Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs

Release Date: July 1, 2009

Movie of the Day for Tuesday, March 31, 2009
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 Behold the billion dollar nut chaser.

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Position Staff In Brief
87/169 Max Braden By this point the characters, themes, and story are old hat and the inferior animation is more apparent. I actually fell asleep watching it at home.

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In 1987, people did not fully appreciate the genius of Tron. This is shocking, I know, but the 1982 Disney classic was not fully appreciated upon release. It earned only $33 million domestically against a budget of $17 million. Studio execs widely considered it to be a laudable attempt that failed to pay off. The time was not right for a different type of science-fiction classic while Star Wars was still consuming the public consciousness. This left the staff of computer experts who created Tron in limbo. There was not going to be a follow-up project at their studio, and if you were any sort of animator who didn't work at Disney, the other options were lackluster. The core group from Tron embarked upon a new adventure. They formed their own company, Blue Sky Studios, and they went off on their own.

For ten years, the kind people at Blue Sky Studios were largely forgotten except by folks in the television commercial industry. In 1997, Fox bought them out and absorbed them into studio arm of Rupert Murdoch's far-reaching corporate umbrella. Fox had stood up and taken notice of the success of the fledgling CGI group called Pixar. Their debut release, Toy Story, had earned a whopping $191.8 million, making Fox believe that with the right talent core, they too could achieve landmark success in the world of computer-generated animation.

In 2002, almost exactly two decades after the release of Tron, those programmers jumped back into the public consciousness with the release of Ice Age. Given a modest budget of $60 million, the movie was expected to be a quiet but solid performer for the studio as they got their feet wet in the animation genre. For their part, the folks at Blue Sky Studios had not lost their touch. Critics were universally positive (it wound up 77% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes), and the movie's box office was, well, massive. Ice Age debuted to a jaw-dropping $46.3 million on its way to $176.4 million domestically as well as a total of $378.4 million worldwide. Shocking success stories such as this one don't happen very often, but the previously unknown Ice Age franchise using a long forgotten group of CGI- programming forerunners from the Tron era had nearly duplicated the success of Toy Story.

In 2005, there was an attempt to match the success of Ice Age with another Blue Sky Studios release. The output was Robots, and the results were less satisfying but still quite successful. Robots, a movie that later required an apology from all involved due to the lackluster quality of its script, was still a box office hit. The $75 million budgeted property earned $128.2 million domestically and almost matched that total internationally, making it a $252.7 million winner for Fox. And remember, folks. That was with a terrible story for which they apologized. That right there is consumer faith in a brand.

The kindly folks at Blue Sky Studios found themselves wistfully imagining what with happen if their next project, a sequel to the project that made them famous, had a great script. Ice Age: The Meltdown was released on March 31, 2006, a year and three weeks after Robots. Results were...positive. The Ice Age sequel became the then-largest opener in the history of March box office, earning $68 million (it was recently surpassed by 300's $70.9 million opening). At the time, it claimed the second largest non-summer/non-holiday opening weekend of all-time, trailing only The Passion of the Christ's $83.8 million opening. Ice Age: The Meltdown became the rare sequel that surpassed its original in terms of final box office as well, earning $195.3 million during its run. Where it really excelled, however, was internationally. Whereas the original Ice Age had managed -only- $202.0 million internationally, its successor wound up doubling that number with $441 million. Ice Age earned $378.4 million worldwide, and that was considered a blockbuster. So, how do we quantify the $636.3 million in worldwide receipts against a budget of $75 million for Ice Age: The Meltdown? I say we all agree to shout "Wowza"? on the count of three. One. Two. Three. "WOWZA!"

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Fox immediately requested a third Ice Age film from the folks at Blue Sky Studios. This far out, details about the plot are a closely guarded secret, but it's safe to say that this project will be one of the biggest blockbusters on the 2009 schedule. There is also cause to believe that the Ice Age franchise as well as the work from the former Tron group has room for improvement. While Ice Age was well received at Rotten Tomatoes, Robots and Ice Age: The Meltdown have seen a steady decline in terms of critical acceptance. Robots was marginally fresh with a rating of 63% while Ice Age: The Meltdown was the animation group's first to receive the overall thumbs down with a (again marginally) rotten rating of 56%. This is what passes for criticism of Blue Sky Studios, because, frankly, there isn't much else to say that isn't glowingly positive.

The creative forces behind Tron have taken $210 million of Rupert Murdock's money and turned it into $1.3 billion. Return on investment like that is the stuff of box office myth and legend. You would think that the least these guys could do is let poor little Scrat enjoy a buffet of nuts as a sign of gratitude for what he has meant to Blue Sky Studios and Fox. (David Mumpower/BOP)

Vital statistics for Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Main Cast Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary
Distributor Twentieth Century Fox
Screen Count 4,099
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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