Now, coming off from Walking With Beasts, I decided I wanted to talk about how Cenozoic creatures are portrayed outside of documentaries. Popular media doesn’t touch Cenozoic animals as much as it does dinosaurs, and even then it’s usually the stock mammoths and sabretooths (heck, 2/3 of the main characters here are exactly that). But a good thing about this series of films is that it uses animal species that most people aren’t used to seeing, especially background characters. However, it also tends to stylize its characters (granted, it’s a cartoon) and depict animals in ways that almost make them unrecognizable. Still, this series has a lot to look at and I think it deserves to be analyzed.
This movie, as its name suggests, takes place in the Ice Age. However, very few of the animals shown actually lived in the Ice Age, and even fewer lived in areas that were covered in ice. It’s really just a collage of Cenozoic animals from various time periods and habitats (but that’s OK because the general public will never be able to tell the difference). This can get kind of frustrating, especially in the sequels. This film, however, has the least errors out of the series. Even with that, the first creature we encounter isn’t even a real animal!
This is Scrat. What is he you may ask? He’s a sabre tooth squirrel, or a squirrel rat, hence Scrat. Did a creature like this actually exist? Well, yes and no.
When the character of Scrat was created, it wasn’t based on any actual fossil creature and was purely fictional. However, in 2011, a creature with similar features was discovered, called Cronopio.
OMG a sabretooth squirrel!
Unfortunately, this creature didn’t live in the Ice Age, but instead in the Cretaceous, living alongside the dinosaurs. However, it is still very interesting that such a creature actually exists. The phenomena where a fictional creature in popular media is later discovered to have a similar real life counterpart is called the Dim Effect (named after the A Bugs Life character Dim, a rhinoceros beetle, that didn’t look like any known species until a similar beetle was discovered recently).
Anyway, Scrat finds himself in the middle of a herd of migrating animals heading south to avoid the Ice Age winter. And I think that makes sense since none of these animals would survive in a cold environment. Seriously, none of the animals in the herd lived in a tundra ecosystem. We come across some Macrauchenia, who are a bit to big if you ask me.
If you remember these guys from Walking With Beasts, you’ll remember that they lived in subtropical grassland in South America, not in the northern tundra. We also get some Glyptodons, another South American native.
We also get some random aardvarks, which as you may know, live in the hot plains of Africa.
Who for some reason also look like weird aardvark/anteater hybrids.
We also get a weird-looking creature called a Palaeotherium.
And no, this isn’t supposed to be the Moeritherium from Walking With Beasts, even though that’s exactly what it looks like. Palaeotherium was actually more horse like, and probably didn’t have a trunk, but the designers decided to make them more stout and plump then they probably were. I like to think they’re really Moeritherium myself, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Both animals lived in the tropical rain forests and lagoons of the Eocene, a time when there wasn’t even any polar caps!!
Finally, we have a couple of Brontotheres.
If you remember Walking With Beasts, you’ll remember these creatures also hale from the Eocene, living in dry grasslands. I think if the film makers wanted a rhino like creature, they should have used a woolly rhino (an animal I’m surprised hasn’t appeared in the series yet). I also find it interesting that one has a wide mouth like a white rhino, and the other has a narrow mouth like a black rhino. It could mean that they represent different species, or was merely a stylistic choice. The horn on the forehead of the one on the left is a bit much I think, not to mention their stylized nose horns. But it is a cartoon, so I really shouldn’t nit pick.
In the middle of the herd, we finally see an animal that would be at home in the Ice Age, and coincidentally our main character. Meet Manny, the Woolly Mammoth.
As far as mammoth depictions go, he’s pretty standard. He is obviously inspired by Charles Knight’s depiction of the animal.
Then again, what mammoth portrayal isn’t.
But he does look really good, and conveys the proper size and weight such a creature would carry. Really, I see nothing wrong with him.
Our next character, however, is a different story.
Meet Sid, the Ground Sloth.
Yes, he is a Ground Sloth, despite what the alien shaped head may tell you.
