The film is set during the days of the ice age; animals begin migrating south to escape the winters. Once Manny, a no-nonsense mammoth meets Sid, a loudmouthed ground sloth and the two find a human baby, they set out to return the baby. Joining them is a saber-tooth tiger named Diego, who is commanded by his pack leader to bring the baby to him to enact revenge against the humans. The film's plot was compared to that of 3 Godfathers when it came out.
This film was met with mostly positive reviews and was nominated at the 75th Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature. It was a box office success by grossing over $383 million, starting the Ice Age franchise. It was followed by four sequels, Ice Age: The Meltdown in 2006, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs in 2009, Ice Age: Continental Drift in 2012, and Ice Age: Collision Course in 2016.
A saber-toothed squirrel (known as Scrat) is trying to find a place to store his prized acorn. Eventually, as he tries to stomp it into the ground, he causes a large crack in the ground that extends for miles and miles and sets off a large avalanche. He barely escapes, but finds himself stepped on by a herd of prehistoric animals. The animals are trying to avoid the ice age by migrating south. Sid, a clumsy ground sloth left behind by his family, decides to move on by himself but is attacked by two Brontops whom he angered by ruining their meal. Sid is soon saved by Manfred ("Manny"), an agitated mammoth who fights them off and is heading north. Not wanting to be alone and unprotected, Sid follows Manny. Meanwhile, Soto, the leader of a Smilodon pack, wants revenge on a group of humans for killing half of his pack, by eating the chief's baby son, Roshan, alive. Soto leads a raid on the human camp, during which Roshan's mother is separated from the rest and jumps down a waterfall when cornered by Soto's lieutenant, Diego. For his failure, Diego is sent to find and retrieve the baby.
Later, Sid and Manny spot Roshan and his mother near the lake, having survived her plunge. The mother only has enough strength to entrust her baby to Manny before she disappears into the water. After much persuasion by Sid, they decide to return Roshan, but when they reach the human settlement, they find it deserted. They meet up with Diego, who convinces the pair to let him help by tracking the humans. The four travel on, with Diego secretly leading them to his pack for an ambush.
After encountering several misadventures on their way, they reach a cave with several cave paintings made by humans. There Sid and Diego learn about Manny's past and his previous interactions with the human hunters, in which his wife and child were killed, leaving Manny a depressed loner. Later, Manny, Sid, Diego and Roshan almost reach their destination—Half-Peak, but encounter a river of lava. Manny and Sid, along with Roshan, make it across safely, but Diego freezes, about to fall into the lava. Manny saves him, narrowly missing certain death by falling into the lava himself. The herd takes a break for the night, and Roshan takes his first walking steps towards Diego, who starts to change his mind about his mission.
The next day, the herd approaches the ambush, causing Diego—now full of respect for Manny for saving his life—to change his mind and confess to Manny and Sid about the ambush. As the pair turn hostile towards him, Diego asks for their trust, and tries to foil the attack. The herd battles Soto's pack, but despite their efforts, Soto's associates manage to corner Manny. As Soto closes in for the kill on Manny, Diego sacrifices himself by jumping in the way and is injured as a result. Manny then knocks a distracted Soto into a rock wall, causing several sharp icicles to fall onto Soto, killing him. Horrified, the rest of the pack retreat. Manny and Sid mourn for Diego's injury, which they believe is fatal, and continue their journey without him.
Soon, Manny and Sid manage to return Roshan to his tribe, and to their surprise, Diego manages to rejoin them, in time to see the baby leave. The group then begin to head off to warmer climates.
20,000 years later, Scrat, frozen in ice, ends up on the shores of a tropical island. As the ice slowly melts, the acorn is washed away. Scrat then finds a coconut and tries stomp it into the ground, only to mistakenly trigger a volcanic eruption.
The characters are all prehistoric animals. The animals can talk to and understand each other and are voiced by a variety of famous actors. Like many films of prehistoric life, the rules of time periods apply very loosely, as many of the species shown in the film never actually lived in the same time periods or the same geographic regions.Ray Romano as Manfred "Manny", a woolly mammoth
Denis Leary as Diego, a Smilodon
John Leguizamo as Sid, a giant ground sloth
Chris Wedge as Scrat, a "saber-toothed" squirrel
Goran Višnjić as Soto, a Smilodon
Jack Black as Zeke, a Smilodon
Diedrich Bader as Oscar, a Smilodon
Alan Tudyk as Lenny, a Homotherium
Cedric the Entertainer as Carl, a Brontops
Stephen Root as Frank, a Brontops
Jane Krakowski as Rachel, a female giant ground sloth
Lorri Bagley as Jennifer, a female giant ground sloth
For mammoth Manny, the studio was initially looking at people with big voices. James Earl Jones and Ving Rhames were considered, but they sounded too obvious and Wedge wanted more comedy. Instead, the role was given to Ray Romano because they thought his voice sounded very elephant-like. Wedge described Romano's voice as "deep and his delivery is kind of slow, but he's also got a sarcastic wit behind it."
The film was released on March 15, 2002, and had a $46.3 million opening weekend, a large number not usually seen until the summer season, and way ahead of Fox's most optimistic projection of about $30 million. Ice Age broke the record for a March opening (later surpassed in 2006 by its sequel, Ice Age: The Meltdown) and was the then-third-best opening ever for an animated feature—after Monsters, Inc. ($62.6 million) and Toy Story 2 ($57.4 million). Ice Age finished its domestic box office run with $176,387,405 and grossed $383,257,136 worldwide, being the 9th highest gross of 2002 in North America and the 8th best worldwide at the time.
Ice Age was met with generally positive reviews from critics (making it the best reviewed film in its later-existing franchise). Rotten Tomatoes gave the film 77% approval rating, based on 164 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Even though Ice Age is treading over the same grounds as Monsters, Inc. and Shrek, it has enough wit and laughs to stand on its own." Similar site Metacritic had a score of 60% out of 31 reviews. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but lost to Spirited Away. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 stars out of 4 and wrote "I came to scoff and stayed to smile".
CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave Ice Age an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:2008: AFI's 10 Top 10:
Nominated Animation Film
Ice Age was released on DVD, VHS and D-Theater on November 26, 2002. Both releases included a short film Gone Nutty, featuring Scrat from the film. The film was released on Blu-ray on March 4, 2008, and beside Gone Nutty, it included 9 minutes of deleted scenes.
A video game tie-in was published by Ubisoft for the Game Boy Advance, and received poor reviews.
Ice Age later received four sequels:The first sequel, Ice Age: The Meltdown was released on March 31, 2006. The film focuses on the melting of a dam (due to, as Sid puts it at the end of the first film, global warming) and the impending flood.
The second sequel, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was released on July 1, 2009. The film focuses on the herd finding dinosaurs being discovered underground.
The third sequel, Ice Age: Continental Drift was released on July 13, 2012. The film focuses on the continental drift on Earth.
The fourth sequel, Ice Age: Collision Course was released on July 22, 2016. The film focuses on a very deadly meteor coming to Earth.