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Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special
Special, Blu-ray & DVD Details

Director: Karen Disher / Writers: Sam Harper, Mike Reiss / Executive Producers: Lori Forte, Chris Wedge, Carlos Saldanha / Producer: Andrea M. Miloro

Voice Cast: Ray Romano (Manny), John Leguizamo (Sid), Denis Leary (Diego), Queen Latifah (Ellie), Seann William Scott (Crash), Josh Peck (Eddie), Ciara Bravo (Peaches), T.J. Miller (Prancer), Billy Gardell (Santa Claus), Judah Friedlander (Head Mini Sloth), Karen Disher (Molehog), Cindy Slattery (Miscellaneous Animals), Chris Wedge (Scrat)

Original Air Date: November 24, 2011 / Running Time: 26 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated (TV-PG on air)

Blu-ray: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish, French)
DVD: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround (Spanish, French)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish; DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled, Captioned
Release Date: November 26, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Three single-sided, single-layered discs (1 BD-25, 1 DVD-5, and 1 DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($7.98 SRP), on Instant Video, and Instant Video HD

Buy Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy DVD Instant Video Instant Video HD

My love of holiday TV specials greatly exceeds my dislike of the Ice Age series. That, coupled with the alluring lesser demands of a half-hour feature presentation,
was more than enough for me to give Blue Sky Studios' flagship franchise another chance to impress with a review of Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special.

With eight months to go before Sid, Manny, Diego, Scrat, et al. return to theaters in Ice Age: Continental Drift, the gang staked out a half-hour of Thanksgiving night primetime air on Fox with this program, which raced to DVD and the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy reviewed here a mere twenty-eight hours later last week.

The Ice Age movies are set in prehistoric times, somewhere between 10,000 and three million years ago. And yet, the gang celebrates Christmas much as we know it, despite predating the holiday's namesake by at least several thousand years. Why? Probably for the same reason that there are references to Miami and barf bags here. The Ice Age series is not one for historical accuracy: the ice is melting in the second movie and then there are dinosaurs underneath in the third. Obviously, these aren't documentaries of a distant world, but computer-animated comedies set back then and built on parallels to modern times. Why bother with the charade that these ancient characters have an equivalent of Christmas, when the birth of Christ isn't going to feature either way?

The cast of "Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special" admire the world's first Christmas tree, hastily and proudly decorated by Sid the sloth.

I maintain my position that the first Ice Age's success was largely the product of timing. It arrived in theaters March 2002, just after Shrek and Monsters, Inc.. Those two hits had established computer animation as a dominant medium, not limited to the Toy Story franchise or even just Pixar. But other studios weren't yet on board. Ice Age would be the only major CG family comedy of its season and in fact its entire year; the next two saturated releases to come would be the record-setting Finding Nemo in 2003 and Shrek 2 in 2004.

Ice Age: The Meltdown also fared well on timing. It came in 2006, the year when the supply of computer animated films caught up to and surpassed the demand. If the sequel had opened in the summer or fall seasons, when nine other CG films (including several flops) did, it might not have done so much business. But it opened on the last day of March and, facing limited competition, it easily exceeded its predecessor's earnings.

My timing argument falls apart on Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which debuted smack in the middle of the industry's prime season, on the week of the Fourth of July 2009. Sent to an astounding 4,100 theaters (a number of them exhibiting the film in 3D), the third installment narrowly eclipsed the first sequel's gross domestically, but the real story was in its international reception, which pushed it to a colossal worldwide total of $887 million.

Clearly, there is a massive audience for this franchise, one big enough to rival almost any series on the global level. But I can't pretend that I understand it. The broad, repetitive squirrel slapstick. The mix of generic comedy and maudlin drama. The bland one-note characters. I've seen almost every computer animated American film and while there are a number that are worse than the three Ice Age movies, none of them have ever sold nearly as many tickets and DVDs.

On their way to find Santa, Sid, Peaches, Prancer, and friends are stopped by the blue Head Mini Sloth from Santa's Santourage brigade. As always, Scrat the squirrel struggles to get -- and hold onto -- an acorn, though this time his travails are set to Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite.

In A Mammoth Christmas Special, Woolly mammoth Manny (voiced, as always, by Ray Romano), his mate Ellie (Queen Latifah), and their daughter Peaches (Ciara Bravo) are excited to celebrate Christmas. Manny proudly displays the treasured Christmas rock of his youth, which, as forecast, clumsy sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) manages to destroy while he's trying to introduce a new tradition of decorating a Christmas tree.
Manny says that the accident will earn Sid a place on Santa Claus' Naughty List, something Manny invents on the fly to teach a lesson.

Peaches, troubled by her father's private dismissal of Santa Claus as fiction, and Sid, on edge at the prospect of being passed over by Santa, set out to find the North Pole and the big guy. They are joined by annoying twin opossums Crash and Eddie (Seann William Scott and Josh Peck), who are pretty sure they too might be on Santa's Naughty List. The group runs into boastful independent reindeer Prancer, a colorful "Santourage" of guard Mini-Sloths, and a dangerous whiteout.

