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Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (Blu-ray) (2006)
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Details At A Glance
Short Film-No Time For Nuts
Outtakes-Crash & Eddie Stunts
Featurette-Lost Historical Films
Game-Ice Age Factoid Meltdown
Game-Who's Your Buddy
Featurette-Scrat's Piranha Smackdown Sound Effects Lab
Featurette-Artists' Gallery Channel
Web Links-Fox local and international
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
Blue Sky Studios
Twentieth Century Fox
Seann William Scott
Caitlin Rose Anderson
Pan & Scan/Full Frame
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
|Original Aspect Ratio
Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
In recent years we've enjoyed a Golden Age of feature film animation, largely due to the expertly written, computer animated films from Pixar and Dreamworks. With Ice Age: The Meltdown (Ice Age 2), Fox's Blue Sky Studios is aiming to become the third animation powerhouse at the box office. In Ice Age 2, Manny, Sid, and Diego are back in a really fun, and sometimes hilarious, story that will entertain children and adults alike. As for the quality of the High Definition disc, there is a reason why all Sony stores are currently playing scenes from Ice Age 2 to demonstrate Blu-ray's capability.
The aforementioned Golden Age of feature film animation was heralded with the arrival of Pixar's Toy Story 2 in 1999. Since the great success of this film, both critically and commercially, we've been treated to a number of successful animated feature films including: Shrek 1 and 2, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Monsters Inc, Cars, Happy Feet, Ice Age 1 and 2, Madagascar, The Polar Express, A Shark Tale, Over The Hedge, Dinosaur, Chicken Little, Robots, Open Season, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Flushed Away, and Monster House.
With the success of these films at the box office, and their incredible earning power in both licensing revenues and DVD sales, there seems to be no end in sight, for the flood of computer animation to the big screen. For example, at the cinemas now we have Pixar's Rataouille, Dreamworks' Shrek the Third, and Fox's The Simpsons Movie. While there, you will also probably see trailers for the upcoming, Disney's Meet the Robinsons and Sony's Surf's Up.
So expect to see a lot more computer animated films from almost all the major Hollywood studios, or their subsidiaries, being released over the next few years. It's hard to believe, but over the last three years, I estimate that over ten animated feature films have been released each year. Looking at the projects being worked on at the moment, that figure is expected to crank up to about 15 per year, within two years, and therein lies the potential danger.
With so many of these films being released, the computer animation is no longer a novelty. The fierce competition between films will also result in costly box office failures as well. This has already started to happen, for example, recent films, such as Disney's The Wild, and Warner Bros' The Ant Bully were both considered box office failures. Other films have merely performed reasonably, such as Sony's Open Season, which opened strongly, but then failed to meet its earning expectations.
Of course box office failure for big budget animated films is nothing new. The best known flop is the exquisitely animated, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, which was an unmitigated box office disaster, racking up a staggering loss estimated to be well over US $120 million.
However, perhaps the biggest danger for animated films is that there is a sameness that has crept in to them. Their movie plots and characters are increasingly looking very much alike. For example, consider the look of Over The Hedge, Barnyard, The Wild, Open Season, and Madagascar. With this many films featuring talking animals, it's no wonder confusion is setting in. For example, recently someone asked me if Surfs Up, which features a penguin who surfs, is a sequel to Happy Feet. Looking at the penguin featured on the movie poster for Surfs Up, their question is completely understandable.
Before the release of the current batch of films, the top ten animated movies, according to international box office receipts were reportedly: Shrek 2, Finding Nemo, Lion King, Ice Age 2, Incredibles, Madagascar, Monsters Inc, Aladdin, Toy Story 2, and Shrek. In 2004, Disney and Pixar agreed to separate, after the then two upcoming films they had contracted, had been completed - The Incredibles and Cars. With Disney now having long lost its monopoly on feature film animation, it's clear that two companies are battling it out at the box office (and home theatre), with Pixar claming four places in this top ten, and Dreamworks claiming three.
Looking at this list, we can see that computer animated movies are clearly the most popular. After all, we find that eight of the ten films were made with computers. Interestingly, the two traditionally hand-drawn animated movies, were both created by Disney, who have now abandoned traditional animation. In 2005, Disney announced they would close their DisneyToon Studios Australia in 2006. Based in Sydney, the DisneyToon Studios Australia was Disney's last studio producing hand-drawn animated features.
Disney is not alone in turning to computer animation. With Flushed Away, Aardman who provided us with the stop-motion gems, Chicken Run and Curse of the Were Rabbit, seems to have strayed away from their unique and truly remarkable clay animation, by turning to Dreamworks for yet more computer animation.
However, it seems that the films in this Golden Age of computer animation are seemingly having a much shorter run at the theatres. Perhaps this is because with so many of them screening concurrently at the theatres, many people (like me) are now being more selective, often waiting to watch some of these films on disc instead. After all, the cost of a DVD, HD-DVD, or Blu-ray disc is much, much cheaper than the cost for an average family to go to the cinemas, and with the disc, the kids can watch the film as many times as they like.