I applaud the film makers putting a rather obscure species as a main character, not to mention one that actually lived in the Ice Age. However, they make him look incredibly odd, almost unrecognizable. First and foremost is it’s head, which is in a most unusual shape. It’s the eyes; they’re in such an odd placement. Second is the size. Sid is portrayed as being only slightly bigger than a human, while actual ground sloths were gigantic, rivaling the size of mammoths. They were also strong, definitely not a creature you would want to mess with. Remember in WWB were the sloth actually killed a sabre tooth tiger and stole it’s kill?
Granted, that genus was a Megatherium, one of the largest land mammals ever. Sid is more likely a Megalonyx, a smaller species that lived in the north, while Megatherium lived in the south. He’s still portrayed a bit too small, probably to emphasize his cowardly personality.
The final main character in this gang of three is Diego, the Smilodon.
As somewhat expected, the portrayal of this character is very much influenced by Charles Knight’s reconstruction of the animal.
While many modern reconstructions like to add stripes, blotches or spots (sometimes all three) on their sabretooths, I happen to really like this simple, tan, lion-esque color scheme (stripes and spots are certainly plausible, I’m just going by personal preference here). That is one reason I really like Diego’s design. Despite being stylized, he still looks like a believable animal in the way he moves. I’m also a fan of the small mane tuff he sports on his shoulders, which is also more noticeable in his pack leader, Soto (seen in the middle of below image).
The other Smilodons in the pack are a bit more exaggerated and cartoony, especially this really fat and broad one.
As it turns out, this guy (named Lenny) isn’t even a Smilodon at all! According to supplementary material, he’s a Homotherium (or scimitar cat), a slightly smaller species of sabretooth.
Hmm, not much of a resemblance.
Anyway, the last animal species introduced in the movie is also a creature not of the Ice Age, but strangely of modern times. That is until it was hunted to the point that it became the poster boy for extinct animals. Meet the Dodo.
To me, the dodo is such an odd inclusion to this film. It didn’t live in the Ice Age, in fact it lived on a remote tropical island!!! What is it doing on the mainland? Are dodos usually associated with the ice age? Is this just something I’m not aware of? I’m sorry, their inclusion just baffles me.
Thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks so. In fact, the film makers were originally hesitant about adding these characters to the film, probably for the exact reasons I mentioned. However, their scientific consultant gave them the OK, just along as the film had no dinosaurs.
Yeah, I know. We’ll get there.
In the sequels, we see a lot more species of animals inhabiting the landscape, and things start to get even weirder. In Ice Age: The Meltdown, the sequel to the first film, some of the design choices are just downright strange.
For example, the opening scene depicts several new creatures playing around in some pools of water. Among these creatures include a Baptornis, or Diving Bird as it was referred to in the production art.
Never heard of this creature? Well, it’s a reletive of the diving bird Hesperornis, and both creatures didn’t live in the Ice Age. In fact, they lived in the Cretaceous, and shared the world with dinosaurs. I really don’t see why it was included, as there are other prehistoric diving birds that would have fulfilled the same function. As a kid I pretended they were Great Auks.
Yes, I knew what these were as a kid. Why do you think I’m writing this blog?
We also see beavers, who have horns for some reason.
I think it goes without saying that no true beavers had horns, but a gopher like animal called the horned gopher did.
Ladies and gentlemen, this exists.
It would have been interesting to see these creatures instead of adding horns to a beaver, or they could have used the giant beaver, a creature that actually was from the ice age.
This is also real.
We also get these giant birds, usually identified as Diatryma.
Now, Diatryma (now usually called Gastornis) lived in the Eocene, when there were no snowy areas anywhere. The only large bird like this that lived in this time period was Titanis, a vicious predator. Now, this character seems to get along just fine with the herbivores, so I’m presuming it’s not the killing type (I would give props for portraying Gastornis as a herbivore, but it’s more likely coincidence since this was before that idea was generally accepted).
We also see what I can only guess is a Megaloceras…
…but I can’t make sense of that horn on it’s nose. The gazelles in this series also sport them.
