ICE AGE SUPER COOL EDITION Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year: 2002 Film Length: 81 minutes Genre: Animation/Adventure Aspect Ratio: [*] 1.85:1 enhanced widescreen Colour/B&W: Colour Audio:[*] English 5.1 Surround [*] Spanish 2.0 Surround [*] French 2.0 Surround Subtitles: English & Spanish Film Rating: Release Date: March 14, 2006. Film Rating: / Voices of: Ray Romano (Manfred), John Leguizamo (Sid), Denis Leary (Diego) Written by: Michael J. Wilson Directed by: Chris Wedge The Coolest Event In 16,000 Years. Rewind time to 20,000 years ago and the earth would look like a very different place…it’s a time when it would almost look like present day earth, but there would be several creatures running around that are now either extinct or evolved into an animal we are familiar with present-day. This film Ice Age is set in at the beginning of our last ice age; at the moment of when the glaciers were beginning to crawl south into North America, when the ice bridge was formed between Siberia and Alaska allowing many different species of mammals to migrate on this side of the world. It was also during the time when Neanderthal (pronounced Nee-ander-taal) and man coexisted before the Neanderthals became extinct. In this story, a bitter woolly mammoth named Manfred has the unfortunate run-in with a clumsy and defenceless Sloth named Sid. Sid needs a friend and Manfred wants him to get lost. All of the animals are migrating south, but Manfred is taking the lone trip north to the glaciers for some reasons unknown to us at this time. Bad-luck has it that the two of them are given a baby Neanderthal from a wounded mother and she hopes they will protect it from the sabre-toothed tiger named Diego. Diego wanted the baby for his “boss” as revenge because these Neanderthals killed half of his pack for clothes. Diego, frustrated that Manfred and Sid have this baby agrees to help the two of them find the father of the baby, but of course, Diego has his own agenda too. Sarcasm is what makes this movie funny, especially because of Ray Romano as the voice behind Manfred. I can’t say his voice is warm and fuzzy like the creature but that’s why John Leguizamo is there for the voice (and comic relief ) of Sid. The movie has its slow and exciting moments, but one thing I am thankful for is that it’s not very “busy” for an animation. The backdrops are very simple and there isn’t a lot going on in each scene unlike what we see in Robots or The Incredibles. Simple movies like Ice Age are relieving sometimes. They cause fewer headaches. VIDEO QUALITY / The image is shown in its correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This disc looks every bit as good as the previous release because it is the same release (ha!) in terms of video and audio. Close attention to colour and contrast during the making of this film comes out on this DVD. The video seems so smooth and the lighting actually makes the mood rather depressing, probably because of the themes of death and loss in this film. Of course, like all other animation titles, this movie screams for an HD release. This SD-DVD will still impress everyone because it looks fantastic. If you work in retail but you hate the movie, at least you can use this film for TV demos because of all that bright white snow (actually, it’ll be blue snow). A full screen version is also included on this disc and is selectable only when the disc is first put in the player. AUDIO QUALITY / The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio surround soundtrack is very good at delivering the sound mix creating the sounds of barren landscape. There is mild ambience throughout the film but there is always something going on in all channels. All channels work together to create phantom imaging to the sides and center-rear. Surprisingly, and most welcoming, is the use of directional dialogue across the front channels. I love when films are recorded this way because when I’m watching this film on my 8-foot screen, my left and right channels are also the same distance apart (but are about 5 feet forward from the screen) and the sound image is easily localizable right where the speaker is visually on the screen. During the film’s intense moments, just as in Scrat’s first acorn adventure, the soundtrack does get a little louder but doesn’t nearly come close to any high SPL we’ve heard in other films. It does get loud though; especially with Scrat’s screaming (a little too forward) that some of you may actually cringe at the brightness of the sound (I don’t think this soundtrack is HT-EQ’d). While I can tolerate it on my system, I’ve heard this opening countless times on different systems and it’s usually the small speaker systems – especially those with bright-sounding metal tweeters – that make this soundtrack sound a little thin. I won’t specifically pick on this movie about that though because those comments hold true with any film soundtrack played on any bad audio system. Most of the bass heard in this film comes from the front left and right channels. These channels are definitely full range in this respect. There is a little bit of dedicated .1 LFE sound and it appears randomly in the film. The most effective use was with the first ice crack at the beginning of the film as well as a few moments closer to the end. TACTILE FUN!! / TRANSDUCER ON/ OFF?: ON This is a new element of fun that I’ll be including in my reviews of 5.1 soundtracks. I’ve just added a Clark Synthesis TST-429 tactile sound transducer to my sofa for that extra bit of LFE-shaking fun. I know Clark prefers it to be run full range but there is no way I’m wiring this thing between any of my channels and compromise the sound of them. I've hooked it up with an AudioQuest RCA splitter off of the single LFE output on the pre-amp. The RCA to the amp is AudioQuest Diamondback to an AudioSource AMP 5.3 monoblock to power this little sucker. So, how does Ice Age feel using this shaker?? VERY COOL! Since this is receiving a signal from the LFE channel only, its use is limited (it also helps me monitor what exactly is coming from the LFE at any moment) but when it’s on it works well. At the beginning of the film, when Scrat pushes that first acorn in the ground, the TST gave it that extra sinking feeling that was very effective! And then, after poor Scrat finally gets his acorn, the STOMP