Ice Age Enters Record Books

A fact that took me by surprise: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is now the fifth-highest grossing animated feature of all-time at the worldwide box office. Here’s the list:

1. Shrek 2 – $919.8 million
2. Finding Nemo – $864.6 million
3. Shrek the Third – $799 million
4. The Lion King – $783.8 million
5. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs – $673.5 million

The film has performed phenomenally overseas, pulling in excess of $500 million from foreign markets. This Variety article mentions that the film is on its way to becoming the top-grossing animated feature at the foreign box office, surpassing the current title holder, Pixar’s Finding Nemo ($524 million).

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the reason for the film’s box office success isn’t because the entire world loves Ray Romano, but rather that the world loves Scrat, a refreshing cartoon creation whose appeal stems from his personality and mannerisms instead of his dialogue (a virtually unheard of innovation in contemporary animation).

The episode of Simon’s Cat I posted yesterday couldn’t be more different in style and tone than Ice Age, but at its core, I think the success of both of these cartoons revolves around an understanding that audiences still enjoy watching funny and appealing visually-driven cartoon characters.


  • mike birt

    thats great! i have not seen dawn of the dinosaurs, and truth be told i’ve always found bluesky’s output a little iffy, (although much better than dreamworks) but i’m glad that we are at least at a point where animation studios other than ones owned by disney are finding great success. hopefully it’ll continue for years to come.

  • Katella Gate

    I think you analysis is right on the money with the Ice Age series, Amid. I like the first movie, but I loved the Scrat material, it was like having a series of short films interleaved like “Burma Shave” signs within the larger picture.

    Frankly, the Scrat stuff saved the second film for me: There seems to be a dictum that every sequel will have 2x the cast size of the previous films (Shrek, Chipmunks). Since the movie isn’t 2x long, odds are the interesting characters go to the back of the bus, and demographically “safe” material comes to the front. Ick.

    I do plan on seeing Ice 3 as soon as I can… mostly for Scrat. And for those of you who doubt the scenario that 15 minutes of Scrat can drive the box office draw of a 80 minute movie, I remind you how many people go to the movies just to watch the trailer for a film franchise they are particularly devoted to.

  • Mac

    I’m not that surprised this film is making so much money. I saw it recently here in the UK and the cinema was pretty full even though it had already been out for a few weeks. Also, when the trailer played in front of Transformers 2, there were big laughs from the audience (the UK trailer really played up that Simon Pegg is one of the voices).

    Amid’s right about the world loving Scrat, since it was Scrat, Scratté and Buck that clearly got the best reactions from the audience I saw it with (Sid got quite a lot of laughs too). There’s a great cartoony stretchiness to some of the characters in this film, making the characters of even Kung Fu Panda seem pretty stiff and rigid in comparison. Scrat is the one CG character that come closest to the unlimited potential found in certain hand drawn characters. When he gets squashed and smacked you really feel it. The contortions he gets pulled through are extreme, but plausible within his make-up. There are times where his body seems at absolute breaking point – his eyes could plop out, his eyelids could be torn off. It’s taken to a much more extreme level than I’ve seen attempted in the CG characters of other studios and it’s great fun to watch.

  • http://deleted OtherDan

    If the world is full of kids like mine, it’s the dinosaurs that are the draw. And, once they sit through it there’s plenty more to relish than just the dinosaurs. It’s a little kid extravaganza! The other factor in this films phenomenal success has to do with timing, I think. There wasn’t anything directly competing with it that was on par.

  • http://www.taberanimation.com Taber Dunipace

    Here here! Kudos to Blue Sky and I think you’re right on in the commentary Amid. Let’s see some more visually expressive characters!

  • http://www.animationphysics.com Alejandro Garcia

    Scrat is this generation’s Wile E. Coyote. Like Wile, his arch-nemesis is not his prey (Roadrunner/Acorn) but gravity. None of these characters has any dialogue because words would only get in the way of the comedy.

  • Funky George

    Indeed the bottom line is impressive. Too bad however that most of it ends up in the hands of large corp. like FOX, later being invested in different arms deals and defence/offence industry and TV brainwashing via their cable network. Would be nice seeing it getting channeled into the crew and staff making the project. Salaries, extra staff=less overtime=more family time, better facilities and yeah more days off for the overworked artists. Better not channel too much of it though and you risk the artists/animators getting too cozy. We dont want that right. Ice Age 4 will be made for an even smaller budget and in less time than the 3rd part. You can count on that! I know I have been there… hey wait….there are better facilities now. Wait a minute though!? The new studio is a cheaper tax deal i think! Yes that stretch on Skrat does look impressive indeed.

  • http://dailygrail.com/blog/8389 red pill junkie

    Scrat is a great character, and truly one of the reasons the franchise is still so successful.

    I enjoyed the 3rd movie even more than I thought I would; although I would only consider watching a 4th, if they decided to do something more radical with the story —say, if they bring back the little baby they saved in he 1st one, transformed into a boy that is set to test his manhood, and wants to kill Diego to revenge his mother’s death.

  • http://www.marcosgp.blogspot.com Markus

    Kids like Dinosaurs.