An interesting list appears, when we look at the box office receipts for animated films, adjusted for inflation. It is the first feature length animated movie ever made: Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs that then tops the box office list. Indeed it's almost all Disney in the Top Ten earners, as Shrek 2 is now the only non-Disney film in the list which includes: Snow White, 101 Dalmatians, Fantasia, Mary Poppins, The Lion King, Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, Shrek, Pinocchio, and Bambi.
So it was into the early years of this cut-throat age of computer animation, that in 2002, 20th Century Fox’s acquisition, Blue Sky Studios, released its debut feature film, Ice Age. This movie was quite successful, and Blue Sky followed it by jumping from the distant past into the distant future, with Robots. With their second feature, it seemed that more time and effort had been invested in the animation and story, but again the film lacked the wonderful characterization that seems to make all of Pixar's film's instant 'classics'. Having said that, it's certainly a much more entertaining film than the celebrity-crammed, shallow rubbish, seen in Shark Tale and Madagascar.
With Ice Age 2, Blue Sky has taken another step forward. The animation is notably better, especially in the backgrounds and textures, such as the character fur and water. But while there is some further character development in this sequel, it is nowhere near what was offered to us with Pixar's sequel, Toy Story 2, or Dreamworks' sequels, Shrek 2 and 3. In Ice Age 2, the comic sparring between the three main characters, Diego, Manny, and Sid has lost much of its punch and sparkle. It seems that Blue Sky struggles with providing any real depth in their characters and relationships. For example, Manny and Ellie have no real chemistry, and seemingly, no real romantic interest in each other either.
Needless to say, the three main characters from the first film have returned: Manny the sarcastic mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), Sid the chattering and annoying sloth (voiced by John Leguizamo) and Diego the surly sabre-toothed tiger (voiced by Denis Leary). Also making a welcome return is the squirrel-like, Scrat ('voiced' by Chris Wedge), who is chasing his elusive acorn, and provides many comic interludes in the style of Looney Tunes', Wyle E. Coyote. The humans from the first film are missing (which is a relief as they were boring), and we now have new characters in the form of a female mammoth Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah), and her two adopted brothers, the mischievous possums, Eddie (voiced by Josh Peck) and Crash (voiced by Seann William Scott).
The story opens with a number of the prehistoric characters enjoying water park like rides on the melting ice. A shifty, con artist Armadillo, Fast Tony (voiced by Jay Leno) interrupts all the wild hubris to warn everyone that the "end of the world" is coming, but he can save them all from the impending flood, for only $19.95 each!
The word "meltdown" in the film's title is referring to global warming. The ice around them is melting fast, and soon a giant ice dam will collapse, flooding their valley. An intimidating vulture (voiced by Will "Gob" Arnett) advises the group coolly that their only hope to escape the rising waters, is to travel to the other end of the valley, within the next three days. “Look around,” he casually suggests. “You're in a bowl. Bowl’s gonna fill up”. So the great animal trek begins, and like the original, Ice Age 2 quickly turns into another comic, road movie. The romance in the story comes from Manny meeting another mammoth, Ellie. Unfortunately, Ellie was adopted and raised by possums, and she believes that she is one too. Along the way, Manny will have to convince her otherwise.
The original Ice Age had three bickering characters, trying to care for a human baby, while attempting to return him to his family. The story was basically Three Men and a Baby played out with animated, prehistoric animals. However, Ice Age 2 reminds me of two films: It's The Land Before Time meets The Wizard of Oz. While our characters journey to the other end of the valley, each is forced to confront and deal with their own individual problems. Manny is lonely and afraid that he's the last mammoth alive, Sid is frustrated and angry that no one respects him, and the macho Diego is terrified of water as he can't swim.
In the original film, the story would occasionally cut to a group of nasty, sabre-toothed tigers, hunting Manny, Sid, and the baby. In Ice Age 2 these villains have been replaced by a pair of recently thawed, water-based dinosaur predators. These silent predators provide a sort of prehistoric Jaws.
Ice Age 2 is written by relative newcomers, Garry Swallow, Peter Gaulke, and Jim Hecht. Swallow and Gaulke are best known for their script for Black Knight, whereas this is Hecht's first writing credit. The script seems a little more lowbrow and puerile than the original, and it is certainly lots more fun. I really enjoyed the surprising show tunes, such as the vultures' dazzling performance of "Food, Glorious Food". Ice Age 2 is full of slapstick, and Crash and Eddie provide plenty of Jackass-like pranks and stunts along the way. Ice Age 2 is solely directed by Carlos Saldanha, who served as co-director with Chris Wedge on both Ice Age and Robots.
Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.
As I mentioned above, there is a reason why all Sony stores are currently playing scenes from Ice Age 2 to demonstrate Blu-ray's capability. The High Definition transfer is simply awesome!
Ice Age 2 is presented with a high definition transfer, authored in 1920 x 1080p. It has been encoded using MPEG-2 compression, averaging around 20 Mbps. The transfer is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in a native widescreen 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.