No deer species had this, although it does remind me of some of the earlier species of giraffe.
Giraffes are weird.
We also get some musk oxen in the mix.
Although exaggerated in appearance, these guys are pretty OK. I like to think that is was the North American species Euceratherium.
As if you really care, though.
Another weird addition to the fauna is the Platybelodon.
This odd looking beast is actually an ancient form of elephant, and this is one of the odd times where the designers actually held back the weirdness. I mean, look at this thing.
How did a creature like this even live?
This form of elephant is also much more ancient than the elephants of the actual ice age, and it’s weird to see such a primitive elephant next to the much more advance Woolly Mammoth (not to mention these animals lived on the hot plains of Africa).
We also get a brief appearance from one of the oddest Cenozoic creatures, a Chalicothere.
He’s only in it for about a second (and only as the punchline for a fart joke), but he seems pretty good as far as I can tell. I remember when I first saw him as a kid, I though he was an actual giant ground sloth, and Sid was just some tiny freak of nature.
Now, for the more prominent side characters, we’ve got a giant armadillo named Fast Tony.
Now, there were giant armadillos that lived in North America during the Ice Age However, Fast Tony is portrayed rolling up in a ball like some modern armadillos do, which would be very impossible for a giant armadillo to do. The beak I think is a bit odd as well.
We also get some new additions to the main cast, a couple of Opossum brothers.
Now, opossum like animals have been around since the time of dinosaurs, so their inclusion here is not a truly surprising one. Its just that I really can’t comprehend possums living in a tundra like habitat. Not saying it’s impossible, I just think it’s an odd choice.
We also get a tribe of what Sid refers to as ‘mini sloths’.
Now, a species of miniature ground sloths actually did exist, called Neocnus.
However, these were an island species displaying island dwarfism. So they would never had met a mainland ground sloth.
The villains of this movie include a group of condors/vultures.
These vultures/condors are pretty big, about the same size as Sid. They’re probably Teratornis, a North American Condor that lived during the Ice Age. Despite that, they’re little more than normal cartoon vultures, with nothing really standing out about them.
But the true villains of this film aren’t even ice age creatures at all. No, they’re the most messed up looking Mesozoic sea reptiles you will ever see.
Because of melting ice, two sea reptiles from the time of dinosaurs are freed (they’re basically plot devices who really have no business being here). And they are FREAKY!!!
I mean, look at these guys.
I mean, what are they even supposed to be?
Well, the purple one, named Cretaceous (hah, funny), is supposed to be a ichthyosaur. Now, this is an actual ichthyosaur.
Does that even remotely look like the same creature?
Ichthyosaurs were basically reptilian dolphins, but this creature looks more like a crocodile-fish hybrid. It’s back is covered in spikes and it even has claws on it’s front feet instead of flippers. Now, some sources have instead said that this creature is a Metriorhynchus, an animal it shares a closer resemblance to, but still not a full one.
The other one, named Maelstrom, doesn’t fair much better. He’s supposed to be a pliosaur, but doesn’t look much like one. Pliosaurs, as shown below, have long crocodile like snouts. They also didn’t have plates and spikes running down their back, something that may have been inspired by old restorations of mosasaurs.
Now, in the third movie, the main cast discovers a cave underground that leads to a Lost World, inhabited by DINOSAURS. So, it would seem that staying in the Ice Age was too boring, According to one art director, it was getting hard to think up of new Ice Age animals to put in the films.
I can think of a few more.
You know, ones that actually lived in the Ice Age.
So yeah, the sequel has dinosaurs. Given this is a dinosaur specific blog, you’d think I’d be excited, right?
Well, the first dinosaur to show up is the ever present T. rex.
Now, at first glance, it seems like a normal cartoon tyrannosaur with the typical look and traits. However, the real problem is the size, and this proble is present with every dinosaur species shown. When she is seen next to the main characters, you’ll see. Manny the Woolly Mammoth looks like the size of a human compared to her, when an actual mammoth would rival a T. rex in size. According to the film makers, this Tyrannosaur is twice the size of an actual one, making it 80 feet long and 40 feet tall. This was probably done so that the still rather large Ice Age characters can still feel small in their presence. I’m not sure if I really like it though. And this get’s even worse when we start talking about Rudy, a Baryonyx who’s the mortal enemy of a British weasel.