  • Tom Heres

    Congratulations to Blue Sky! It’s good to see non Disney studios making successful animated features. If it weren’t for last year’s surprisingly excellent Kung Fu Panda I would have said DW had jumped the Shrek years ago.

    I wish Sony would double their output. I loved Open Season and Surf’s Up

  • http://laurghita.blogspot.com laurghita

    Sorry but I think Buck bring all those bucks, this character make the entire movie…

  • Kyle Maloney

    It was a fun movie. I think scrat had too many scenes though. they kept randomly cuting to him for comic relief. toward the end I got kinda sick of him. he works best in the shorts.

  • http://gagaman.blogspot.com Gagaman

    Honest to god the perfect Ice Age movie for me would be a full 80 minutes of Scrat, or perhaps a series of short films (rather than just the two they have so far), I love that little guy! One of the most endearing and entertaining characters to come out of the CGI generation.

    Haven’t seen Dawn of the Dinosaurs yet but I intend to. I wasn’t too keen on all the extra characters in the 2nd one but I can put up with those for those moments of scrat goodness. :)

  • http://comicrazys.com Christopher

    First off, I know I’m not the target audience for this film and the interjection of sexual innuendo and “hip” humor doesn’t move me either. I actually don’t find the sly sexuality appropriate in kid’s movies. But that’s another topic. That being said: I wasn’t too impressed with Scrat. I grew up on Wile E. Coyote, seen it all before. The cuts to catch up with his antics were intrusive. I liked Buck and Sid. Rudy was great too because they didn’t overdo him. Like Jaws, a few very powerful scenes. Yeah, kids love dinosaurs and this film had some nice action scenes. I had stayed away from the first 2 in the series, but promised my son I’d take him to see this one in the theatre, he was too young to take to the first 2 when they were released. My 2 cents. =)

  • startend

    Why are the two Shrek sequels up there?!?!! I’m surprised! Oh wait. No I’m not. Ice Age 3 baffles me because the main storyline is pretty poor.

    The small company of 300 employees will find themselves in a pickle if they have to keep up with this record!

  • Sylvain

    I admit the only thing I really enjoyed about Ice Age 1 and 2 was Scrat. But the third one has a lot of great scenes all over, and the new character Buck is the best.

    But to complement what Amid said, It’s still nice to see how they did the publicity, the only trailer I saw was a short with Scrat, old school visual gags with NO dialog and a great show off of animation. It proves they KNOW that’s what people wanted from the franchise. And I’m so glad it worked.

  • http://segaltoons.com Steve Segal

    I agree with OtherDan, kids love dinosaurs. Scrat was kind of out of place in this movie.

    So I guess that makes this the highest grossing 3D film. It should have been Up, or Coraline. But I liked this film, too.

  • Sylvain

    If I had to guess, I’d say the reason it did much more money with us “foreigners” than in America, it is because the required extreme politically correctness of cartoons is an exclusively American thing (along with the idea that cartoons are only for kids). It wasn’t always like that, I look back at the Chuck Jones and Tex Avery era (I wish I was born then), it was the norm to have some sly sexual jokes in cartoons. More often than not, it’s what made them so funny to begin with !

    I mean I saw Tex Avery and Chuck Jones shorts all my childhood, I didn’t turn into a freak… ok, maybe I did, but it’s unrelated.

  • matt

    I’m sort of amazed that no-one, including Amid, has taken stereo 3d into account. Surely the outrageous price-hike for stereo showings has something to do with the money it’s making? Amid, do you know a breakdown of stereo-to-2d profits on this? I’m not saying the foreign B.O. isn’t amazing anyway, just saying surely stereo is at least a factor.

    I took my family (2 adults, 3 kids) the other day. It cost me over a hundred bucks Australian. That’s highway robbery! But yes I thought the depth added to it, even though it’s still the novelty “comin’ atcha” stuff rather than the new cinematic and editing language stereo requires which I always mention and everyone ignores because it’s more fun to slander the whole technique. On that note, the super fast-cutting between different focal lengths for G-Force has me very scared…

    I found this Ice Age more of the same clichéd road/buddy movie stuff the series has had since the start in terms of story, but it wasn’t the super-rushed cash-grab the second one was. Still, another 6 months of script tweaking would have made it much more cohesive. It felt to me like the success of the whole thing was based more on great classic gags and visual storytelling from the story/board artists rather than the lousy script (like many Disney films of the last couple of decades), and yes good old Scrat, with some nice stereo bits. And their animation has always been top-rate, a good balance between classic timing and squash & stretch vs going into the strobing excess of the worst ‘popping’ cg. Blue-Sky’s chatracter design is usually great too, with De Seve and Joyce. Those ugly possums and Buck (who’s a bit boring if you know anything about Moby Dick) are a bit off though. I’ve been saying since the last one that they should keep making the IA films so we can edit our own Scrat film together, because as it is what we’re getting is

    a Warner Bros short shoehorned into a (lazy) Disney Movie.

