Scrat’s epic pursuit of the elusive acorn catapults him into the universe, where he accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that transform and threaten the Ice Age world. To save themselves, Sid, Manny, Diego and the rest of the herd must leave their home and embark on a quest full of comedy and adventure, as they travel to exotic new lands and encounter a host of colorful new characters.
Audiences everywhere love the Ice Age films, which is the second biggest animated motion picture franchise in the world. Each new story increases the stakes, scale, adventure, humor and heart—making ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE the biggest and most ambitious film of the series. Propelling audiences to new environments, like the cosmos and a crystallized world known as Geotopia, this is the defining chapter in the Ice Age “chillogy,” with many of the characters beginning new journeys.
The new film’s story is deeply rooted in the mythology of the original Ice Age. Producer Lori Forte, who has been with the franchise since its inception, and whose ideas have sparked several of the films’ stories, explains: “In the first film, there was a scene where the herd passes through a kind of ice ‘museum,’ where we see a prehistoric fish, a dinosaur, the evolution of Sid, and then a spacecraft or flying saucer.
“We always recognized that the spaceship was intriguing and knew there was some kind of mythology attached to it that we’d someday explore, but at that time we didn’t know exactly what it was,” she continues. “So we decided the time was right to come back around to that piece of Ice Age, and sowed the seeds for COLLISION COURSE.”
There was also a precedent for Scrat’s life being turned upside down by technology. In the Oscar®-nominated short No Time for Nuts, the character finds a time machine, which creates a different kind of techno-havoc for Scrat.
Another connection to the original film—and to its subsequent chapters—is the herd’s relatable family dynamics, which provide heart and emotion, and complement the comedy and adventure. But like most families, the herd must adapt to a world that’s always in flux. “We take our family of characters further than we’ve seen them before,” says Forte. “We have a great time seeing how far we can push the characters, their world, and the obstacles they must overcome. And we love throwing our heroes into environments they’re not yet equipped to handle.”
Yet, the Ice Age characters always triumph because they’re constantly adapting to their situations. “The herd is always evolving,” Forte continues. “As the world around them transforms, they must change as well.”
…WHERE NO SCRAT HAS GONE BEFORE
Scrat is, of course, one character that never changes. In ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE he continues his pursuit of the cursed acorn. But this time Scrat’s quest is taking him where no Ice Age character has gone before—the cosmos—where the consequences of his antics are nothing short of “Scrat-tastrophic.”
In this film, Scrat drives the story, instead of merely providing comic relief to the main story of the herd.
And it’s about time. Scrat is literally at every major moment in the history of the natural world. He ushered in the Ice Age, started the Meltdown, unleashed the Lost World of the Dinosaurs into the Ice Age, started the separation of the continents—and now, he’s triggered a series of cosmic disasters that threaten the Ice Age world. “In this film, Scrat is pretty much responsible for the expansion of the universe as we know it,” notes Forte. “It’s his version of the Big Bang.”
Director Michael Thurmeier embraced the opportunity to find a unique environment—and catastrophes—for the cherished acorn-chaser. “I see so much potential with what you can do with Scrat,” he notes. “He’s become a true classic animated character. Scrat never stops persevering, no matter what happens to him.”
The filmmakers’ new path for Scrat also presents fresh obstacles to overcome. This time, he must deal with gravitational forces, otherworldly technology, and the infinite mysteries of the cosmos.
THE EMPTY NEST: SHOCKWAVES OF A DIFFERENT KIND
When Scrat starts playing pinball with the planets, he creates the ultimate Scrat-aclysm, sending the mother of all asteroids hurtling toward Earth. Again, Scrat’s misadventures have life- and world-changing consequences for our sub-zero heroes on the ground. At the same time, there are earth-shaking events of an entirely different nature playing out for the gang. Manny and Ellie’s daughter Peaches is getting married, and to Manny that’s as unwanted a development as an asteroid landing in his backyard.
“The asteroid heading toward Earth is the equivalent of Manny’s future son-in-law Julian coming into the mammoth’s life,” confirms Thurmeier. Both the feared cosmic collision and Manny and Ellie’s looming “empty nest” have a huge impact on the characters and their world. “The Ice Age films are always about the milestones in the characters’ lives and watching them evolve as a family,” adds the director.
So, Manny’s world is changing—and he’s not happy about it. Peaches has dropped a bombshell on her parents, and, says co-director Galen Tan Chu: “Manny sees that as a threat. She’s not only getting married, she and her soon-to-be hubby Julian are moving away to begin their lives as a couple.”
