Ice Age Goes Epic with Continental Drift
It's hard to believe that the Ice Age franchise is 10 years old. It's not only helped Blue Sky and Fox prosper but has also become a global phenomenon, with the last entry, Dawn of the Dinosaurs, raking in a record $690 million internationally. That accounted for nearly 80% of the box office. The latest and fourth installment, Continental Drift, has already taken in more than $200 million internationally this month prior to Friday's domestic opening.
"I think they just have an interesting dynamic," suggests Steve Martino, who co-directs Continental Drift with Mike Thurmeier. "Sid's the lovable loser, and Manny's the curmudgeon and Diego's the tough guy with a dry sense of humor. And Scrat as a character is pure animation: it's pantomime; it's physical comedy; and his mission in life is simple and getable.
"Those characters are personalities that we relate to. They may look odd in terms of being a mammoth, a tiger and a sloth, but we see ourselves in them. They goof up; they do those things that we do; and therefore we connect with them in a very real way. And we try in our storytelling to find those things that are relatable in a big way. And I think that the Ice Age world is one that you can't pin down. You can't say that it's necessarily North America or South America. People around the world can claim this as their group of characters and a place that is their home."
For Continental Drift, Martino (who co-directed Horton Hears a Who!) and Thurmeier (who co-directed Dawn of the Dinosaurs) were tasked with taking over from Carlos Saldanha, who, in turn, took over from Chris Wedge. They complement each other well, with Martino's art direction background and Thurmeier's animation background. They worked together through editorial and then segued to a divide and conquer approach the last year, working with animators in their respective area of specialization.
"As we worked through the entire filmmaking process, we would often refer to Ice Age landmines being ideas that would come up that are too similar to ones that we'd done in the past," continues Martino. "We could leverage off the body of work that our main characters have created, but with some unique ideas. We have Manny learning about letting go of his teenage daughter, Peaches. We have Sid's family come back, they have a big reunion, Sid's all excited, and we find out they've only come back to drop off Granny with him and then they bolt. And we have Diego find a girlfriend, Shira [voiced by Jennifer Lopez], a saber tooth pirate.
"Mike and I sat together and came up with our cornerstones: What are the things that we want to do with this story that are important for distinguishing this film from the others? We talked about it wanting to be a more epic adventure, larger in scope, using 2.3:5 aspect ratio for the first time, and we wanted to take the 3-D storytelling component and create something bigger and better than we had ever done at Blue Sky. We pushed the depth on this but more than anything else, we integrated the stereo component into the filmmaking process much earlier. I think the 3-D component is a lot like working with a cinematographer where you're choosing lens for a particular shot, you're deciding whether you want a deep space or a flat space shooting style."