    I understand the mechanics (no pun intended) of how Blue Sky was put under Fox’s thumb in terms of scripts and approval (and the analogy I just made basically translates as Blue Sky/Scrat vs Fox/rest of the movie), but in the long run it’s too bad that none of their features can touch the promise of the sublime “Bunny”…

  • Sylvain

    matt: 3d is only a 15% premium, it is optional (I have friends and co-workers who saw only the normal version), and it is only available in big cities. I doubt that premium contributed to more than 5% to 10% of the total. You speak of it as if the ticket was twice the price. Suppose 40% of tickets are 3d, that’s raising the total only 6%.

  • TheGunheart

    You know, it took me a while to really get why I liked the trailers with Scrat when I normally hate the annoying comic relief characters: Scrat is SILENT. All his humor is based on pure, old fashioned slapstick and funny body language, with the occasional flustered squealing. He never becomes annoying because he never starts spitting out tired pop culture jokes or by trying and failing to be “hip”. It’s just him, his acorn, and the very universe itself trying to keep him from it.

  • Matt Sullivan

    i enjoyed it more than part 1 & 2 together, not to mention whoever rigged the characters did a great job of making them just as expressive as drawings

  • Mac

    “So I guess that makes this the highest grossing 3D film. It should have been Up, or Coraline. But I liked this film, too”.

    It’s too late for Coraline, but Up could still beat Ice Age 3 by the time it gets out to all the foreign markets. It can take Disney forever to release their movies around the world (no wonder they get pirated so much). It’s not out in the UK for months from now.

  • drmedula

    You’re right- it’s not Ray Romano selling this overseas; he’s not IN it overseas. Which brings up something I’ve wondered about- when animated films are dubbed into foriegn languages, do they hire local “celebrities” to do the dubbing? (I know Jean Reno did the French version of PORCO ROSSO- and was perfect for it, a rarity whenever stars do voice work; but when something like SHREK is released, do they get their hot comedy stars for the job?)

  • http://www.enigmation.de slowtiger

    In Germany animated features are regularly dubbed by local comedians, which often do their very best work with this: Anke Engelke as Dori, or Otto Waalkes as Syd. One of the best casting stunts was to hire german hiphop gang Die Fantastischen 4 as the penguins in Madagascar. Great.

  • matt

    Sylvain, I’m talking Australia for me, and wondering about other ‘foreign territories’. And I thought I went out of my way to state that I understood it was only part of the total (at least a factor). But you do have a point. Where I live normal 2d prices are ALSO highway robbery!!

    I guess I was still in shock at my ticket costing $20au. Nearly 1.5 or 1&1/3 over the usual 14 or 15 bucks. Are you in the States? Because I was talking foreign. In my opinion 16 dollars for a kid is outrageous. That’s just over 13 bucks U.S.! A large frozen Coke cost me 6.50! Gah!

    drmedula, we get Romano too. Not everyone overseas is a non-English speaker. Dreamworks has pulled little stunts where a reporter will be some local personality (English speaking). In live-action, I think it’s the Italians that used to match a particular voice actor to an American counterpart, so there was consistency from film to film. I think that’s pretty cool.

    I’m usually pretty astounded in those extra-features Pixar montages at how good they are in casting non-English-speaking actors that are so close to the American originals.

  • elan

    “Matt Sullivan says:

    i enjoyed it more than part 1 & 2 together, not to mention whoever rigged the characters did a great job of making them just as expressive as drawings”

    I think the animators did that…

  • taylor

    drmedula: yes, they hire local celebrities for the voices in most markets, which is a big reason it has done so well. For example in Germany Sid is voiced by the popular german comedian Otto Waalkes, who I’ve heard really improves the movie.

  • BoomShakaLaka!

    Took my little cousin to see this movie and we both loved it don’t quite understand why it got soo many bad reviews… maybe I was just blow away by Blue Sky’s animation!

  • Mandy

    Elan says:

    I think the animators did that…

    I think he was referring to the names of the riggers.

  • MattSullivan

    Yes, my point was that rigging is a vastly underappreciated skill. Especially if you want to make a CG character lifelike, not robotic looking. As an animator, if you have a poorly rigged character you’re not going to be capable of broad cartoony expressions.

    Just admiring the job.

  • matt

    Sylvain & Drmed, looking at it now, my reply seems a bit short and snippy. Wasn’t meant that way. Cheers!

    Taylor & Slowtiger, do they cast the same locals throughout the different movies though? So you get the consistency? I know it seems like a no-brainer, but it used to be with old live-action films they didn’t care so much.

    MattS, Amen. The first one (aside from Woody’s centrifuge-face in TS1 which even the rigger was amazed at) that made a big impact on me in terms of cg/rigging approaching 2d was Dory’s “Whale talk” in Nemo. I realised afterwards that the performance retained all of the life of the initial pencil ‘stretches’. Which was years before all of Katzenberg’s overhype for Panda’s squash & stretch. Cool stuff.

  • Ethan

    From what I heard, the rigging is very impressive and they also used lattices over the rig. Jeff Gabor from Blue Sky put a great evolution reel of his work on his site. (I hope it’s ok to post this here)

    http://www.jaganimations.com/EvolutionReel.mov