An interview with the directors of Ice Age 3

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Carlos Saldanha and Mike Thurmeier, the directorial team on 'Ice Age 3', talk to Time Out about 3D, Looney Tunes and how they both got into the animation business

What prompted you to get into the animated film industry?
CS: ‘I always wanted to be an artist somehow but my choices when coming out of high school led me more towards computer technology, so I went to computer science college – I love computers. I reached a point where I realised that it wasn’t enough – I needed to go back to my roots, and to go back to art and to try and make something out of it. That’s when computer animation came into my life and I found that it was the perfect medium for me to explore my artistic skills. I moved from Brazil to New York to pursue a masters in computer animation and I found myself making animations and shorts and having a great time.’

And what about you, Mike?

MT: ‘I always drew as a kid, cartoons and stuff, but I didn’t really think of it as a career – at the time there wasn’t many animated films coming out. But I saw a film on TV about Canadian animators working in the US – I’m from Canada – on films like “The Terminator” and “The Little Mermaid”, and that was pretty inspiring I guess. Then “Jurassic Park” came out along with “Toy Story”, and they completely blew my mind and totally turned my opinion around on CGI animation. And so, shortly after that, I moved to Blue Sky Studios. But I didn’t know anything about CGI at all – I mean, I didn’t know how to use a computer, or even send email. So Carlos and the other animators had to give a crash course on using computers.’

That’s quite an impressive turnaround.

MT: ‘Well, they were good teachers.’

Ice Age 3 is also going to be available in 3D. How different is it working between 2D and 3D?
MT: ‘We’re still trying to tap the potential of it, but I think we learned a lot of good stuff on this movie and we’ve used it in a tasteful way. When we’re composing shots and thinking of action, we’ve always visualised it in 2D. When you introduce 3D, you have to be aware of space and start being concerned about where the characters are. And the little cheats that we used to do, we can’t get away with them anymore. But I think it’s a good opportunity to draw the audience in more.’

The anarchic humour in the ‘Ice Age’ films is very funny. Are you inspired by Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng or anyone else in particular?

CA: ‘When I go back to my childhood, and the movies that I liked watching, I’ll often go back to the classic cartoons from TV like “Looney Tunes”, the Chuck Jones style of stuff – even the silent movies like Charlie Chaplin, they always made me laugh. In my head, those were inspirations that I carried throughout the animation. I think animation is about the exaggeration and finding the fun of the slapstick put into the motion – I care for that quite a bit.’

There’s also quite a bit of more sophisticated humour in the ‘Ice Age’ films.

CA: ‘When we make movies, we’re trying to make the movies for ourselves too. We want to watch the movies and enjoy what we see and be proud of what we’ve made. At no point in the movie is there I moment where I feel: “I hate that sequence”. We have a great story team that get together and we jam every day. Every day we go through the sequences and ask ourselves, “how can we make this the funniest moment?” Also, we try to make the story for the whole family – that’s the approach that we have towards it. We’re kind of jaded working in the movie industry – we just want to have a good time.’

MT: ‘We’ll never sit around looking at the demographics of shows going “we need to make more jokes for three year olds” – it's never like that.’

What’s the story behind the ‘Ice Age 3’ – was it inspired by ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ or ‘King Kong’ or something like that?
CA: When we started to think about the movie, we knew that we wanted to take the story to the next level – something that would be a big idea, an iconic idea. The big idea was to have dinosaurs meeting the Ice Age – it’s impossible really. We knew that if you looked at the science, it never really happened. Looking at films like “King Kong” or when you go under the ground and see the moss world in “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, all these kind of “what if” questions were put into our heads. We wanted to make this magnificent, lush, huge world – so those things definitely came to mind when making this experience.’

Why do you think 3D has suddenly become so popular? Do you think it’s to get people off their big wide-screen TVs at home?
MT: ‘I think there are reasons to not go to the movies – dealing with crowds, when someone is talking next to you or whatever. So I think it’s a way of drawing people to the movies again as it offers some kind of spectacle. But 3D, I mean it's not new – it’s been around for a long time, but we’re approaching it as new and making a much bigger effort with it.’

I imagine the technology now makes it easier to do.

MT: ‘Actually I don’t think its much different than it ever was. The concept of the “left eye/right eye” has fundamentally remained the same. But with the big push of all the major studios doing it, it does become something special. And as you said, you can’t see this movie at home – you have to go to the cinema to see it.’

Author: Derek Adams



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