters that were unfrozen in the ice.

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The third film, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, came out in 2009, and has Manny and Ellie dealing with the upcoming birth of their first child. Sid, on the other hand, accidentally finds some eggs that happen to have T-Rex babies in them. The mother T-rex, who somehow survived the Ice Age and the extinction, finds the newly hatched kids and takes them and Sid back to an apparent underground world where dinosaurs have somehow survived for years after the extinction. As they journey into this new world, they run into this nutty survivalist weasel named Buck, voiced by Simon Pegg, who decides to help them while avoiding a giant dinosaur that is stalking them.

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The fourth film was Ice Age: Continental Drift which came out in 2012. This story has Manny having to deal with his daughter, Peaches, voiced by Keke Palmer being a rebellious teenager, and Manny being an over-protective father. This is when the continents are separating, thanks to the actions of the iconic character Scrat, voiced by Chris Ledge. As a result, Manny, Sid, and Diego get separated from the rest of their friends and family. Oh, and they now also have to deal with Sid’s grandma, voiced by Wanda Sykes. As the crew gets separated out in the ocean, they run into a group of pirates run by an ape named Captain Gutt, voiced by Peter Dinklage. Can Manny and his buddies get back to their loved ones before Gutt causes trouble? Oh, and Diego encounters a female sabre-tooth tiger named Shira, voiced by Jennifer Lopez, who is part of Gutt’s crew.

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The most recent film, Ice Age: Collision Course came out July 22, 2016. The plot for this film has to deal with Manny trying to get over the fact that his daughter Peaches is getting married to this quirky male mammoth named Julian, voiced by Adam DeVine. On top of this, Manny also has to deal with his and Ellie’s anniversary, when all the while a giant meteorite is heading down to earth that can possibly destroy it. If there wasn’t enough going on, Collision Course brings back fan favorite character Buck, who actually helps the gang with their trouble, avoiding a group of flying dinosaurs named Gavin, Gertie, and Roger, voiced by Nick Offerman, Stephanie Beatriz, and Max Greenfield.

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Okay then, now that we’ve got the plots out of the way, let’s talk about some of the few positive elements on which to commend this franchise. While the first film might not age well in animation, and you can really see how some of the later films biggest annoyances would be birthed from this one movie, it still holds up as a decent animated film. It had atmosphere, characters with actual personality, depth, and was able to be quiet for more than a split second. There is a great scene in the later part of the film where you get a bit of why Manny is so defensive around other animals and getting close to anyone. It might not be unique, due to what we have gotten in future films, but it’s an impressive scene that is way too good to be in such a franchise. While the quality did start to go downhill as the movies went on, I did enjoy a few characters. Simon Pegg’s character Buck is easily the highlight of the third and fifth film. All of his lines might not be gut-busting funny, but he brings an energy to the role that makes it work. You can also tell in the newest movie, Collision Course, that his scenes got much more effort put into them. I liked Peter Dinklage’s character, Captain Gutt. He was pretty much the only character who was consistently entertaining throughout the entire running time of Continental Drift. I also found Wanda Syke’s character funny. Like everyone else, her humor might not hit all the time, but her delivery and how she executes the lines is humorous and entertaining. Heck, a couple of the actors throughout this entire series make bad jokes work. I will also give respect to the animation getting better and better as the films went on, specifically the most recent one.

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Now then, I was nice to this franchise for the first part of this review, but it’s time to talk about why the franchise is one of the worst in the big budget animated film scene. Ice Age really only had one or two movies in it, since there was no real reason to continue on after that. Yes DreamWorks and Pixar may have made sequels to some of their main hits, but what happened for the most part was that the stories continued, the characters developed more, and they were good. Yes, the Shrek franchise went on too long, and I’m not fully on board with a reboot to said franchise, but I can tell you much more effort was put into them than the later Ice Age sequels. The third Ice Age film was so boring to sit through, and while Simon Pegg’s Buck was amusing, it was nowhere near a saving grace to the overall experience. The third film is also the jumping off point to some of the biggest problems the franchise has going against it.

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Where do I even start? I could list them off, since this review is already going on long enough, but I think I will start with one of the biggest issues I have with this series of films, the continuity. It’s blatantly obvious when you jump into the third film that there are going to be some things that don’t make sense. One, how did the dinosaurs survive underground? When the gang sees the T-Rex mother above ground, how does Elli know what a dinosaur is? Where was this dinosaurland this entire time? How was it not affected in some way or another when the ice was melting in the second movie? Due to how far underground they are, why are they not at the very least baking to death? It gets worse when in the fourth film, the continents get split apart, so that leads to questions like how the dinosaurland was still there in the fifth movie, unchanged from the events of the fourth movie. Like, did nothing at all happen to them? That’s just one major example of the continuity issues. The continuity also leads into a lot of little problems that I don’t think the filmmakers thought through, because they will introduce new characters and villains that are new species, but will never show up again. What happens to Captain Gutt’s ape species? It’s never seen again. What about Josh Gad’s hedgehog/mole character from the fourth movie? He is never seen again. What about those teenage mammoths played pointlessly by Drake and Nicki Minaj that added nothing to the characters? They vanished, and are never seen again. Why introduce these characters when they aren’t going to be important or add anything to the overall world? Just to get big names out there? I’m sorry, but that’s painfully distracting and cynical of Blue Sky Studios.

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It becomes very apparent that the story writers had no idea what they were doing, and had no talent behind them. As you watch the films, you will see that character subplots either result in them being predictable, boring, annoying, or don’t really go anywhere. It leaves us with main characters that have no real personality, or any personality and character arcs they did have were spent by movie two. They don’t take risks, and or challenge the viewer, and yes, I know not everything has to be Pixar good, but I don’t like going in with a film not treating me like I have a couple of brain cells. It results in there being more focus to the annoying side characters, potty humor, and the little squirrel character taking up most of the time and focus. I don’t feel like I’m watching a movie in this series, I feel like I’m watching Blue Sky Studios tell me how good their animation is getting, like a kid showing a picture they drew to their parents. It’s nice that you all upgraded your tech and have beautiful animation, but it’s not enough. Heck, that squirrel character, Scrat, has become a very distracting element of the films. Due to how little or any plot each film has, more sequences with Scrat become fillers. The people making the film know they don’t have much, and only have enough substance to make the Scrat sequences entertaining, but time-consuming due to how boring everyone else is.

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I know some people will say that Blue Sky Studios get to make these movies so that they can work on other projects, but I’m sorry, that’s not a good excuse for having lackluster film after lackluster film in a series that probably only had two movies in it. Say what you will about Toy Story, Kung Fu Panda, and How to Train your Dragon, but their sequels actually got better and better. Ice Age got worse after the first movie. The original movie was unique for its time, due to how low-risk the competition was in terms of CGI animation, but due to how much competition there is in animation now, you have to step up and improve your game. Whether you want to be fun and entertaining or mature and complex, you can’t just be pretty visuals, while being lackluster everywhere else. People are going to catch on, and it surely did with Ice Age: Collision Course underperforming and bombing in the states. If I had a recommendation for any of the films in the series, it would definitely be the first one, but even then, there are so many amazing animated films I could recommend over the original Ice Age. I really hope they don’t make any more of these films because if they do, people will not be forgiving to them. If I see that a new one is being made, I am going to be much tougher on it. Well, we got this massive review out of the way, how about we end on a high note with GKids Phantom Boy. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this rather long article, and I will see you all next time

Rating for the first film: Rent it. Rating for the second film: Rent it! Rating for the rest of the series: The Worst/Blacklist

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