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HTF REVIEW: "Ice Age" (Highly Recommended) (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Oct 21, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Ice Age

    Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
    Year: 2002
    Rated: PG
    Film Length: 81 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    and Standard (1.33:1) Transfer
    Subtitles: English and Spanish

    Licensed To Chill
    I like to think of Ice Age as the little
    animated feature that could! Though it's not nearly
    on the same scale as animated blockbusters like
    Shrek and Monsters, Inc, this snappy,
    funny, and cleverly conceived all-digital, animated
    feature film from Chris Wedge makes for truly fun
    family entertainment.
    Set in prehistoric times when glaciers still
    dominated the earth, we find a story of three animals
    who find a human baby and set out to return him to
    its tribe. The leader of the expedition is a Manfred,
    a woolly mammoth (Ray Romano); Sid, a clumsy but
    lovable motor-mouthed sloth (John Leguizamo); and
    Diego, a morally conflicted saber-toothed tiger
    (Denis Leary). These unlikely allies travel across
    vast glaciers and lava streams to make contact with
    a human scouting party.
    But perhaps the most reliable and consistent source
    of laughs comes from a character who exists almost
    completely outside the main plot — a squirrel named
    Scrat. This determined but small-minded rodent is
    constantly trying to find a place in the harsh and
    frozen wasteland to bury an acorn.
    With smooth animated effects and a solid storyline,
    there is plenty here to like including a collection
    of silly animal gags and Leguizamo one liners. Most
    of all, this film has a wonderful look and texture
    all its own with a transfer that just can't be beat.
    Oops! I am getting ahead of myself here!
    How is the transfer?
    Ice Age is a sight to behold! Once again,
    we are treated to a totally digital creation that
    has been transferred directly to DVD from its
    digital source. The result, as you may have now come
    to expect, is nothing short of breathtaking. Here
    is a picture that is so incredibly clear and detailed
    that its razor-sharp images look three-dimensional.
    No kidding -- it actually looks as if you can reach
    into your screen and touch the animation.
    No blemishes! No artifacts! Not even a single
    speck of film grain! This transfer is as pure as
    the snow its characters walk upon. Colors are
    beautifully vivid here -- especially those that
    stand out amongst the film's clean white backgrounds.
    As you will see from the screenshots I have provided
    throughout this review, every frame is like a
    perfect snapshot.
    Want to know how good this film can sound? You
    won't have too long to wait. In the opening moments
    of this film, our small hero, Scrat, sticks his
    acorn in the snow with deep emphatic thud response
    from the LFE channel as the rear speakers provide
    the sound of surrounding rumble while ice cracks across
    the two front channels. It's quite an awesome bit
    of sound mix that will certainly be repeated as
    demo material. Unfortunately, from hereon in, the
    sound mix changes considerably. The front channels
    still provide robust and detailed sound with great
    direction across the front channels. While dialogue
    sits mostly in the center speaker, some clever scenes
    move that dialogue across the front and right channels.
    The problem is the rear and LFE channels. They
    mostly remain at very low levels throughout this
    film, only to resurface at the very end. I was sort
    of perplexed as to why the film started off with
    demo-quality surround, only to remain front-heavy
    for nearly the rest of its entire length.
    Special Features
    Ice Age arrives as a 2-disc Special Edition.
    What makes this set really special is that
    it's quite obvious that Fox wanted to make this a
    title that appeals to everyone in the family.
    To begin with, the studio chose not to release
    confusingly separate widescreen and full frame
    editions. Both versions are included in this set,
    easily accessible off the Main Menu. To give Fox
    even more credit, they put the choice of widescreen
    first (over full frame).
    Next, the studio loaded Disc One with 8