To Manny, no one is good enough for Peaches, especially at a time when the world may be coming to an end. Can Julian protect his daughter? Manny’s doubtful he’s up to the task.
As any dad—including the film’s director and one of its stars—can attest, that’s a relatable and understandable sentiment. Says Thurmeier, with a smile: “I’m a dad with two young girls, and when I look at Manny I see my future. My girls are going to grow up and get married, and that’s obviously a fact of life. Hopefully, I’ll learn from Manny’s mistakes.”
Ray Romano, who again voices Manny, the films’ anchor and emotional core, has a familial situation similar to Thurmeier’s. “I have a daughter who’s around the same age as Peaches,” the famed comedian and actor explains. “As a dad, it’s bittersweet. You want your daughter to be happy and to find somebody special, and yet you think whoever she does find isn’t going to be good enough for her. And that’s who Manny is. He knows that Julian is not a bad guy, but that doesn’t mean he gets to marry Peaches. Julian has to prove himself to Manny, and Manny has to learn to accept that his daughter is moving on to this next phase of her life. And it’s not easy—I know that from experience.”
Long before Manny had to contend with a daughter getting hitched, Romano had developed an affinity with the character. “Manny is a lot like me, only better,” he jokes. “He’s a family oriented guy who likes the status quo. Manny doesn’t appreciate too much change; unfortunately for him, in his world and family, there’s nothing but change.”
Given that Romano has been voicing Manny for 15 years, it comes as no surprise that he’s perfectly in sync with his cinematic alter ego. “Manny has a heartwarming moral compass,” says Forte. “He’s earthy and warm, and Ray’s voice really embodies that.”
Manny’s better half, Ellie, joins her hubby in dreading Peaches leaving home. But she has a different, more measured approach to the family disruption. “Ellie wants to make sure she’s done all she can to prepare Peaches to go out into the world,” says Chu. Indeed, Ellie’s come a long way—“remember, when we met her in Ice Age: The Meltdown, she thought she was a possum,” recalls Queen Latifah, who reprises the voice role as Ellie. Still, Latifah points out that Ellie’s not quite ready for Peaches to leave the herd. “Ellie understands why Peaches wants to leave, but it’s still a lot for her to process,” says the actress and singer. “After all, Peaches is still her baby, and it’s hard to see her pull away. Of course, Manny’s taking it even worse, so it’s just crazy between the two of them.”
But there is no stopping Peaches and her betrothed from creating a seismic shift in the family dynamics. She’s head over heels in love with Julian, and the wedding is going to happen—if the herd can prevent the cosmic cataclysm. Keke Palmer, who returns as Peaches, says the character is the same mammoth we know and love, even if she’s entering a new, exciting and daunting phase of her life. “Peaches has finally met the guy she wants to marry,” says Palmer. “She’s ready to experience romance, which complicates things between her and her dad because he still thinks of her as daddy’s little girl. But Peaches is ready to make her own choices, and she thinks Julian is the perfect guy for her. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, he loves his family, and he clearly loves Peaches.”
Indeed, Julian is all that and more: he’s adventurous, lovable and spontaneous. Well, maybe he’s a little too spontaneous for Manny’s taste. The stoic dad isn’t a fan of his prospective son-in-law’s overly demonstrative ways. In short, says Chu, Julian “is everything Manny is not. The young mammoth represents the change that Manny has to deal with; he’s the asteroid in Manny’s life!”
Adam Devine (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates) joins the Ice Age family, giving voice to the character. “Julian is a super-fun-loving guy—or mammoth, rather—and he always thinks the best of everyone and is super-positive all the time,” says the actor.
Julian is a great match for Peaches, but makes Manny uncomfortable. “Manny is kind of the opposite of Julian,” Devine continues. “He’s grumpy and doesn’t always look on the bright side of things. So Julian tries to bring his bright, shining light of positivity into Manny’s world.”
Forte says the production welcomed Devine’s many contributions to the role. “Adam is charming, quirky and funny,” she says, “and he imbues Julian with spirit, adventure and goofy fun—everything Manny is not.”
“Of course, Peaches would fall in love with a guy who seems to be the polar opposite of her dad,” adds Thurmeier. “But what they do have in common is their love of Peaches.”
Given Julian’s easygoing manner, Peter de Sève, who has designed the characters since the series’ inception, gave Julian rounder, less intimidating shapes than Manny. “There are no straight edges on Julian,” de Sève elaborates. Adds art director Michael Knapp, another franchise veteran: “He’s the fluffiest mammoth we’ve ever created. It’s a fun, buoyant design, befitting the character.”
