Whenever the "Ice Age" series is brought up nowadays, it isn't exactly fondly talked about. The multiple sequels that have come out really have tarnished the reputation of the franchise and it's typically used as a punchline for whenever a series continues much longer than it should. Though it is a little sad that the series went really downhill because the first "Ice Age" is still a delightful film to watch. While it may not be the best film from Blue Sky Studios, it's still a notable debut for an animation studio and I think it mostly works well all these years later. It isn't a perfect movie, but it's still a fun film to watch and definitely has its moments.
In the middle of migration season, a wooly mammoth named Manny (Ray Romano) is heading north rather than south like the other creatures to escape the impending ice age. While heading north, he runs into a sloth named Sid (John Leguizamo) who had been abandoned by his family and instantly follows him along. Their journey north though takes an abrupt detour when the two find a young baby and decide to take it back to the human settlement only to find it deserted. They then meet up with a saber-tooth tiger named Diego (Dennis Leary) who tells the two that the humans are headed further north and that they should entrust him to help track them. From there, the trio then goes forward to help get the baby back to its clan while going through many crazy misadventures not knowing that Diego is secretly helping other saber tooth tigers to get the baby as well as Manny.
The biggest reason why this film still works well all these years later is that the story is simple to follow and yet still delightful to watch. You really want to see our trio succeed in the end and director Chris Wedge, as well as his team at Blue Sky, were able to do it so well. Not only that, it does have some funny visual gags that still work to this day and some simply fantastic emotional moments. The film does some great use of visual storytelling with the best example being Manny's backstory being explained through a series of cave paintings. It's so beautifully done and perfectly told that no words are needed to show the devastation and heartbreak in the scene. All the emotional moments really are well handled and they weren't too sappy or dry in the end. The animation while it has shown its age still looks pretty good all these years later. The big reason why they work is Peter De Seve's fantastic character designs for the animals. They really are well designed and look great all these years later. The human designs with the exception of the baby haven't aged all that well though. They look a little plastic like to me at times, but not to the point where it was incredibly distracting. I think keeping them mostly offscreen was probably the right decision. As far as the characters go, I found that the trio still is fun all these years later. Manny was probably my favorite of the bunch since his backstory really helped show a lot of character development for him. I also really enjoyed Diego as well and how he was conflicted to helping the baby get back home or betraying the duo and taking them to his herd. Even Sid didn't annoy me as much as I thought he would. He definitely wasn't my favorite of the bunch, but he still was likable and charming enough and didn't get overly annoying to the point where you wanted him gone. Also, I can't talk about this movie without mentioning Scrat. He still provides some funny comic relief moments there and now and unlike in the previous films, the film doesn't interrupt itself to show them. I really enjoyed that. While I do think this film has aged well all these years later, there are still some aspects of the movie that don't work. Sometimes the movie does drag at times. I feel the scene involving the dodo's and the melon should've been cut since it went on far too long and really didn't add anything to the film. Also, Jack Black was badly miscast as one of the saber tooth tigers. While he works well playing likable goofy characters like Po in "Kung Fu Panda", he doesn't work playing a secondary antagonist. His voice really stood out like a sore thumb and I feel someone else should've played his role instead.
Still though, "Ice Age" is still a delight to watch all these years later. The story is simple and fun, the animation is still pretty good despite showing some age, and the characters are still fun to watch. I think it's a pretty good start to an animation studio like Blue Sky. I still think the first film is a good movie all these years later, and I certainly have plans on watching it again sometime soon.