Icy friends are back
It turns out geologists were wrong after all. Continent formation was not brought about by complex chain reactions involving tectonic shifts and volcanic eruptions. Nope. At the root of it all is one tiny squirrel-rat and his misadventures in procuring his prized acorn.
'There's no better or more enjoyable character to animate than Scrat,' says director Steve Martino, who takes the reins from Carlos Saldanha, the man who helmed each of the three other Ice Age films. 'Who else can you knock around, smash around - and he just keeps going after that nut?!'
In the latest in the franchise, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Scrat has finally got hold of his precious acorn. As he gently lays it on the ground, a seismic crack tears the Earth apart, separating the land into seven continents. The crack triggers continental drift, leaving Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the sabre-toothed cat (Denis Leary), and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) floating away on an iceberg. The trio are separated from their herd, including Manny's wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) and their teenage daughter, Peaches (Keke Palmer), who was born in Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
Prior to their separation, Manny quarrelled with his daughter: Peaches feels suffocated by her father's reluctance to let her spend more time with the mammoth Ethan (Drake), who's smitten with her.
'Manny's the prototypical overprotective dad,' says Martino. 'He's longing to hold onto those days when Peaches was a little girl, but now she's at that age when she wants to step up and be on her own.'
Manny and the clan desperately want to return to land and unite with their herds. But they have plenty to overcome, including pirates and natural disasters.
There's a universal theme that unites all Ice Age films. Strip away the humour and adventure and you're left with family. Family is at the core of the franchise, yet the main trio - Manny, Sid and Diego - are not blood related. They're not even of the same species, which inevitably leads to questions on the nature of family. What is a family? And are blood ties the only factor?
'I think it's Diego who has sort of the essential line of the film when he's asked, kind of dismissively, what's the difference between a pack and a family,' says Continental Drift co-screenwriter Jason Fuchs. 'Diego replies, 'We have each other's backs.' And that's what it means to be a family, and that's the heart of this movie and of this franchise.'
Opens on Thursday