Meanwhile, Manny, Ellie, and cynical saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) set out to find that party and in the process run into Santa Claus and change Christmas for all time.

I can't say that this holiday special is any better than the mediocre to lackluster movies that preceded it. It unfolds with a series of jokes and gags, none of which carries much weight. The short runtime -- the slow, disproportionate end credits scroll begins 21 minutes in -- ensures the storyline is lean and nimble. There are new spins on two Christmas carols and few opportunities to check in with Scrat and his perilous, Nutcracker Suite-backed nut quests. Without strong characters or witty dialogue, it all falls pretty flat. Funny, exciting, suspenseful, poignant: A Mammoth Christmas Special is none of these things that seem to come so easily for Pixar, DreamWorks, and Disney. At least it looks nice.


Though it may not be all that good, A Mammoth Christmas Special sure looks stunning on Blu-ray. The 1.78:1 widescreen presentation is, obviously, as flawless as 1080p allows and the extremely sharp, vibrant visuals are plenty sightly. Somehow, the simplicity and frugality that have always been at the heart of TV animation have been retired in recent years. Perhaps it isn't all that hard or costly to take existing computer files and get twenty handsome minutes, or maybe the studios are just able to factor the costs into their film budgets and actor contracts and figure that they'll be eased by home video sales. Whatever the case, I see no reason that such stunning CGI would look less than great on the big screen. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix is equally delightful, delivering dialogue and effects with depth, directionality, and winning crispness and clarity.

The anamorphic DVD is also perfect by its own standards, but obviously not as striking as the hi-def equivalent. For some reason, the DVD presents the Spanish and French dubs in plain Dolby 2.0 Surround instead of the Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks the Blu-ray gets.

If the 2-minute preview is any indication, "Continental Drift" won't be any better than the first three "Ice Age" movies. Twin opossums Crash and Eddie enjoy North Pole peppermint bark in the "Swingin' Jingle Bells" music video. Santa Claus shows up on the ice shard ornament of the Blu-ray's menu.


Just two extras are included on both the Blu-ray and DVD.

First, we get a look at Ice Age: Continental Drift in a clip that plays automatically after the special. Rather than just a teaser or a standard trailer, this is a 2-minute fully-rendered scene. It gives us our first glimpse of Sid's lazy, spiteful Granny (voiced by Wanda Sykes).
Disney Tabletop Christmas Tree: The Wonderful World Of Disney Christmas Decoration Disney Holiday Village Collection: Collectible Christmas Decoration
Jim Henson's The Muppets North Pole Christmas Village Collection: Unique Christmas Decoration
Technically, it looks and sounds good, especially in HD, but creatively it is not at all promising.

The other item is a 3-minute "Swingin' Jingle Bells" music video (also in HD on Blu-ray) which edits together footage from the special with some holiday graphics while a jazzy variation on "Jingle Bells", credited on the case to "the Mini-Sloth Choir", plays. It's the thought that counts.

The Blu-ray and DVD open with a Fox digital copy promo, trailers for We Bought a Zoo and Mr. Popper's Penguins, and a brief Ray Romano-narrated preview for the post-special Ice Age: Continental Drift preview.

Disc 3 is nothing more than a digital copy disc, holding the special in iTunes and two Windows Media Video formats (720 x 404 for computer viewing, 320 x 184 for portable devices). With just 822 MB of content, it could have easily fit on the feature DVD (2.06 GB), but this way makes it easier to re-gift the disc.

After a brief intro, the festive Blu-ray and DVD menu plays clips on an ice shard ornament while a mostly instrumental bit of "Deck the Halls" loops. The Blu-ray supports bookmarks and resuming, not that they're likely to be needed on such a short feature presentation.

The combo pack's three discs are held in a standard Blu-ray case, where they're joined by a digital copy redemption code and directions and topped by a standard cardboard slipcover.

Ellie and Manny brave the windy snow to rescue their young daughter. Giant spoiler warning: everything ends all right in "A Mammoth Christmas Special."


Since this Christmas special couldn't get me to soften my stance, I think it's safe to say the Ice Age franchise will never win me over. That's fine; there is enough great animation being made to keep me happy and my disapproval makes no difference to Blue Sky and the millions of people around the world who, for whatever reason, continue to eat this stuff up.

While I can't recommend the special as anything more than a "feeling seasonal, want to see something new" viewing, Fox's combo pack presents it with spectacular picture and sound. It's also timely, versatile, and far more reasonably priced than the competition. Right now on Amazon, this 3-disc set is selling for a mere 51 cents more than the DVD alone. Though it's a slight package that might be better suited for the next movie's bonus features, it's also one of the more surefire stocking stuffers in its price range for an Ice Age fan. All that eases the blows of the show itself, which is unquestionably one of the worst holiday specials I've encountered.

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Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / DVD / Instant Video / Instant Video HD

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Reviewed December 3, 2011.

Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 20th Century Fox, Blue Sky Studios, and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
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