It makes sense in context.
Rudy is shown to be bigger than the Tyrannosaurus (which may actually be possible, given the best known specimen is only a juvenile, even though it is 30 ft long). However, if the Rex is really 80 ft, that would mean that Rudy would be over 100 feet long!!! That kind of size is only known in Sauropod dinosaurs.
Besides the size, there are a few other things wrong here. The skull is too flat and alligator like, unlike the more jagged skull of an actual Baryonyx. The proportions are a bit off as well, and I’m surprised they didn’t exaggerate the famous hand claw. Still, it’s a pretty good choice that they went with Baryonyx instead of it’s more famous cousin Spinosaurus, given his recent makeover.
Because that would have been embarrassing.
Pretty much all the dinosaurs are stylized caricatures of their actual selves.
This generic ankylosaur would be rather typical if it weren’t for that Hawkman mace on its tail.
I like comics, sue me.
Now, no known Ankylosaur has this kind of tail club (not that I’m aware of, anyway), but I’ll admit I do like the idea. It is however very similar to the tail clubs of Glyptodont Doedicurus.
We also get some obligatory generic Brachiosaur-esque sauropods. Not much else to say.
Also in the background we get some Iguanodon…
There is nothing too wrong with them, they’re basically stylized cartoon versions of the real thing. The Kentrosaur’s neck is a bit too snakey for me, but I applaud them using a lesser known dinosaur over its more famous cousin Stegosaurus.
We also get a ceratopsian of some sort, but I can’t really place the species.
It looks like a Triceratops, but I can’t get past the frill. I’ve never seen a neck frill so exaggerated. Some say it’s actually a Chasmosaurus, which makes sense give the visible chasms in the shield, but I’m not really sure.
We also get an appearance from an Archaeopteryx.
It brings to mind those old restorations of this creature that like to make it look like a half bird half lizard creature, giving it a leathery skink like head.
I’m personally annoyed by this specific trope, and I think it needs to go away. The film also portrays Archaeopteryx not being able to fly, which is a subject of some debate. The general consensus on this matter is that Archaeopteryx can glide, but wasn’t capable of powered flight. This may have changed recently, however. Dinosaur science updates so much that it’s really hard to keep track, several of the things on this very blog are probably inaccurate by now and I’ve only been at this for a month and a half!
Now, you would think that since this movie has dinosaurs in it, it would have to have raptors, especially since the majority of the dinosaur cast has been stock. You would be wrong.
Taking the place of small pack hunting carnivorous dinosaur in this movie is the little known primitive tyrannosaur Guanlong.
Guanlong was an early tyrannosaur, but looked much different from it’s more famous cousins. It was farely small, and did share many traits with raptors. I do applaud the film makers for using such an underused dinosaur. However, there are a couple of problems.
Although we don’t have any direct evidence of this, an actual Guanlong was probably a bit more feathered, while the movie version only sports a patch of spiky quills (which is progress I will admit). The crest is perhaps as bit too small as well, and the arms are positioned wrong. you see, many dinosaur depictions have the hands facing the chest of the creature, when in actuality they should facing each other palm to palm. This goes double for bird like dinosaurs, who had very avian like appendages.
This is kind of a pet peeve for paleontologists.
We also get some Troodon. which would get even more paleontologists in a hissy fit.
I’m glad I’m at a point where featherless dinosaurs are actually unappealing to me.
Along with generic Troodon’s, this movie decides to give us the most generic pterosaurs.
This guy is the very definition of Hollywood pterosaur. Leathery hairless skin, the crest of a Pteranodon, the teeth of a Pteradactylus, and one other thing….
HE HAS A @%$#! DRAGON TAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sorry, another dinosaur nerd pet peeve.