The sharpness of the image is excellent. Consider, for example, the detailed textures in the characters, such as Manny's fur at 10:43 and 39:36. The black level is also excellent, with true deep blacks. Ice Age 2 has a bright palette of perfectly saturated colours throughout.
I assume this is a direct transfer to BD, without the source material going through a film process. There are no problems with MPEG, Film-To-Video, or Film Artefacts.
Nine subtitle streams have been recorded for this disc, and the English subtitles are accurate.
This is a BD-25 (25 GB Blu-ray disc), with the feature divided into 24 chapters.
Video Ratings Summary
Ice Age 2 has a wonderful, immersive sound design, that suits the film well.
Originally released theatrically with Dolby Digital, dts, and SDDS audio, there are four audio options on this Blu-ray disc: The first is an English dts-HD Lossless Master Audio for the feature. This format can potentially support an unlimited number of surround sound channels, and downmix to 5.1 if required. As I mentioned in a previous review, this is 'future-proofing' as currently there are no Blu-ray or HD-DVD players that are able to decode the dts-HD Master Audio, but all Blu-ray and HD-DVD players can currently decode the dts-HD "core" audio at 1.5 Mbps. There is also German dubbed audio for the feature, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and encoded at 448 Kbps. Finally, there are two audio commentaries, both presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, and encoded at 224 kbps.
The dialogue quality is excellent throughout, and perfectly synched with the talking characters.
The film's score is effective, and provided by John Powell, who has also scored many other animated feature films, such as Antz, The Road to El Dorado, Chicken Run, Shrek, Robots, and Happy Feet. His orchestral score suits the film well, and underscores the emotion throughout.
The surround presence and activity is great. The rear speakers are used throughout to help carry the score and provide ambience. This often subtle approach to the film's sound-design maintains an immersive sound-field while keeping the viewer firmly focused on the screen. I particularly liked the effect of the enveloping film score, which would often swell up in the rears. The clarity and range of the audio is excellent. While this is not a LFE-heavy track, the subwoofer is used whenever appropriate, such as the huge chunk of ice crashing to the ground at 14:19.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
Ice Age 2 was released locally on DVD late last year, with a wide selection of extras. Daniel Bruce's review of this DVD, which details the extras, can be found here. The local Blu-ray contains the following extras, some of which are exclusive to the BD:
Audio Commentary - Director Carlos Saldanha A chatty commentary covering most aspects of the production, but focusing particularly on the film's characters and story.
Audio Commentary - Technical Crew Naturally, this relatively large group (over 10 crew members) discuss the technical aspects of the film. There is a great deal of information relating to computer animation, and a few anecdotes as well.
These are all presented in a high definition (1080p) aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in a 16x9 frame, with Dolby Digital stereo audio (192 Kbps).
- No Time For Nuts (7:07) is a great animated short featuring Scrat.
- Crash & Eddie Stunts (1:03) A short collection of hi jinks from the possums.
- Out-Take (0:17) A short out-take from the film again featuring the possums.
Scenes from Ice Age 2 presented in storyboard, layout, animation, and their final version. The viewer can select at which stage of the animation process that they want to watch that scene. The scenes are:
- Play Dead
- Fish Story
- Face Off
Lost Historical Films
These introduce the main animal characters, and are all presented in a high definition (1080p) aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in a 16x9 frame, with Dolby Digital audio (192 Kbps). They are made to look like old black and white educational films.
- The Sloth (2:01)
- The Woolly Mammoth (2:01)
- The Saber-Toothed Squirrel (1:49)
- The Saber-Toothed Tiger (1:26)
- The Vulture (1:23)
- The Possum (1:25)
Ice Age Arcade
Two simplistic games for kids:
- Ice Age Factoid Meltdown: A game of three levels in which the viewer has to answer multiple-choice, trivia questions relating to the film, using their remote
- Who's Your Buddy: A quiz in which after answering a number of multi-media questions, the viewer is advised as to which film character would be their friend.
Scrat's Piranha Smackdown Sound Effects Lab
The same scene from Ice Age 2, in which Scrat battles with the Piranhas, is presented in a high definition (1080p) aspect ratio of 1.85:1, in a 16x9 frame, and given alternative sound effects. These effects are of:
Artists' Gallery Channel
Selecting this option adds picture-in-picture images throughout the film, showing conceptual diagrams, story-boards, character designs, and other art work relating to what is being seen on-screen at that point in the film.
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
Ice Age 2 has been released on Blu-ray in North America as well, and ignoring some of the subtitles and language dubs, our high definition discs are basically the same in terms of content, except the North American release has some trailers included.
Ice Age 2 was released on DVD in late 2006, but it has not been released on HD-DVD.
Despite all the physical comedy and lowbrow humour, Ice Age 2 delivers a good message about loyalty, friendship, the importance of family, and finding the courage to face your fears.
The video quality is excellent.
The audio quality is also excellent.
The extras are interesting and genuine.
© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm).
Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
Calibrated with Video Essentials.
|Amplification||Samsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)|