If you think about it, the Ice Age saga contains more full-length feature films than nearly any other animated film series. The Shrek saga has four feature films; Disney’s Monsters‘ universe is made up of just two movies; typical popular film series are comprised of a trilogy, such as Dreamworks’ Madagascar, Disney’s Cars, Universal’s Despicable Me, and Sony’s Open Season.
But Blue Sky’s Ice Age is something special. It is made up of five films: Ice Age (2002), Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006), Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009), Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012), and Ice Age: Collision Course (2016), not mentioning the animated specials No Time for Nuts (2006), Surviving Sid (2008), Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas (2011) or Ice Age: The Great Egg-Scapade (2016).
This saga has spanned nearly 15 years thus far. The movies have over 17,945, 300 likes on Facebook, and collectively the movies have gotten 93,600+ ratings on IMDb. Evidently, these are really popular movies. Yet, none of them have appeared in the ranks of a “best animated movies” list from a professional publisher or website. However, the Ice Age movies continue to have a healthy following of fans, including yours truly.
So what is it that makes these animated adventures so appealing to audiences of a range of ages? Well, it could be the voice talents that have graced the films. The Ice Age movies have featured some of the most memorable voice actors from other popular animated movies. For instance, Denis Leary who voices Diego had previously voiced Francis the ladybug in Disney’s A Bug’s Life (1998). In the original Ice Age, Cedric the Entertainer portrayed Carl, a prehistoric rhino. Cedric went on to play the lemur Maurice in Dreamworks’ Madagascar trilogy.
Also appearing in the original movie was Jack Black as Zeke, a member of the sabertooth tiger pack. Jack Black went on to star as Po in Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda film series. Additional major voice talents that have contributed to the Ice Age tale include Simon Pegg, Jennifer Lopez, Peter Dinklage, Patrick Stewart, Neil deGrasse Tyson, among others.
What if it was the music that made Ice Age a big hit? I’m sure it had something partially to do with it. Ice Age has included several musical numbers with animal choreography such as “Food, Glorious Food.” The composer for the first film was David Newman, the cousin of composer Randy Newman who wrote the music for animated Disney movies like Toy Story (1995) and A Bug’s Life.
For the following consecutive three movies, John Powell was the score composer. Powell has worked extensively with Hans Zimmer, especially on Kung Fu Panda. Powell is also the sole composer of the How to Train Your Dragon theme, a tune which can easily be heard running through his main Ice Age theme. John Debney was brought in for the last Ice Age movie. Debney also comes from a Hollywood family; he is known for composing the score for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004).
Could it be the characters that make Ice Age what it is? Characters in any story are obviously vital. Without a character, a story really isn’t a story. Ice Age has added new main characters to each of its installments, and this has kept adding to the saga, giving it more dimension and color.
The herd of three was expanded in The Meltdown which introduced Ellie, Crash, and Eddie. Then in Dawn of the Dinosaurs, we saw the entrance of the insane weasel Buck, and Peaches is born. In Continental Drift, the audience finally meets Sid’s family members whose names are mentioned in the first film back in 2002. Shira is also introduced in Continental Drift, probably my favorite Ice Age movie. Buck returns in the final film, and a host of others are introduced including Julian, Shangri Llama, and Brooke.
But the most important aspect that I think has kept the franchise alive so long is that the movie plots always revolve around survival and/or reuniting with family members. In the original, the trio attempt to return a human infant to his family. After that movie, humans are never seen in Ice Age again (unless you count Santa Claus). At the end of Ice Age, Sid comments that he could really go for some global warming. And that is exactly what happens in the sequel. Then in Dawn of the Dinosaurs, the herd has to survive giant carnivorous dinosaurs in order to save Sid.
In Continental Drift, they witness the shifting of the earth’s tectonic plates in a dramatic way, and Manny desperately tries to reach his wife and daughter from whom the original trio is separated. And last of all, the herd has to put an end to a meteor headed their way. (Plus, Sid finally gets a girl friend: something he’s been struggling with since the get-go.) In many ways, Collision Course gave good closure to the tale. So the Ice Age herd has survived a few of the evolutionary dangers of the times such as human hunting and carnivorous dinosaurs as well as natural catastrophes like global warming, earthquakes, and meteors. But through it all, they have made it and remained a family.