The Ice Age franchise is one of the most successful animation series still in production. It might not have the Pixar brand behind it, but the prehistoric adventures of Manny, Sid, Diego and the others, continue to be popular with audiences across the planet.
Now on its fifth instalment, Ice Age: Collision Course starts with Scrat’s ongoing pursuit of his ever-elusive prize. The chase ends up heading into space, and subsequently setting a meteorite on a direct collision course with Earth. Co-director Galen T. Chu explains how this premise was actually set up in the first film, when the characters discovered a UFO that had been frozen in ice.
We spoke with Chu, who started as an animator on the series before progressing to writing and directing duties, about this film. He began by telling us about his favourite character from the series:
“It is always a tough one to answer, but I feel so close to Scrat. As filmmakers and animators, and that’s where my background is, you like working on characters that get a big reaction. Sid gets that and so does Scrat. I think Buck does too.”
Buck, voiced by Simon Pegg, returns from one of the earlier films in this one, joining a new addition in the form of singer Jessie J.
“When we have an idea about a casting, what we do is grab some clips. In this case it was some interview clips, and put them up against the artwork. We also listen to them in the context of the other characters too. We then get a feeling of the ensemble. We weren’t quite sure when we started, because although we knew she had a great voice, we didn’t know if she was going to be comfortable acting. She was so brave and courageous. She was able to be herself almost straight away. She even sang some of the lines and we like that.”
Simon Pegg also sings a number in this film.
“The composer was absolutely floored. We were prepared to slow down the number, but he’s got such a big voice too. I can’t say enough good things about him. As an actor, he gives so much in each take. It’s so juicy. We have a hard time picking which take to use.”
How do you split the roles with your co-director (Mike Thurmeier) on the film?
Different roles. Mike is the director having done two of the films before. I’m like director-in-training. We like to be together for script -writing, story-boarding and editing. There is a lot of travelling for the voice recording as the actors live in L.A. and we are based in New York, so I will go out there whilst Mike stays back, or vice-versa. It’s more efficient that way.
Scrat, the love him or hate him character that is probably the best known element of the series, is once again put through all sorts of challenges. What is the appeal of ‘torturing’ him?
“In this one we pushed ourselves. In previous ones we’ve tortured him, but it’s never been as cartoony or extreme as in this one. We knew we had to go further with it here and bring something new, so we pushed the sort of Tex Avery physical humour. When you see his skin getting pulled off you think it might be too much, but it really works.”
How do you go about inserting the cult and pop culture references, like the Star Trek Vulcan sign, into the film. Is that at script stage?
“Sometimes it is, but sometimes it is more organic. The story artist might get the script and come up with something. The animators also do that, and so do the voice actors. It’s a really collaborative process. We just have to be open to them. We bring stuff back and forth. We have multiple sessions to record and work with it. We can bring it back after we look at it.”
Given what happens in this film, is it the final Ice Age? Are there other ideas out there?
“We definitely approach each one as if this is ‘THE’ film. We never thought this is the final one, but it is a defining chapter. We leave ourselves a back door depending on how this one does. We certainly have other ideas.”