Despite the upheavals triggered by the Julian-Peaches engagement, at the end of their journey in ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE, Manny, his family, and the entire herd will understand that even though families grow and change, the love will always stay true.
SID: LOOKING FOR LOVE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES
Indeed, the Ice Age films are also love stories: Manny has Ellie, Peaches has Julian, Diego has Shira. Even the crazy brotherly bond between daredevils Crash and Eddie is a kind of love story. But what about Sid the sloth? Sure, he has his pals in the herd, who are like brothers and sisters to Sid. Yet, romantic love has proven elusive, if not impossible.
It’s not that Sid isn’t deserving of finding that special sloth. As Thurmeier points out, “If Manny is the emotional core of the Ice Age films, then Sid is the comic conscience. He has a good heart, and, as we saw in the first film, he was instrumental in bringing the herd together and was the one who cracked Manny’s tough exterior.” And it’s not that Sid isn’t interested in romance; as Chu notes, Sid “wears his heart on his sleeve.”
In the ever-changing Ice Age universe, especially one that’s undergoing the enormous changes we experience in COLLISION COURSE, anything is possible—even Sid finding his one-and-only. But first, it’s business as usual for the unlucky-in-love sloth. When we meet him in this film, Sid is once again getting dumped, this time by Francine (voiced, with a New Jersey accent, by The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch), to whom he’s proposed…on their first date.
Believing he’ll never have a wedding of his own, Sid takes on the role of wedding planner for Peaches and Julian. But later on their adventure, a trip to a fantastical world will create a wildly unexpected connection for Sid, which no one, especially Sid, could have foreseen.
John Leguizamo again brings his unique vocal stylings to the character, which the actor has truly grown to love. “Sid is always honest in his reaction to things, no matter how disastrous that thing may be,” says Leguizamo. “He’s also evolved and become responsible, and has earned the trust of the herd.”
As far as the character’s enduring popularity, the actor says, “We all have a little bit of Sid in us—that cockeyed optimist who is always positive, no matter how much he messes up.”
DIEGO AND SHIRA- READY FOR A NEW ADDITION?
Like his “brothers,” Manny and Sid, Diego the saber-toothed tiger is dealing with changes. The once macho lone assassin is experiencing paternal yearnings, but his beloved mate Shira questions whether she would be a good mother.
Diego’s tough exterior had been softened long ago by his friendship with Manny and Sid. His battle-hardened instincts were further tempered by his meeting Shira (in Ice Age: Continental Drift), who was a member of a band of thieving pirates, until she met Diego. She was more than a match for Diego, and ended up making a pussycat out of him. Denis Leary returns as Diego, and Jennifer Lopez reprises her Continental Drift role as Shira.
For Leary, his latest outing as Diego triggered memories of his experiences on the first film. “I remember when I heard Ray, John and I doing our first recording session,” he says. “I thought, Ah, okay, we kind of all fit together.”
The actor-comedian is pleased with his character’s new experiences in this film. “Diego is starting to feel something he’s never felt before—that he might be ready to have cubs,” Leary confirms. “He’d kind of like to settle down and have a family, but he and Shira think that youngsters would still fear the once fearsome sabers.”
While Manny, Ellie, Peaches, Diego, Shira and, ultimately, Sid, are experiencing massive changes in their lives, two members of the herd will never change. That would be the daredevil possums Crash and Eddie, whose pranks have provided memorable moments of crazy physical humor. In fact, the possible end of the world, via the asteroid hurtling toward Earth, only brings out the worst/best in the two brothers. “They’re pretty much in a manic state their entire lives,” says Josh Peck, who returns as Eddie. Adds Seann William Scott, who is back as Crash: “They’re true soulmates, who are always looking for a good time and to cause a little trouble...ok, a lot of trouble.”
BUCK TO THE RESCUE, AND THE DINO-BIRDS GO AFTER BUCK
Crash and Eddie’s hero is Buck, the swashbuckling, slightly off-kilter weasel we met in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. In this film, it is Buck who breaks the news to his friends that the sky is falling and the world is coming to an end. Indeed, Buck is always there for the herd when the situation is most dire.
Buck’s return to the Ice Age universe—he sat out the previous entry, Ice Age: Continental Drift— is a welcome one for the film’s director, who is among the character’s biggest fans. “Buck was my favorite character in Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” says Thurmeier, “and I was really happy we were able to craft a story where we could bring Buck back from the Lost World.”
