Ice Age – The Meltdown appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I expected a strong presentation from Meltdown and that’s what I found.
No issues with sharpness occurred. The movie offered nicely crisp and detailed images from start to finish. If any softness marred the presentation, I couldn’t find it. Jagged edges and shimmering remained absent, and only a smidgen of edge enhancement appeared. I also found no source flaws.
Meltdown started with a chilly bluish-white palette but warmed up as the surface temperature increased. Much of the movie offered a nice natural look with lively greens and blues. Blacks came across as deep and rich, while shadows presented good clarity and visibility. This was a very satisfying transfer.
Even better, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Meltdown worked very well. With cracking ice and all sorts of action sequences, the movie boasted many opportunities to feature all five speakers. It did so quite well. Various effects elements zoomed around the room to create a fine sense of immersion. The pieces meshed together smoothly and transitioned well. Localization was clean and precise, and the score featured solid stereo imaging. The mix turned into a broad, encompassing piece.
Audio quality also was very good. Speech seemed crisp and distinctive, as I noticed no flaws like edginess. Music seemed warm and full, while effects added a real bang to the proceedings. Those elements showed good clarity and accuracy, and they offered tight, deep bass as well. The track seemed vibrant and dynamic as it accentuated the movie.
Ice Age – The Meltdown comes with a mix of extras. The main attractions come from two separate audio commentaries. The first presents director Carlos Saldanha in a running, screen-specific piece. He discusses challenges related to making a sequel, returning characters and new personalities, technical and animation issues, storytelling and editing, actors and performances, and other production topics.
Eternally chipper, Saldanha offers a very informative chat. He covers the appropriate material in a reasonably thorough manner and makes matters entertaining as well. Due to his sunny personality, I worried Saldanha would throw out tons of praise, but he avoids that trap. Instead, he focuses on the useful details in this excellent track.
For the second commentary, we hear from producer Lori Forte, art director Thomas Cardone, materials supervisor Michael Eringus, animation supervisors James Bresnahan, Galen Tan Chu and Michael Thurmier, effects supervisor Robert V. Cavaleri, lighting supervisor David Esneault, story artist Chris Renaud, lead animator Aaron Hartline, technical animation lead Matthew D. Simmons, and senior lighting lead Andrew Beddini. To my surprise, all of these folks sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion; with so many participants, I anticipated an edited affair.
The content of the commentary offers fewer surprises, though, as it covers expected subjects. We get notes about many technical issues. The track examines character design and animation, other visual decisions, story development and related choices, problems related to making a sequel, the film’s rushed production schedule, updating old characters and introducing new ones, and many nuts and bolts related to the execution of the material.
As I went into this track, I feared it’d be chaotic due to the number of participants. However, it works just fine. Forte acts as ringleader of sorts, and to my great surprise, no one ever interrupts or speaks over the others. They cover the topics in a concise and informative manner that helps make this a pretty good track. The subject matter means it occasionally can be a little dry, but it still offers a solid overview of animation techniques.
In addition to the commentaries, we find a slew of short video pieces. Crash and Eddie Stunts breaks down into three components: “Lava’s Leap” (0:21), “Dungball Dribble” (0:21) and “Peace Out Duel” (0:21). Each of these offers a short animated clip in which we watch the possum characters do some wacky activities. They’re mildly amusing at best.
The ever-popular Scrat reappears in a new short called No Time for Nuts. In this seven-minute and six-second cartoon, the squirrel comes across a time machine and chases nuts throughout the centuries. It’s a fairly effective twist on Scrat’s usual shenanigans.
For some multi-angle material, we go to The Animation Director’s Chair. This consists of six scenes from the movie: “Play Dead” (1:33), “Fish Story” (1:02), “Nuts” (1:45), “Family” (1:33), “Face Off” (1:27) and “Drain” (1:15). Four of the segments can be viewed in any of five modes: “Storyboard”, “Layout”, “Animation”, “Combo” and “Final”. “Fish Story” and “Nuts” drop the “Layout” option but include the other four. These let us see the scenes at various stages along the way toward completion. I like this kind of feature, as it gives us a fun way to inspect the animation processes.
Two quick character featurettes follow. We find Meet Crash and Eddie (2:04) and
Meet Ellie (2:05). These act as quick promotional pieces to introduce us to the movie’s new characters. The clips include remarks from Saldanha, Forte, and character designer Peter De Seve. A couple of very minor design notes appear, but these pieces exist to promote the movie, so don’t expect much.
A collection of Lost Historical Films let us see more about the movie’s animals. We find “The Sloth” (2:01), “The Wooly Mammoth” (2:01), “The Saber-Toothed Squirrel” (1:49), “The Saber-Toothed Tiger” (1:26), “The Vulture” (1:22) and “The Possum” (1:24). These offer humorous fake educational programs, each of which features basics about the real-life critters and gags. This is a simple but fun feature, especially when we get narration from John Leguizamo for the “Sloth” entry.
Audio comes to the forefront in Scrat’s Piranha Smackdown Sound Effects Lab. This allows us to view the same 37-second clip of Scrat and some piranhas but with different effects for each one. It’s a moderately fun way to see how various audio elements affect the same piece of material.
Called Outtake Prank, a 17-second clip shows a bit the animators did for fun. It uses the possums in an alternate version of an existing scene. It’s insubstantial but cute.
A little info about actor and character appears in the six-minute and 56-second Silly Sid and John Leguizamo. It presents notes from Saldanha, executive producer Christopher Meledandri, character designer Peter de Seve, and actor John Leguizamo. We get information about the elements that make up Sid’s look as well as Leguizamo’s vocal performance. A few decent elements emerge, particularly when the actor reveals his methods in a comedic piece.
Next comes a 67-second Music Montage. It acts as something of a blooper reel since it shows rough animation, goofing around and promotional bits. It’s an odd piece but it’s worth a look.
Sloth Dancing to Sid’s Sing-Along goes for four minutes and 26 seconds. Leguizamo hosts as he demonstrates how to do the dance from the Fire King scene. Leguizamo contains to entertain here.
Two separate components appear in Marketing the Meltdown. “Scrat on Family Guy” features an 18-second snippet that indeed shows the squirrel as he interacts with Peter Griffin. It’s uninspired. “Sid Hosting Fox Animation Domination” breaks into eight pieces, each of which served to lead into Fox Sunday night series. These offer a series of amusing little promos.
In the Ice Age Arcade, we find four elements. “The Ice Age Factoid Meltdown” offers trivia questions about the movie, many of which are tough because they require you to notice real minutiae such as the number of times Sid’s name is said during that flick. At least they’re forgiving, so you can try again and again.
“Sid’s Soccer Challenge” has you pick spot in a goal so you can try to kick 10 balls past a dodo goalie. It’s random, pointless and not interesting. “Who’s Your Buddy?” has you choose from various options to figure out which character is your “buddy”. (Mine’s Sid.) Finally, “Video Game Memory Challenge” gives us two versions of the old “Concentration” game. They’re mildly entertaining, even if they do exist mainly to promote a videogame.
The DVD opens with a mix of promos. We get ads for Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, Home Alone, Cheaper By the Dozen 2 and Big Momma’s House 2. The disc also includes “First Look”, a spot that features a preview for A Night At the Museum and a “First Glimpse of The Simpsons Movie. This 62-second snippet shows rough animation and already appeared on the X-Men: The Last Stand DVD.
Although the original film offered only modest pleasures, Ice Age – The Meltdown couldn’t even live up to its minor legacy. Disjointed and rarely amusing, the sequel fails to stake out any interesting territory. The DVD presents very strong picture and audio along with a long roster of extras headlined by two useful audio commentaries. Fans will be pleased with this very good DVD release, but other animation fans should go for superior flicks like Over the Hedge or Cars, as they’re vastly more entertaining than this plodding dud.