It's back to prehistoric times for a sequel to the 2002 computer-animated family film that featured a grumpy mammoth and his traveling companions: a quick-witted saber-toothed tiger and a talkative sloth.
"Hey Manny, Diego, my bad mammal-jammers! Do you want to give a sloth a hand?"
Sid the sloth, Diego the tiger and Manny the mammoth are on the move again. In the original film they were trying to escape the oncoming "Ice Age." Now the glaciers are melting and they face a new danger of extinction from global climate change.
"It's all part of my 'Accu-weather' forecast. The five-day outlook is calling for intense flooding followed by ... THE END OF THE WORLD!"
As the vultures start circling in anticipation of a planet-wide feast, this misfit herd takes off in search of dry land. But Manny has another problem: there don't seem to be any other mammoths around. Just as he's become resigned to a hermit-like existence as the last of his species he finds Ellie. The trouble is, she's a bit confused about her identity:
"Wait a minute, I thought mammoths were extinct. What are you looking at me for?"
"I don't know, maybe because you're a mammoth?"
"Me? Don't be ridiculous. I'm not a mammoth, I'm a possum."
"Right. Good one. I'm a newt."
It seems that Ellie was raised by a kindly possum family after her own clan met its demise. Can Manny, with the occasionally-able assistance of Sid and Diego, convince her she really is a mammoth? Can they all escape the rising seawater that threatens to drown their coastal plain? Their path to safety is strewn with comically-animated, but paleontologically-accurate characters and situations:
"Thanks to Sid we're now traveling together and, like it or not, we're going to be one big happy family. I'll be the daddy, Ellie will be the mommy and Diego will be the uncle who eats the kids who get on my nerves."
In the English language version Ray Romano returns as the voice of Manny. "It was easier to find the voice again and the character. I just had to repeat a couple of lines from the first movie. So in that sense it was a little easier the second time around," he says.
The New York comic actor says he had no trouble identifying with the mammoth's awkwardness around the opposite sex. "That was very organic and was actually fun to play because Manny is normally yelling and screaming and ordering the tribe around. So it was fun to play that side of him and, yes, it was very relatable. I have all of Manny's worst traits. I'm not assertive, like he is. I don't have his good traits, I have his bad traits. I can't talk to women and I smell," he says.
"Ellie, do you realize that now we have a chance to save our species?"
"Really? How are we going to do that?"
"Well, you know ..."
"Oh no, did you just..."
"No, I didn't mean..."
"I'm a mammoth for five minutes and you're (flirting with) me?"
Queen Latifah joins the ensemble as the voice of Ellie the female mammoth. Her character, she says "... who thinks she's a possum. That's what clinched it for me. The idea of playing a confused mammoth was just too appetizing, so I had to go for it (and) it was fun. She's just so idealistic and so open-minded. Life is just so sweet to Ellie that it was really kind of cool to me."
"So, you think she's the girl for me?"
"Oh yeah, she's tons of fun and you're no fun at all. She completes you."
John Leguizamo once again voices Sid the Sloth and says the character is more than just comic relief. "I wanted Sid to have a good arc and real reason to be in the movie and we came up with the 'respect' thing. It's not totally on plot or topical jokes that will be stale five years later. It's just finding the humor from the characters and the moments," he says.
Ice Age: The Meltdown is directed by Carlos Saldanha, who co-directed the 2002 original. The Brazilian-born animator says computer technology advances helped his team give the film a new mix of whimsy and realism. "It's a sequel, so the characters have to look the same. You have to be able to look at them and say 'oh, that's Manny, that's Scrat...' You have to know the characters are the same from the first one, but we wanted it to look better," he says. "So how do you do that? We add the extra little sweetening such as making the fur move. In the back of your mind you hear a little wind and you see the fur reacting to the wind ... and I thought this is more for me. I watch it and love that the fur moves, but nobody will notice. Then the first time we put the movie out (people said) 'Oh my God! The fur! The tail!' So people do see it and I'm happy."
"Now let's move it before the ground falls out from under our feet."
"I thought fat guys are supposed to be jolly."
"I'm not fat. It's this fur that makes me look big. It's poofy."
"Oh, okay. He's fat."
Ice Age: The Meltdown has Denis Leary returning as the voice of saber-toothed Diego; and animator Chris Wedge is again the voice of that luckless squirrel Scrat.