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May 24, 2007
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown Blu-Ray - Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
6/4/200630/5/2007FoxCarlos Saldanha
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
MPEG-2DTS-HDPGRay Romano, John Leguizamo
Denis Leary, Queen Latifah

THE MOVIE
Fox aren't a studio known for animation - well they weren't until March 2002 when they released Ice Age in cinemas. The movie grossed a mammoth $US383 million worldwide. In March 2006 Fox released the sequel, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, which amassed a mammoth $US651 million worldwide - which was despite only a small $US19 million increase in the US Box office numbers to $US195 million.

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Some of the many characters.
Ice Age: The Meltdown continues the storyline of Sid (John Leguizamo), Manny (Ray Romano) and Diego (Denis Leary) as well as a couple of new characters including the female Mammoth named Ellie (Queen Latifah), and two wisecracking Possums named Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). In the movie the Ice Age is over and things are starting to melt. The problem is that a massive ice wall is holding back a massive amount of water from flooding their idyllic valley. The only way the can escape is to make the lengthy passage to the other end of the valley and make it to a large 'ark' styled boat. This movie tells the story of that journey.

There's no question that when it comes to animated movies Ice Age tops my list. Yes, I place it above Toy Story, The Incredibles and pretty much any Disney movie. I know I'm going to raise a lot of eyebrows by saying that, and probably the ire of some friends, but that's my opinion, not yours. The sequel, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, I also loved - although it ever so slightly loses that extra spark. Sid is still the highlight of the movie with some exceptional one liners while the inclusion of Ellie brings a bit more heart to the movie. Having said that I wasn't keen on the section where the vultures sing "Food, Glorious Food", but I absolutely loved when Sid get's kidnapped by the mini-sloth’s to be sacrificed as the Fire God!

VIDEO
Now I don't know if it has been my two Samsung LCD TV's (one 720p, the other 1080p) but when you start up Ice Age: The Meltdown and the camera pans towards Scrat for the very first time there is noticeable stuttering in the ice. It had me mighty concerned, but having seen a similar thing in the DVD I suspect it may be related to the source material rather then the compression. Unfortunately I can't recall if it was similar in the cinemas. After this slightly concerning opening things get a lot better - in fact they get pretty close to perfect!

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Scrat's fur is stunning at 1080p.
Encoded at 1080p video using the MPEG-2 codec at a ratio of 1.85:1 I was a little concerned that this 25GB Disc would struggle to fit the movie, DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio, two audio commentaries and several other extras all on the disc without losing quality. Fortunately it appears that there weren't too many problems at all, and certainly the short runtime of the movie at just over 90 minutes probably assisted in ensuring that this looked absolutely pristine. The colours are vibrant from start to finish and coming from a digital source ensure there are absolutely no film artifacts or inherint problems. The bitrate is fairly high too averaging between 16 and 20Mbps in the slower moments, while during some of the bigger action sequences this bitrate goes well over 32Mbps!

Overall this presentation is simply sublime. The additional detail you see - particularly with the fur on the many characters and especially on Scrat's tail in the opening sequence and his many other appearances as well as the fur on Manny and Ellie is glorious. Having said that there was the occasional moment when I felt that there wasn't quite as much sharpness in the transfer as one would have expected - Ellie's fur occasionally looks a little flat for one, but it's only in the occasional scene and rarely detracts from the overall experience.

AUDIO
Audio is provided via DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 - there is no Dolby Digital Soundtrack so if your amplifier can't decode DTS then just beware. Obviously with no DTS-HD receivers on the market as yet and with the PS3 unable to pass or decode the DTS-HD track as yet we are left with the 'core' DTS 1.5Mbps audio track being passed to the receiver. Fear not though as this is a stunning example of clarity in audio.

One of the greatest things about a CG movie is that every little sound, line of dialogue, and piece of music has been recorded in recording studios to provide the utmost clarity. Indeed while we could only decode the DTS-HD track at 1.5Mbps it was a sensational audio experience with plenty of surround use and a lively sound field throughout.

EXTRAS
Despite being a 25GB disc there are a fair amount of extras on this release too with most being in HD, and also a couple of Blu-Ray bonuses. A couple of extras have dropped off from the DVD release but the commentaries are intact which is the main thing. Also missing are the many Trailers and TV spots that came out with the movie, but they never came out on the DVD either. Overall an impressive package with something for children and adults alike.

Commentary with director Carlos Saldanha:

    This is quite an interesting directors commentary which has been carried over from the DVD release. Carlos discusses in some detail the process of making the movie on both a technical and creative level. Certainly worth a listen.

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Ellie, Crash and Eddie join the movies cast.
Commentary with Crew:

    Also carried over from the DVD release this is another quite interesting commentary with twelve of the key crew who worked on the movie. There's a lot of people here and while it does become a little confusing as to who is talking there is a lot of technical information provided with a wide range of topics discussed at a fairly non-stop pace.

No Time For Nuts (7:07/HD):

    A short movie focusing on Scrat and his adventure as he time travels to save his nut! The video quality, while not quite up to the feature movie is still superb, while the movie only includes 2-channel audio. A fun addition which has a nice video upgrade over the DVD release.

Crash and Eddie Stunts and Outtakes (1:20/HD):

    A couple of short outtakes from Crash and Eddie. Pretty funny but extremely brief and questionable inclusion as an "Extra" - more suited to 4 x 20 second Easter Eggs on the disc really.

The Animation Directors Chair (HD):

    A pretty good inclusion. After selecting from six different scenes in the movie you are presented with window showing the Storyboards, Layout, Animation and Final on the left side of the screen, but can then switch between each for viewing in a larger window. Quite a good use of multi-angle on Blu-Ray.

Smackdown Sound Effects Lab:

    The scene where Scrat attacks the Piranhas is played with one of five different sound effects tracks. They're pretty entertaining and certainly make you think about just how much a movie could change with a different sound theme. Short but fun.

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Things aren't looking good for Scrat.
Ice Age Arcade:

    Two mini-games. One is a rather tough trivia based game while the second determines who would be your buddy from the movie. Simplistic but fairly well developed.

Lost Historical Student Films on the Ice Age Period:

    A series of six short films that give some brief backgrounds to the various species of characters. Each of the movies is between 1 and 2 minutes long, presented in Standard Definition with 192kbps stereo sound, but are worth a look for some entertainment value.

Artists Gallery Channel:

    This extra is one which didn't appear on the original DVD release of Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. While playing the movie you have an option for a small window in the bottom left of the screen to display many of the drawings used to storyboard the movie before it was turned into CG. It's quite remarkable closely the final product stays to these images - with new ones appearing on screen every few seconds. Combine this with one of the audio commentaries and it really becomes a wonderful Behind the Scenes look at how much goes into making this film.

OVERALL
Overall Ice Age 2: The Meltdown is quite a superb Blu-Ray release. While you are likely to be swayed by the gorgeous visual and audio presentation there's a solid storyline here with plenty of humour and also some decent extras. Only one niggle remains with this release - where is the first movie on Blu-Ray? Let's hope it's not far away. If it matches the quality of this release we'll be very happy indeed. Superb.

Review By: Dave Warner

THE MOVIE
8.5/10
THE VIDEO
9/10
THE AUDIO
9/10
THE EXTRAS
6/10
OVERALL
8/10

Note: All images in this article are Copyright© Fox. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.