    different DVD-ROM Games. I'll admit that
    I chose not to spend too much time with these games
    as it usually means having to go through un installs
    after viewing, but I can tell you that there's a
    neat game called Sid Shreds that features
    all the film's characters in a snowboarding game.
    There's also a rugby/dodgeball game called Super
    DoDo Ball
    . This, to me, is just really cool
    stuff as it allows kids to watch the film on their
    TV, and then stick the DVD in their computer to
    interact with their favorite characters. For those
    without computers, there are three Interactive
    Games you can play on your DVD player including
    Hide and Eek, a nifty search game.
    If that isn't enough, there's all sorts of
    activity stuff on this DVD ranging from a coloring
    book. a Shoe Box Theater, a board game, and
    even a Make-Your-Own Mobile. I mean, if you have
    computer addicted kids, the DVD-ROM stuff is worth
    the purchase alone.
    For adults, there's a full-length commentary
    by Director Chris Wedge and Co-Director Carlos
    Saldanha. Through the words of this pair, we learn
    how a sort of dramatic film with a serious tone
    was turned into an animated comedy film. Perhaps
    the greatest challenge was creating the Ice Age
    world itself. Though there was much research done,
    the filmmakers ultimately found that in many ways,
    the world was not too different than it looks today.
    The directors never hesitate to talk about their
    favorite shots, and why some shots were easier to
    render than others. The filmmakers were very
    careful to cap each of the more dramatic moments
    of the film with some comedy material, in order to
    give some release to the audience through laughter.
    As we go from scene to scene, it's interesting to
    hear how important lighting was to this film, as
    we actually see how that lighting created a specific
    mood for the segment we are viewing. Anyone that
    is interested in CGI animation will want to listen
    to this extremely detailed commentary.
    Now let's go look at Disc Two....
    Something I forgot to mention earlier is the
    animated menu design of this disc. Both discs
    have totally different animated schemes. Once
    again, the talent at Fox has come up with some
    of the cleverest menu designs of any studio. I
    don't think anyone will be able to make a menu
    selection without having a big fat smile on
    their face.
    Let's slowly go through this wealth of supplements
    starting with Scrat's Missing Adventure,
    a never-before-seen short feature created exclusively
    for this release. Today's episode: Gone Nutty!.
    Once again, our little squirrel hero is preparing for
    the oncoming Ice Age by storing away his wealth of
    acorns. As he adds the very last nut to his vast
    collection, he once again finds himself in a heap
    of trouble. We originally saw this cartoon while
    out at Fox studios, and I gotta tell you -- I laughed
    just as hard today as I did a month ago when I first
    viewed it. An exceptional short!
    (length: approx. 5 minutes)
    There are six deleted scenes for you to
    browse through. Let's briefly look at them...
    * An original introduction to Sid, as the Sloth
    hustles a bunch of young Aardvarks. Director
    Chris Wedge was a little sad that the kids who
    supplied the voices here had their shining moment
    * Here we meet Sylvia, a female SLoth who has
    taken a liking to Sid. Of course, Sid isn't ready
    for any sort of commitment, and you see how he
    fast-talks his way out of another situation.
    * This is cool. An unfinished animated scene
    that features some additional tigers who take
    part in in the stake-out. Director Chris Wedge
    felt the scene was just a little way over the top.
    * Did a poop joke go too far? Sid empties a full
    diaper in the woods just as oncoming tigers pick
    up the scent.
    * A scene that didn't work well in initial test
    screenings: There's some banter between Sid and
    some other female Sloths. Ultimately Chris Wedge
    thought the scene was too out of character for Sid.
    * Another partially complete animated sequence
    finds Sylvia discovering the Rhinos. You can see
    how this really slowed down the pacing of the film.
    In total, these add up to a little over 7 minutes
    of material, and are quite interesting to watch --
    especially for the way the original concept of using
    Sylvia in the film was scrapped. You can listen to
    all these deleted scenes with or without added
    commentary by the Directors.
    Now this is really cool! Sid on Sid features
    our smooth-talkin' Sloth in his private screening
    room. As the film rolls before him, he sits back
    and talks about what it was like to work with his
    co-stars, and some of the practical jokes that went
    down on the set. I can see kids really having a
    great time with this, and parents may find a chuckle
    here and there with jokes that go over their young
    one's heads.
    (length: approx. 3 minutes)
    The next section, Scrat Reveals, contains
    3 short promotions featuring our acorn-loving
    squirrel. These seem to be interstitial advertising
    segments to promote both the movie and Fox television.
    The next segment, Animation Progression,
    gives us a multi-angle look at a different stage
    of progression of a particular scene's animation.
    Three key scenes are presented here: First is
    the film's opening title sequence featuring
    Scrat. Almost Home has our heroes near the
    end of their journey as they approach glacier pass.
    Tigers Attack is the film's initial attack
    sequence where the newborn is stolen.
    I found this segment to be fascinating. With each
    pressing of your remote's angle button, you
    can see the different layers of animation progression
    from storyboard to 3D layout, un-rendered
    and ending with final rendering.
    In case you get tired of constantly switching angles,
    there is a final option that allows you to see
    multiple windows of all the progression stages on
    one screen.
    The most lengthy section of supplements can be
    found in Under The Ice, which features a
    handful of production featurettes. Let's briefly
    look at each...
    The Making of Ice Age is broken down into
    7 individual featurettes. In the beginning
    immediately introduces us to Director Chris Wedge
    who has been making animation since he was a pre-teen.
    His love for animation led him to the creation of
    Blue Sky Studios, and an interesting animated
    short called Bunny, which won an Oscar. We
    meet Producer Lori Forte who originated and developed
    the idea of making an animated film set in the Ice
    Age. (2:30); Acting in Animation shows us
    the actors behind the voices as we watch Romano,
    Leguizamo and Leary behind the microphone. Between
    these shots are some short interviews from the
    actors. It's interesting to learn how Leguizmo
    created a special speech pattern for his Sloth
    alter-ego. (7:13); Creating Ice Age Characters
    begins with an interesting examination by Chris
    Wedge over how film and animation differ. Unlike
    live-action filmmaking, every bit of information you
    see on the screen was created by hand. This featurette
    looks at the talent behind the film and the amount
    of research that was put into creating an Ice Age
    world. There are many conceptual sketches shown
    here, as well as input from the animators themselves.
    (3:02); Modeling is fun to watch as we take
    a look at early concepts of individual characters
    as modeled in clay. Creating these 3D models helps
    the animation team see things they might have missed
    in simple sketch drawings. Best of all, these models
    serve as guides for computer animation -- and you'll
    see that entire process right here! (1:58); In
    Storyboards, co-director Carlos Saldanha
    guides us from script to storyboard as we see
    several examples of the 2D art that acts as a guide
    for how a scene should look. We are taken through
    a story boarded sequence as we watch the final scene
    in a separate smaller window. (1:49); Animating
    Ice Age introduces us to the talented team
    of computer animators who add all the small pieces
    of movement to the animated characters (such as jaws
    and eyes opening and closing). You'll enjoy watching
    the animators become animated themselves as they act
    out the movements they are attempting to create.
    (6:03). Finally, The Finishing Touches
    presents us with the challenge of creating a very
    small story in a very large place. Wedge used a
    very familiar style of animating his backgrounds
    against live animation. We also learn how lighting
    played an important part of giving this film a very