Befitting Buck’s heroic return, Thurmeier and Chu re-introduce him with a single, continuous shot—“something we had never attempted before,” says the director. Adds Knapp: “The shot brings him back in the most insane way possible.”
Simon Pegg dons Buck’s eyepatch, figuratively of course, for his second turn as the dino-whisperer. “Buck emerges from the subterranean Lost World, where he’s the only mammal. This time, the threat to him and the gang is even worse than before, but he’s still the lovable, one-eyed hero you know and love.”
“Buck is a bit looney; he’s also a survivor and a hero,” Forte suggests. “Simon plays all those character colors so beautifully.”
Every hero needs a villain (or three), and Buck’s arch-nemeses are a trio of Dino-birds—a father, Gavin, his son Roger, and daughter Gertie—who are definitely from the wrong side of the prehistoric nest. They steal dino-eggs for a living, and are locked with Buck in an eternal struggle for food and supremacy.
When Buck emerges from his subterranean world, after foiling an egg-stealing scheme by Gavin, Roger and Gertie, the high-flying family is in hot pursuit. They see an even bigger opportunity, and hatch an idea, when they learn that the topside world is about to be pulverized by a giant asteroid. “The Dino-birds think that if they stop Buck from saving the Ice Age world, then the birds will once again be on top of the food chain, because there won’t be anyone left,” explains Max Greenfield, the New Girl star who makes his animated feature debut voicing 98-pound weakling son Roger. It’s a truly bird-brained and ridiculous notion, which they eventually figure out. Logic isn’t exactly their strong suit, but at least Roger uses his brain as something other than to fill the space inside a head. “He may be the runt of that litter, but Roger is the voice of reason in that clan and, if I do say so myself, he’s also the smartest.”
The Dino-bird family patriarch is Gavin, voiced by Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman. The actor is sympathetic to Gavin’s plight. “He’s short-tempered and has two kids with whom he’s disappointed, but eventually he learns to value his children for what he formerly perceived as his weakness.”
It’s also fair to say that his kids are a big disappointment to him, even daughter Gertie, who, says the actress who voices her, Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), is at least “stocky and gets the job done.”
If the Dino-birds are defined by their thievery and villainy, then Sid’s grandmother, Granny, is a master in the art of the verbal zinger. You know that part of the brain that censors you from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time? Granny doesn’t have it.
Wanda Sykes reprises the character she created in Continental Drift, which, she says, is “still throwing shade at everyone she meets. She has so much fun pushing everyone’s buttons. She has absolutely no filter.”
GEOTOPIA: NEW LOVE FOR SID AND NEW HOPE FOR THE HERD
With the help of a prophetic tablet, Buck theorizes that maybe there are clues at a previous asteroid crash site that can help the herd figure out how to stop the new threat.
The crash site turns out to be a stadium-size Geode located inside a crater. It’s a fantastical world that’s lush and verdant, with beautiful crystals everywhere. Its crystal meteorite wall has magical properties that have shielded a thriving animal village from the elements and is a place where time stands still.
They call it Geotopia.
Its residents include a fetching young sloth named Brooke, who makes an instant love connection with Sid. Yes, the lovelorn sloth who could never find love has fallen head over heels—and vice versa—with the ultimate female. With Brooke, Sid is definitely dating up because, notes Chu, “She is everything a sloth could hope for: beautiful, bright and bubbly. You’d never think she would go for Sid, but she does.”
So what does Brooke see in Sid? Thurmeier ventures that “she is Sid’s inner heart, and she understands he’s a good guy.”
Joining the Ice Age team to voice Brooke is singer / songwriter Jessie J, who unsurprisingly brings a melodic quality to her performance. Jessie loves everything about the character, from her look to her heart. “Brooke has long, flowy, gingery-brown hair and giggles a lot,” says the British artist, whose recent hits include “Bang Bang,” recorded with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj. “She’s very open to loving Sid for his unique qualities. And Brooke is proud of being from Geotopia, this beautiful amazing place where you never get old.”
The chief Geotopian is the Shrangi-llama, who runs the place like a yoga retreat. The herd goes to Shangri-llama for answers to their monumental challenge, but instead of proffering world-saving wisdom, he insists that Manny, Diego and Sid and the others contort themselves into crazy yoga poses. That’s not only unhelpful, it’s painful. Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who voices the guru with the Zen swagger, notes that the character “is very sure of himself, which is much to his disadvantage.”