Oh well, the other pterosaurs don’t get off very well either.
Awww, look at those generic dragons. Who have just one finger for some reason.
Yeah, the Ptero-Soarer trope is one I think really needs to die. What’s a Ptero-Soarer? Here’s a link.
Well, that’s it for the dinosaurs. Now we go on to the fourth sequel, and this is where things get crazy.
Yes, even crazier.
The sequel has pirates.
And the pirates are Pleistocene creatures.
Here’s photographic proof in case you didn’t believe me.
Now, the inclusion of some of these beasts really show that the film makers are scrapping the bottom of the barrel in terms of *ehem* Ice Age animals. Really, most of these guys have no business being in a film called Ice Age.
First we’ve got the pirate captain, Captain Gutt (voiced by Peter Dinklage in possibly the greatest example of playing against type).
Gutt was a Gigantopithecus, a giant prehistoric orangutan that was basically Bigfoot.
As you see in this picture, Gigantopithecus may have lived during the Ice Age, but he didn’t live in ice. He lived in tropical rainforests that were still present in some areas.
We also get a prehistoric kangaroo called Procoptodon.
Now, kangaroos still and always have lived in Australia. Now, I know I’m nit-picking, but would you really expect a movie about modern tundra animals suddenly have this…
…just because the writer couldn’t think of any more tundra animals? I know, it’s a cartoon, and its implied Gutt goes around the world looking for recruits, but it’s still odd to me.
The other crew members aren’t quite as odd but still a bit weird. We get a prehistoric rabbit…
…which isn’t as weird as you may think.
We also get a weird blue footed booby/petrel hybrid…
…who has the weirdest markings on it’s head…almost like a bandana.
We also have some sort of prehistoric pig, whose exact species I can’t really pin down.
Entelodon? Boar? Peccary? Warthog?
Not to mention a badger who has a human skull printed on it’s back for some reason.
And of course he serves as the flag.
One of the odder members I think is the elephant seal.
Now, scientist have found fossils of elephant seals from before the Ice Age, but they were from South Africa, a long ways from….
Philosoraptor! What are you doing here? I thought I was safe from you in the Cenozoic. Are you still working with Cynodont?
Well, this film series takes a lot of liberties…
Fine, fine, I’ll try to stop.
Anyway, the final member of Gutt’s crew is another Smilodon, but she looks quite different from Diego.
For one, she looks very much like a tiger, whereas Diego looks more like a lion in coloration. She is also pure white, similar to the famous white tigers. This was probably done to make her more distinct, but it does raise a few questions. Is she a different species of sabretooth, or is it just an abnormal coloration like the white tiger? Or are all female Smilodon like this?
A few other creatures make an appearance, including a creature called a mole-hog, a mixture between a hedgehog and a mole.
Ok, never heard of that before.
This guy is a main character, named Louis. Apparently, his species has appeared in the films before.
Oh, I thought those were echidnas.
We also get an island tribe of hyraxes.
Cute, how exploitable.
We also get an absolutely huge sperm whale, possibly the largest sperm whale to ever exist Livyatan.
It is shown to have several rows of teeth, three dorsal fins, and a mouth large enough to contain a mammoth.
Cartoon stylization at it’s finest.
Now, the Ice Age films have their ups and downs. Sure, they portray animals living together that not only didn’t live in the Ice Age but couldn’t tolerate a cold climate. Yes, they exaggerate and stylized the creatures to an unrecognizable point. But the films still introduce the populace to a menagerie of underused animals, and I always applaud shows that don’t just use the stock creatures. But this doesn’t stop the films from being a hodgepodge of weirdness concerning the animals. In the end, I grade the accuracy of the Ice Age films a….
4.5 out of 10.
As for the films themselves, I like them. They have a lot of creativity and wacky humor, plus I love the use of obscure species. But as you saw, things get really weird in this franchise.
Good thing nothing weird happens in the next franchise I’m reviewing.
I say sarcastically.
Next time, I return to The Land Before Time and look at the dinosaurs in the sequels.