    natural look to it. Basically, this featurette scans
    most of what has already been shown, but adds some
    interesting insight from the Director, cast and
    filmmakers on what they hope will come out of this
    film. (4:16)
    Behind The Scenes of Ice Age is an HBO
    special that features a funny setup skit featuring
    Ray Romano and his typical day on the set. From
    hereon in, we get the usual promotional fare of
    being introduced to each of the animated characters
    and the actors who voice them. This featurette
    quickly glosses over most of the material seen in
    The Making of Ice Age section, including the
    CGI animation. I would recommend this more for those
    who want all the basics thrown at them without having
    to go through the more detailed supplements.
    (length: approx. 14 minutes)
    How do you voice a Sloth? Hell if actor John
    Leguizamo knew! In Sid Voice Development,
    we learn how the actor refined the character's
    voice. A real treat here is listening to raw
    demo recordings that John created on tape while
    in the midst of shooting Moulin Rouge
    (length: approx. 3 minutes)
    Using 2D in a 3D World shows us how Manny's
    visions inside the Prehistoric cave were able to
    be brought to life in 2-dimensional form.
    (length: approx. 1 minute)
    Making a Character takes us through the
    process of creating 3D models from 2D sketch
    drawings and using those models to create more
    detailed CGI animation.
    (length: approx. 1 minute)
    Art of Rigging takes us through the early
    preparations of creating moving animation that
    becomes a skeleton model, showing all the individual
    movements of that character.
    (length: approx. 1 minute)
    I always love watching these things! Animators
    Acting takes us through the concept of capturing
    the emotions of the actor's voice through animation.
    This involves the animated team acting out sequences
    from the film. Unfortunately, this is way too short
    of an example of how this process is done.
    (length: approx. 1 minute)
    Lighting and Materials shows us how lighting
    and color defines the texture of the film. We watch
    how basic animation is touched up through the addition
    of colors and various degrees of lighting.
    (length: approx. 1 minute)
    Art of Effects was an eye-opener for me. I
    never knew that so much pre-modeling had to be put
    into creating special effects for animation. I
    always thought it was just drawn...wrong! We watch
    how so many individual elements are created to mesh
    together the film's opening destructive glacier
    (length: approx. 1 minute)
    International Ice Age gives us several
    examples of how the film sounded in several foreign
    languages including German, Italian, Swedish, Polish,
    Greek and Cantonese.
    (length: approx. 2.5 minutes)
    Here it is! Chris Wedge's 1998 Academy Award Winning
    short, Bunny. It's a wonderful, bittersweet
    short that represents a dream-like world. This was
    a short created just for the pleasure of Chris and
    company, but somehow gained critical acclaim. Pay
    close attention to how well lighting is used in the
    animation process. You can opt to play this short
    with or without commentary from director Chris Wedge.
    (length: approx. 7 minutes)
    Design Galleries sizes its way through all
    the animated characters of the film, giving a
    little bit of factual history for each. This is
    a great educational tool for kids who just want
    to do some remote hopping. Take things one step
    further and you can Create Your Own Ice Age
    Gallery by selecting several images via
    your remote control.
    Rounding out the extras are two theatrical
    trailers as well as a teaser trailer.
    There is also a trailer for the recently released
    film, Like Mike.
    Final Thoughts
    In tough economic times, parents are always
    looking for the best value for their family.
    In reviewing this DVD, I realized just how much
    family value Fox has put into a single product.
    Here is a top-notch film with a state-of-the-art
    transfer, combined with computer DVD-ROM
    games and a second disc filled with hours of cool
    supplements for an on-line price of under $23.
    No doubt Ice Age will become the hottest
    DVD this season, making this a warm addition to
    your collection!
    Release Date: November 26, 2002
  2. Neil White