Ferguson further notes that he enjoyed finding Shangri-llama’s voice, which he calls a “balancing act between his superiority complex and a façade that ultimately cracks. He has this air of being secure and at peace, but when the world around him begins to literally fall apart, he crumbles.”
A more helpful figure in Geotopia is Teddy, a bunny who, soon after the herd’s arrival, has eyes for Granny. Fit, buff and charismatic, Teddy is voiced by the fit, buff and charismatic Michael Strahan, the football star turned co-host on Kelly & Michael and now, on Good Morning America.
Even with his many accomplishments, Strahan thought he was being punk’d when he got the call to voice the role. “I thought it must be a joke because I’d never done anything like that before,” he recalls. Obviously, the call was legit, and Strahan says he looks forward to seeing Teddy’s muscle-flexing fun in 3D.”
Famed astrophysicist and science-explainer extraordinaire Neil deGrasse Tyson voices the role of “Neil deBuck Weasel”—a figment of Buck’s imagination who, along with fellow super-intelligent imagination figments “Pythagoras Buck” and “Robo-Buck,” helps the gang figure out how to possibly beat the asteroid.
Tyson’s journey to ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE began when a story artist on the film cut-and-pasted a photo of the scientist onto some story panels. Then, remembers Chu, “Mike [Thurmeier] and I looked at each and said, ‘Let’s make him a character in the movie.’”
“Neil was a great sport,” says Forte. “I mean, we were talking to one of the world’s great astrophysicists about mammoths diverting an asteroid.”
“I thought he was going to throw us out of the building,” jokes Thurmeier. Instead, adds Chu, “Neil embraced the idea, and noted that there was actually some science involved in the herd’s plan. He had a lot of fun with the character.”
Design-wise, says Michael Knapp, “It was a fairly organic transition from Neil deGrasse Tyson to ‘Neil deBuck Weasel.’ We used Neil’s goatee and big, expressive eyes, and made sure we got everything right on a very different head shape from Neil’s. It was weird and hilarious to see how our Neil began to look like the real Neil.”
DESIGNING NEW WORLDS
Transporting us to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, and then to a utopian geode on Earth, ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE presents worlds we’ve never before experienced in an Ice Age movie.
As Scrat is hurtled into the galaxy, “we create a new palette and visual style that goes beyond the ice,” says Thurmeier. As always, it’s a Scrat-centric world, wherever he finds himself. “When we are in a given world with Scrat, we see it through his eyes,” says Knapp. And Scrat’s always—always!—looking at or for acorns. “So we built that into the aesthetic of the spaceship, which has the acorn theme everywhere you look. Doorways are shaped like acorns; acorns happen to fit into the steering column of the spaceship; the floor plan of the ship’s bridge has a giant, illuminated acorn. They’re part of the ship’s DNA.”
Ubiquitous nuts are only the beginning of the film’s visual richness. There’s also a fresh range of pinks and purples, that we first see when Scrat activates the ship and rockets into space. Even Julian was given a little bit of purple.
Scrat’s galactic escapades have huge consequences on Earth, reflected in some of the new terrain over which the gang traverses. When he shifts the position of the moon, Scrat triggers changes in the Earth’s tides. Then, Scrat sends a storm from the Eye of Jupiter down onto Earth, causing a great electrical tempest the herd must deal with—and the worst hair day after, as the static electricity poofs out their fur. They also have to dodge some small meteorites that are leaving pockmarks on the once pristine ground—a kind of warm-up to the big blast they’re trying to stop. “We had a lot of fun kind of destroying the Ice Age landscape,” says Knapp.
Geotopia may be the most striking example of the film’s new design and palette. “It’s by far the biggest change from what we’ve done in the previous films,” says Knapp. “In some ways it’s the culmination of things we’ve been exploring over the years, but with a very different look. It allowed us to spread our wings beyond the usual color scheme and let us use a broader and richer range of color.”
While characters we meet in Geotopia are similar to those in previous Ice Age films, the environment has caused some changes: their fur is longer, and the colors of the fur have taken on the palette of Geotopia, “so they’re a lot more vibrant and colorful than the characters we’ve seen before,” says Knapp. “They feel out of place in the ‘regular’ world, but very much a part of Geotopia.”
THE ICE AGE GLOBAL FAMILY
You can sum up the Ice Age films’ incredible global appeal with one word: family. Here, the family of filmmakers on ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE reflects on that central theme.