My first encounter with the Ice Age movies was in the summer of 2003 when babysitting for a neighbor's young daughter and son. While other fourteen year olds were at the beach or the mall, I was playing the part of Sid in a 45-minute re-enactment of Ice Age. 'The Summer of Ice Age' or so we called it, consisted of watching the movie at least once a day to get down the dialogue, some character work pretending to be Sid, Manny and Diego in the park, and Ice Age themed games such as 'the floor is melting', instead of 'the floor is lava'. You would think with watching Ice Age as many times as I did, that I would have this utter distain for it, but instead Ice Age became my last child-like memory, a reminder of a sacred summer that I look back on fondly. After that year I turned fifteen and it wasn't cool to like anything anymore, so I quietly resided to things that kids my age liked - Facebook, American Idol and holding hands with boys. I never would have guessed that nine years later when I graduated from college, I would find myself sitting in a room at Blue Sky Studios interviewing for a position with the animation studio that made Ice Age.
I've loved animated movies all my life, far past the point where it was considered normal to see a "kids" movie in theaters. In fact, when I go to the movies today to see animated films, I am normally with my fiancé, mom or sister, surrounded by a sea of little ones. Sure, you'll get the few bored or crying kids that need to leave the theater, but to hear the reaction from those kids who stay is heartwarming. I always grin with anticipation as high-screeched laughs fill the room and parents read the text on the screen while their kids try and sound it out. And there is truly nothing so wonderful as witnessing a child transform into their favorite animated character, stomping around like a wooly mammoth or roaring like a saber-toothed tiger all the way our the exit.
It was no surprise that when I started my first day of work in November 2012, I loved it - every meeting, every new technology, every artist. I had never been in a place that felt so purposeful. I started as a production assistant just as Epic (2013) was wrapping up, Rio 2 (2014) was in production and The Peanuts Movie (2015) was just beginning. I was there when the lead character modeler was taking his first crack at good ol’ Charlie Brown. I remember wondering if the excitement would even fade. I found it felt like a passionate affair that eventually gave way to a slow burning love. The difference between this job and any other desk job was that I was constantly reminded how lucky I was. Sitting in meetings looking at hundreds of book covers for each book in Charlie’s library is not exactly riveting, but those details build the foundation that allow creative genius to shine. A scene where Charlie is looking up at the enormous War and Peace book on the top shelf causing him to miss grabbing the ladder but succeeding on his second attempt is so subtle, many people miss it but without it, the shot goes flat. The animator’s attention to detail breathes life into the characters and has given me a deep appreciation of the creativity, passion and hard work that it takes to make animation appear so effortless.
My last six months at Blue Sky Studios, I was working in the animation department on The Peanuts Movie and was bummed I wasn’t going to get to work on the upcoming, Ice Age 5, now known as Ice Age: Collision Course (2016). I had been seeing sketches of the whole Ice Age gang - Sid, Manny, Diego, Ellie, Buck, Peaches, Granny, Shira, and of course, Scrat – floating around the studio. I could hear whisperings of story-lines and saw a little set action during my year with the materials department. I was so close to working on Ice Age and now I felt I was leaving prematurely.
Lucky for me, Ice Age was moving fast and furiously and the animation for the trailers was getting underway. Finally it happened, two months before leaving, I was assigned to Ice Age 5. Those two months were filled with floods of memories – mostly focused on Scrat. I was so happy that I finally got to work on an Ice Age movie and become a small part of a great legacy.
So here’s to you Ice Age! Fourteen years ago on March 15th, 2002, you burst onto the scene, putting Blue Sky Studios on the map and giving kids and teenagers alike a reason to spend their summers immersed in the child-like world of Ice Age.