    Neil White Supporting Actor

    Jan 8, 1999
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    Loved in the theater and so did my kid. It's on order. Can't wait.

    Thanks for another great review Ron.

  3. Mark Palermo

    Mark Palermo Second Unit

    Jun 28, 2000
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    I'm looking forward to getting this, and am glad to hear the disc is good. I felt this one was fairly underrated when it came out, as it's more entertaining and substantial--if technically less polished--than either Shrek or Monsters Inc.

  4. Wes

    Wes Screenwriter

    Sep 30, 1997
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    Utah USA
    Real Name:
    Wes Peterson
    Great review, I cant wait for this disc! I didn't notice in your review if it is in Dolby Digital 5.1, EX or is there DTS track on it?

  5. gregstaten

    gregstaten Supporting Actor

    Aug 1, 1997
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    Sounds like another great disc from Fox! BTW - I noticed the sound mix deficiency in the theater and figured it was just another instance of the nearby Loews screwing up.

    Ron - from your screenshots it appears that BUNNY is not anamorphic. Is this so? I was really hoping to get this short in anamorphic as well, but I'm certainly glad to have it at all on DVD. I haven't seen this since Siggraph a few years ago and can hardly wait to see it again.

  6. Kyle McKnight

    Kyle McKnight Cinematographer

    Mar 8, 2001
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    I had no clue those three did the voices for the main characters. I love all their work, I will be checking this one out. Thanks Ron.
  7. RyanChristoffel

    Oct 21, 2002
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    Great review! [​IMG]
    I thought the movie was pretty good but wasn't planning on getting it because of all the other good dvds being released but now after reading your review I'll probably pick it up
  8. Joseph_mx

    Joseph_mx Stunt Coordinator

    Apr 14, 2002
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  9. Chris Farmer

    Chris Farmer Screenwriter

    Aug 23, 2002
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    Thank you Ron for another great review. And this one comes out the day after my 21st birthday, how convenient. Right in time for me to celebrate it at home for Thanksgiving. Wonderful.
  10. Alex Spindler

    Alex Spindler Producer

    Jan 23, 2000
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    Man, am I ever spoiled by your reviews. You really have me anxious to add this one next to the truly excellent Monsters Inc.
  11. Chris S

    Chris S Cinematographer

    Apr 9, 2000
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    Chris S
    I wasn't able to catch this film in the theaters and thought I would pass it up on DVD too, but after reading your review I don't think that will be possible. Definitely one I am going to have to checkout! Thanks for the review!

    Chris S.
  12. Brian Kaz

    Brian Kaz Second Unit

    Aug 31, 2000
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    Great review! I was gonna pick this one up just to get my fix of Scrat's antics...but judging by the transfer, it looks like it'll be a great demo disc as well.
  13. Jeffrey Noel

    Jeffrey Noel Screenwriter

    Sep 11, 2001
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    Thanks Ron! [​IMG]
    This is the DVD I have been looking forward to for a long time. I loved this movie in the theater and I can't wait until it will be in mine! [​IMG]
  14. Neil Joseph

    Neil Joseph Lead Actor

    Jan 16, 1998
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    Although I did not enjoy this as much as eitehr Shrek or Monster's Inc (as someone has mentioned as well), I will pick this up. Nice to see another flawless video transfer and tons of extras.
  15. Jeremy Allin

    Jeremy Allin Supporting Actor

    Oct 6, 2001
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    Thanks for the review, Ron! I'll definitely be picking this one up. Scrat is just hiliarious...love that little guy! [​IMG]
    BTW, Ron, I'm interested to know...what's your 'ritual' for reviewing DVDs. I've reviewed quite a few myself and was wondering if you follow the same process everytime or vary things bit by bit.
    For instance, do you sit down and watch the whole movie first, or do you scribble notes to yourself as you're watching? Do you look at extra materials such as the commentary on your computer (perhaps in the background as you compose the review)?
    I'm interested in any nitty gritty details you can provide.
    Thanks again! [​IMG]
  16. Karl L

    Karl L Agent

    Feb 26, 2001
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    This is actually due out on D-VHS day and date with the dvd or sometime very shortly after. As stunning as the dvd may look, can't wait to see this digitally created flick in all its true hi-def glory!
  17. Michael Lee

    Michael Lee Supporting Actor

    Jan 7, 1998
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    Do we know this for sure? I know the rumor is out there from a source at WSR...and I did see a brief demo of it at CEDIA at the JVC booth amongst others. But I have yet to hear official announcement of this title on D-VHS.

    Either way, I will be getting this on DVD as soon as possible. I saw bits and pieces of this in NJ a while ago, and it looked awesome!
  18. Kenneth Cummings

    Kenneth Cummings Supporting Actor

    Aug 7, 2001
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    Even so I didn't watch it in theaters, I will end up picking up this dvd. Hopefully it not like Shrek last year which I bought unseen and ended up hating (ended trading it off).
  19. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

    Jan 12, 1999
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    Monroe, LA
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    Tim Glover
    Nice review Ron.

    When I saw this back in March, I took my daughters thinking I would only enjoy the "Clone War" Attack Of The Clones trailer that was promised to be playing before Ice Age. The early teasers looked like Dinosaur and Land Before Time, but man was I wrong! I loved it, my daughters loved it...This film is sweet, funny, and it really grows on you. Looks to be a great dvd edition.
  20. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    To answer questions:

    The audio is 5.1 Dolby Digital

    Bunny is not anamorphic.

    As far as how I do my reviews? I watch the
    film first. I have a notepad that I not only
    scribble all sorts of comments, but keep track
    of interesting screenshot locations so when I go
    back to my computer, I can easily find them.

    One of these days I'll take a snapshot of my
    notepad full of scribbles. Think you'll have
    a good laugh.

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