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Summary

  • The Ice Age franchise has raked in $3.2 billion at the box office, but the quality of movies varies significantly.
  • The latest spinoff, The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild, caters to a younger demographic and lacks fan-favorite character Scrat.
  • Disney’s closure of Blue Sky Studios might have killed the Ice Age franchise’s future potential for storytelling.



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The Ice Age franchise has been around for 20 years, becoming one of the most popular animated series, yet looking at the Ice Age movies ranked can make it difficult to find the best. The franchise managed to amass an impressive total of $3.2 billion at the box office (via Forbes), even if the quality of the Ice Age movies varies significantly over the six installments released so far. At its height, Ice Age was a wonderful family-friendly adventure with memorable characters. At its lowest, it was a disappointing recycling of ideas with a franchise that wore out its welcome.


The first Ice Age movie was released back in 2002 by Blue Sky Studios as their first feature-length film. The movie centered on a trio of prehistoric animals, Manny (Ray Romano) the woolly mammoth, Sid (John Leguizamo) the sloth, and Diego (Denis Leary) the saber-tooth tiger, as they set out to return human baby Roshan to his tribe. It kick-started the long-running animated franchise that also included short films, TV specials, and a TV series. However, many feel the rest of the movies, despite some bright spots, have failed to live up to the original Ice Age movie.

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The Ice Age Adventures Of Buck Wild (2022)

A Spinoff Focusing On Less Lovable Characters


The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild

Release Date
January 28, 2022

Director
John C. Donkin

Cast
Simon Pegg , Utkarsh Ambudkar , Vincent Tong , Natalie Martinez , Aaron Harris

Runtime
82 minutes

The latest Ice Age movie also happens to be the first feature-length spinoff that doesn’t include Manny, Sid, and Diego as the main characters. The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild has Simon Pegg back as Buck, but despite the movie’s title, he’s not the focus as Crash and Eddie are the stars. The film aims for a younger demographic than the previous movies, largely alienating older audience members who grew up with these characters. A few gags land, but most don’t, and the lack of appearance from Ice Age‘s Scrat is a bizarre creative choice given his popularity.

The step-down from Blue Sky’s high animation standards was obvious and distracting.


Perhaps its biggest disappointment is that the animation itself (both in terms of the movement and rendering) isn’t up to par. While branded as a Disney movie, the animation was outsourced to Bardel Entertainment, and the step-down from Blue Sky’s high animation standards was obvious and distracting. Prior to this, even the lesser Ice Age movies were visually impressive. Overall, The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild caters to a very young audience, with little to offer anyone over single digits.

Ice Age: Collision Course (2016)

An Overstuffed And Unfulfilling Sequel

Ice Age: Collision Course

Release Date
July 22, 2016

Director
Galen T. Chu , Mike Thurmeier

Cast
Melissa Rauch , Simon Pegg , Jennifer Lopez , Queen Latifah , Nick Offerman , Stephanie Beatriz , Keke Palmer , Seann William Scott , Denis Leary , Max Greenfield , John Leguizamo , Adam Devine , Ray Romano

Runtime
100minutes


Being the last Ice Age movie to get a theatrical release, Ice Age: Collision Course showed that the franchise was growing out of its own control. There are so many characters in the series at this point that its short runtime doesn’t have space to dedicate enough time to any. The main trio is lost in the mix, and new characters are underused and underdeveloped.

While the
Ice Age
series was never known for its realism, Scrat going into space in an alien ship feels like a step too far.

A small consolation is found with the welcome return of star Simon Pegg from Ice Age 3, but unfortunately, even he can’t elevate a series that by this point is running out of ideas. While the Ice Age series was never known for its realism, Scrat going into space in an alien ship feels like a step too far. The prehistoric animal designs remain visually pleasing and everything looks very appealing, but the narrative content can’t match the action.


Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)

A Mixed Storyline Elevated Slightly By A Memorable Villain

Ice Age: Continental Drift was the movie that really started to show the series’ signs of fatigue. This installments attempts to try something new by making it a sea-faring adventure with the heroes trapped on an iceberg and drifting off into the ocean. Despite continuing to expand the character roster, Ice Age 4‘s water-based setting is constraining and visually less interesting than Dawn of the Dinosaurs’ lush underground environment.


Peter Dinklage’s villainous pirate is the standout among both the returning and new characters, and some funny moments from Ice Age favorite Scrat provide entertainment. However, the setting simply does not offer enough room to tell a compelling story. The characters are unable to really move around for much of the runtime, the action is equally sparse, and the jokes don’t make up for it. Despite the dip in quality, the movie was a massive success, but the Ice Age franchise should really have stopped here.

Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)

New Characters And An Exciting Premise Make Up For The Sequel’s Flaws

Ice Age: The Meltdown started the series tradition of adding new characters to the herd. Manny is given a love interest in the form of Queen Latifah’s Ellie, who brings along her adoptive opossum brothers Crash and Eddie. Having to escape from a valley before an ice dam bursts, the ticking clock element gives the film some urgency despite its bizarre movie logic (in particular, the internally melting ice). Scrat continues to be the movies’ most valuable asset though, with his Looney Tunes-style antics stealing the show.


The increased budget compared to the first movie provides the characters and the world with a digital makeover, and the animation is really engaging. Composer John Powell joins the series (his first of three Ice Age scores) and gives the movie a warm and exciting soundtrack. The film does take a while to get going and doesn’t really know what to do with Diego (an issue that repeats itself throughout the sequels), but overall, Ice Age: The Meltdown is a fun family movie and a worthy follow-up to the first film.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)

A Fresh And Fun New Direction For The Franchise

When making the first movie the filmmakers consulted scientific experts in an effort to be true to the time period. The one request they had for the Ice Age movie was “please don’t put [in] any dinosaurs.” Their inclusion in Ice Age 3, is therefore as ironic as it is inevitable. Dinosaurs are always a popular draw among younger viewers, so it was only a matter of time before they were included in a prehistoric franchise.


Despite the scientific inaccuracies, it turned out to be a great idea though as the lost-world-beneath-the-ice premise offers fresh environments for the herd to explore and the designs of the dinos themselves are suitably impressive and fun. Similar to Ice Age: The Meltdown the first act is largely set up, but once the characters arrive in the dinosaur world, the movie never lets up on its prehistoric rollercoaster ride.

Ice Age (2002)

A Funny, Heartwarming, And Visually Impressive Animated Classic

The original Ice Age movie is still the franchise’s best. It was deservedly nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar (though it lost to the animated game-changer Spirited Away). Similar to other early computer-animated movies, the film’s age is sometimes telling, but its rough-around-the-edges look is part of its charm, and Peter de Sève’s appealing character designs fit the stylized animation perfectly. Manny, Sid, and Diego are brought to life by spot-on voice casting, and unlike some of its bloated sequels, Ice Age‘s straightforward plot is a virtue.


More importantly,
Ice Age
is an emotional movie.

The straightforward plot leaves plenty of room to establish the characters and jokes (the cast was encouraged to improvise their lines to increase the humor). More importantly, Ice Age is an emotional movie. The cave painting scene depicting the loss of Manny’s family is heartbreaking and is balanced beautifully with his growing bond with baby Roshan. It’s a shame that the series hasn’t managed so far to fully recapture the simple magic of the first Ice Age movie, which remains one of the most fun family-friendly movies out there.

Honorable Mention: Ice Age: Scrat Tales

Scrat holds up an acorn with Baby Scrat holding onto it in Ice Age: Scrat Tales


Along with The Ice Age Adventures Of Buck Wild, 2022 saw another Ice Age spinoff introduced, this time in the form of a television series. Ice Age: Scrat Tales was a Disney+ animated series that followed the misadventures of the adorable, eccentric, and hilarious squirrel, Scrat, in a collection of six shorts. While none of the other main Ice Age characters join Scrat on the show, he does get a new companion in Baby Scrat who becomes his rival to get his precious acorn.

Given the short segments, the show doesn’t have a lot to offer beyond the typical Scrat adventures featured as part of the previous Ice Age movies. However, like those shorts, the show offers funny, entertaining, and imaginative stories with the now-iconic character of Scrat. Having an adorable nemesis in the form of Baby Scrat also adds to the show’s charm and makes it a fun show for families to easily binge together.


Disney Closing The Studio Behind Ice Age Might Have Killed The Franchise

Custom image of Diego looking sad with a poster for Ice Age

Disney acquired the rights to the Ice Age franchise in 2019 along with other 20th Century Fox IPs. Within the next five years, they released Ice Age: The Adventures Of Buck Wild and the spin-off series, Ice Age: Scrat Tales on Disney+. Sadly, neither of the Disney Ice Age projects are considered to be highlights of either the Disney+ catalog or the Ice Age franchise.

Part of the reason behind this could be that Blue Sky Studios, the masterminds behind the original Ice Age and subsequent sequels, was closed in 2021. They had no involvement with either Disney+ Ice Age offering. Blue Sky Studios was a subsidiary of Fox’s 20th Century Animation until Disney dissolved them, with post-COVID economic concerns being the justification. Closing Blue Sky Studios inadvertently also could’ve shut down hopes for the Ice Age franchise. The love and care the Blue Sky team had for the franchise shone through, and it is notably absent from Buck Wild and Scat Tales.


Disney hasn’t yet spoken about expanding Ice Age after The Adventures Of Buck Wild failed to be a revitalization of the Ice Age brand. There’s no need to either — if there’s one thing Disney has no shortage of, it’s animated talking animals. The franchise deserves its place in the hearts of fans and audiences, but without Blue Sky Studios it might mean there will not be more Ice Age adventures in the future.



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