on him really gives that extra jump! For this kind of film, it was never annoying to have on and it enhanced the LFE with the visuals. SPECIAL FEATURES / I’ll be honest in that I wasn’t expecting many additional special features with this film. There have been so many DVD re-releases and double-dipping that I’ve ignored a bulk of them because most of the added features usually aren’t worth it. I happy to say I can’t say the same for this Ice Age: Super Cool Edition because it is super cool! There are some features that are ported over from the previous release like the audio commentary by director Chris Wedge and co-director Carlos Saldanha and the approximately 10-minutes worth of deleted scenes also with optional directors’ commentary. Disc 2 two has all of the new stuff that we are interested in. I’m going to present these with bullets because I think they’ll be easier read that way rather than getting lost in a bunch of text, so here they are: [*] Ice Age 2 Sneak Peak – non-anamorphic video of the upcoming film. [*] Extreme Cool View - this is one very cool and fun special feature to watch. This feature is enhanced for widescreen TVs and needs to be because it takes advantage of the widest space available. This is how it is laid out: at the top left hand corner of the screen is the movie playing – the WHOLE movie from start to finish. The bottom right corner of the screen has video playing in sync with the film. Depending on the part in the film, you’ll hear from the director, producer, and even experts on the ice age that work in museums so you’ll see the fossils and everything! Not only this, but on the bottom left of the screen there are facts about the film as well as the earth relating to all things ice age! There are 48 chapter stops and you can access any part of this feature by these stops; they are labelled according to what the special feature is about rather than the scene in the film. You’ll be very entertained through this feature! [*] Sid on Sid Silhouette On Scenes - this is a running joke feature where animated Sid sits in his actor’s chair and discusses some of his favourite parts of the film. It’s cute and the kids will like it. [*] Scrat Reveals - these are three features that seem like “internal” jokes at Fox. Every time Scrat destroys something the FOX logo appears… [*] Animation Progression - is a multi-angle feature showing the opening sequence in four different stages of the animation process. You can individually select the storyboards, 3-D layout, un-rendered animation and the final animation. You also have a “5th angle” to view all four stages at the same time. [*] International Ice Age - shows a 3 minute clip of the film in 9 different languages. [*] The Making of Ice Age - has a total of 8 features in this sub-menu. Unfortunately there is no “play all” option so there is some back and forth happening when watching it. It’s also a little annoying because most of the features are only a bit over a minute in length. All of the video here is 4:3 and not widescreen enhanced; with the exception of the first feature in this submenu, the 14-minute HBO Special “Behind the Scenes of Ice Age”, the rest of the features are a series of stills shown before our eyes and are narrated by the people involved with that specific bit of expertise. The items are: Sid Voice Development (has John Leguizamo dictate different voices to us), Using 2-D in a 3-D World (discusses traditional animation mixed in with computer animation), Making a Character (from models to computer), Art of Rigging (prep in animation/skeletons), Animators Acting (the computer animators running around trying to capture emotion so they can convey it on screen), Art of Effects (different layers of animated effects), and Lighting and Materials (trying to capture proper lighting for the film). [*] 1998 Academy Award Winning “Bunny” animated short – director Chris Wedge’s winning short is presented here in non-anamorphic widescreen video. This may have been on the previous release of Ice Age; I can’t remember because I no longer have that disc but this animation is definitely familiar. It’s about 8 minutes and includes an introduction by the director as well as an optional audio commentary. [*] Build Your Own Design Gallery - allows you to select from about 20 different character designs in the film (e.g. you may want to see the drawing designs for the Mammoth and the wolves only and view those sketches). Each character that I selected had from 30-50 designs for them so you can imagine why this feature is “build your own” rather than a “play all!” [*] Size Comparison/Science Behind Ice Age Gallery - allows you to look at the size of characters in the film as well as learn a bit of information on each of them such as the period of time they were on this earth to when they became extinct. It’s a shame the Dodo Bird became extinct in the late 1700s…because once they are gone they are gone…(I fear the Polar Bears in our Canadian Arctic). …and that isn’t all! There are five games that you can play on your DVD player. I’ve had only moderate success with them and they are slightly clumsy. A few of them were on the previous release too. They are Cave In, Rock/Paper/Scissors, Playing Darwin, Hide and Eek, and Frozen Pairs. Two DVD-ROM games are also included (I don’t review them) are a snowboarding game called Sid Shreds and a rugby/dodgeball game called Super Dodo Ball. DVD-ROM printables are also included such as Snowflake Flurry ornaments, Ice Digest (and Ice Age-inspired magazine), Hanging With the Herd Make-Your-Own Mobile, Ice Box Theater, Sub-Zero Heroes Adventure Board Game and a 12-month Migration Calendar. Lastly, FOX just couldn’t release this DVD without the three theatrical trailers. Unfortunately they are not widescreen enhanced…why?????!!!!! IN THE END... If you haven’t seen Ice Age and you are looking for a new animation title to pick up the kids (or to make yourself feel like a kid again), I highly recommend this DVD. Not only is the film good, but the special features on this DVD is a fantastic balance for kids who want more interaction with the characters as well as for adults who want to know more about the production and process to make the film. If choosing between the old DVD and the new one, because of the features only, this is the copy to pick up! Michael Osadciw March 12, 2006.