Back in 2002, a little animated film called “Ice Age” introduced audiences to an unlikely family of charming prehistoric creatures: Manny the woolly mammoth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger and Sid the sloth. The film went on to earn more than $380 million worldwide, while the core group of characters, joined by a motley crew of other friends — and enemies — made their way through four additional adventures on the silver screen, as well as assorted film shorts, television specials and video games.
Now the franchise’s first spin-off project under the umbrella of Disney, which took over the series from 20th Century Fox, is making its debut.
“The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild,” the sixth Ice Age film, focuses on the swashbuckling, one-eyed weasel who featured in several previous installments of the franchise.
The new film leaves many of the original characters (along with stars like Ray Romano, Denis Leary and John Leguizamo, who voiced them) behind, and instead follows the thrill-seeking possum brothers Crash and Eddie, who are reunited with Buck Wild, a character they met in 2009’s “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.”
As the film opens, the reckless brothers decide to spread their wings and leave the safety of their sometimes overprotective family. Not surprisingly, it doesn’t take long for them to get into trouble. Lucky for them, Buck and his female companion, a zorilla named Zee, come to their rescue.
Voiced by Simon Pegg (better known as “Scotty” from the Star Trek movies and “Benji” in the Mission: Impossible franchise), Buck Wild is adventure-loving and risk-taking, but also a bit of a “lone wolf.” And that idea of not having to struggle alone seems to be one of the film’s underlying themes.
“Buck is such a loner,” Pegg said during a recent interview with the media. “He’s so used to doing everything by himself, that the idea of relying on his friends, or trusting someone to do something else, is a little bit uncomfortable for him. And in this movie, he learns that it’s not only OK to ask for help, it’s also OK to ask for help — as a guy — from your female friends.”
“[Buck is] a loner. He’s solitary. He doesn’t have people around him,” echoed executive producer Lori Forte. “And so it felt like the perfect time to show Buck in his world, protecting it, guarding it, but bringing new characters in with him that sort of shake up his solitariness a little bit.”John Donkin, director of the film who also worked on the Ice Age sequels “Continental Drift” and “Dawn of the Dinosaurs” expanded on that idea.
“I think that this movie allows us to start to peel back the layers of all that is Buck,” he noted. “Actually the introduction of the Zee character gives us a glimpse into some backstory in Buck. There’s some history between the two of them and we start to reveal that through the course of the movie.”
The concept of history between the characters and the importance of family are also central themes to this film, which clocks in at a little under 90 minutes. So while the younger audience members are laughing at the many sight gags and rather corny jokes, older viewers can appreciate the underlying messages that are couched in the humor.
“It is sort of in the DNA of the whole franchise to look at family as first of all, additive, it’s constantly growing,” Donkin said. “And it’s not necessarily bound by blood, but it’s more a loyalty between people, or animals. And so that’s just been thematic in all of the films. So it is really fun in this one to sort of explore the idea of, ‘OK, so what happens if your family needs to grow?'”
“It’s just a universal message for all time,” Forte noted. “And because COVID happened, it seems strikingly apparent now, that the message about family and staying together, even if you’re not together, and being together, whether you’re not together.”
“And it’s honestly born out by the success of the franchise globally, too, because it’s something that every part of the globe feels, this concept of family and how important that is,” Donkin added. “That’s why the movie plays great in southern hemisphere, northern hemisphere, you pick your place and people are responding to the movie.”
“What’s beautiful about these films is that all that stuff is there, and it makes them feel very rich and very nuanced, but it is just enormous fun,” Pegg concluded. “It’s ridiculously silly. It’s relentlessly funny. It’s beautiful to look at. But all of that doesn’t mean anything unless it’s founded in something meaningful and real. And these films always have been that.”
See for yourself if the Ice Age charm is still there — THE ICE AGE ADVENTURES OF BUCK WILD is streaming exclusively on Disney+ starting January 28, 2022.
(Rated PG, due to some extreme action scenes and mild language.)
Watch the trailer for “The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild” here: