Walking through Blue Sky Studios feels a bit like someone set up shop in the middle of an ice age. On the way to the bathroom, you might accidentally end up roaming through a forest with enormous, prehistoric leaves suspended in the air above you. Or you may accidentally bump into a life-size Scrat desperately gripping that elusive acorn he’s always chasing. This is no ordinary film studio.
Brilliance is in the air as you pass offices with gorgeous views of the woods the studio is nestled in, each one decorated with models, colorful graphics and posters of the inhabitants favorite projects, and the elaborate computer equipment that they used to create these items. Cubicles are covered in similar items and knick-knacks, with creative team names hanging from the ceilings, adding to the magical ambiance of the office.
Blue Sky was founded in 1986 by six artists from a range of backgrounds and crafts. The idea was to create a studio that produced the best quality, fully CGI animations – something unheard of at the time. In eleven short years, Blue Sky studios developed the clout that led to Fox buying them and in 1999 the creation of the first Ice Age film began.
Blue Sky Studios invited HeyUGuys to get a sneak peak into the genius behind the latest chapter of the franchise, appropriately titled Ice Age: Collision Course, where we got to see first hand the animation process used to create the most stunning 3D animation in the franchise to date, during an intimate presentation led by Lori, the directors and the lead animators.
Before introducing the directors Lori, who has led the entire ice age franchise at the production helm, explained that the concept behind Collision Course was deeply rooted in a scene from the first ice age film: where the characters are walking through a museum and spot something that inspired this chapter of the series as well as a short shown before a previous film. The result is Scrat finding said object and causing a chain reaction.
Directors Mike Thurmeier and Galen Chu , who began their roles in Blue Sky Studios as animators, introduced the first sequence in the film. It is, appropriately, narrated by Neil Degrasse Tyson and featuring our favorite train wreck, Scrat, in yet another series of blunders and unfortunate events as he tries to obtain the acorn that causes him so much distress in all of the Ice Age films. This time the impact of Scrat’s careless and reckless obsession with obtaining the acorn has colossal repercussions that set the stage for an intense collision course which could change the lives of our favorite prehistoric creatures forever.
They also explain that at the core of the Ice Age series is the story of family and growth, this time it focuses on Peaches’ impending marriage and the impact it has on her Father, Manny, as well as Sid’s (fleeting) romance.
An interesting perspective, and one of the amazing perks of a behind the scenes look at animated films, is that the collision course represented in the trailer is not the only “meteor” in the lives of our characters. One “meteor” could be Julian, the future husband of Peaches, hurtling towards Manny’s family and inevitably crashing into the structure of the way the family has existed until then.
We were introduced to scenes of Scrat attempting desperately to get his beloved nut in space at the insistent obstruction of technology working against him over and over again, including a clip in which a teleporter really shakes things up and the hang-ups of being in space continue to work against him, appropriately titled “Gravity”.
The lead animation team came on to explain the process behind creating the individual characters for the film, as they are first hand-drawn on animation software, complete with color and animated clips of the characters doing specific actions, before they are send to be hand-sculpted with clay, and ultimately scanned into CGI software and animated around the model.
They also went into great detail about the new color scheme as it pertains to things such as the electric lightning storm, the meteoroid hurtling towards the planet, and the fantastical, almost sci-fi, environment covered in dazzling crystals that Shangrillama lives within. Shocking neon purples and sparkling pink, blue and yellow colors, with added lighting by the animators creates a vivid and totally realistic backdrop.
Seeing the completed version of new characters such as Shangrillama, with the texture detail so realistic, it is hard to believe they didn’t train an actual llama to do yoga. It was especially rewarding after seeing the painstaking process behind it. The collaborative effort and the amount of talented individuals it takes to create the characters is truly impressive.
Ice Age: Collision Course is out in UK cinemas on the 15th of July.