The Knocturnal had the chance to sit with Ice Age series veteran Mike Thurmeier and pick his brain about the latest film, ‘Collision Course.’
[Warning: minor spoilers for Ice Age: Collision Course]
You’ve been with these characters a long time. You’ve been on Ice Age since the first one.
Ever since 2000 when the project came to Blue Sky.
How do you balance giving our beloveds a lot of screen time and also work with the new?
That is the challenge. Every day thats part of the process. It’s a constant evolution. Once we have the idea and start writing the script and start storyboarding. That’s when you really see the movie, obviously. For me the scrip is one thing and the film up on reels is another. You’re balancing are we getting enough Possums? Are we getting enough Sid? Because the cast has been growing every movie. I think that’s the key. Adding new elements to it. You have all these characters, you want to evolve their storylines especially on this one.
Speaking of new characters, Scrat. He has this huge cult of personality. Going into this how did you want to fit him into the movie?
The Scrat scenes are intimidating. They’re great opportunities but they are super intimidating. We’ve done a bunch of them over the films and they’re always someone’s favorite part. You want to do the best. You want to make something people love. Working with Scrat is awesome. In the script, you have the movie proper and you are working out the story and you know you’ll want Scrat to influence something here we put ‘Scrat scene TBD.’ And it’s really as simple as that. Our writer, Mike Berg, will say Blue Sky Magic right here. It’s fun you get a bunch of guys and girls in a room and say what are we gonna do with him? Then we start making lists of sci-fi tropes. Like teleporters. I pitched gravity on spaceships is all artificial. So what happens when Scrat messes with gravity? There’s all kind of Scrat scenes that didn’t make it into the movie. He messes with the Sun and causes solar flares, we had him interact with nebulas. There was no shortage of ideas, but in the context of the film we can only have so much. We want a lot of Scrat, you have to make sure it doesn’t overtake the story.
You guys did a really good job with Scrat influencing the story in this one.
On this one, he always crosses the main herd at some point. At least one scene. From the beginning of this one we wanted him to do a lot more in terms of influencing the story.
It’s clear from the film you are a parent. Where did you think that took the film?
My co-director’s a new dad also. We both really connected to the material of one day having to let your baby go. It’s what should happen, it’s what every parent does. I’m trying to imagine, I’m not there yet, I’m several years away. And I can’t yet imagine how hard that would be for me. I wanted to make sure you really felt Manny’s sense of loss that hasn’t happened yet, but you are looking forward to see that happens and you do irrational things to try and hold onto it. I was really looking at my future and can handle it when it happens.
It feels like he’s holding it against all odds. The catastrophic nature of the plot follows that.
That’s something we had to find our way with. It’s hard to believe the storyline of Manny. The planet might be destroyed by this asteroid, why are they worrying about their daughter getting married? The approach of the story was they were hopeful that they were gonna solve this problem. They truly believed they were going to accomplish this mission. To him the external problem is huge, but then if they succeed what are they gonna do about his daughter.
You talked about being in the booth with the actors and being hands on. What was that process like?
That evolved for me. The third movie was the first I directed on. On the last film there was an intense scene with Denis Leary and Jennifer Lopez. Usually, we sit in the booth and we read lines, but there’s a weird delay. So Denis was like ‘come in the room with me and we can read together.’ I realized how much that helps them get a realistic back and forth. I came back and he wouldn’t let me leave the room, this is how it is now.
Would you ever consider getting multiple actors in there? I don’t really know the limitations of that.
There’s ways we can do that. I just think scheduling is a challenge. We are trying to sneak in these records in actor’s busy schedules. And because we are such a long process we get bits and pieces over the course of two years. In the past we haven’t gotten everyone together because there is a lot of rewriting and re-conceive in as we do the process.
You talked about music and incorporate these pop renditions into your films. That feels like your take on Ice Age, or an element of it.
It was a conscious choice to not take ourselves too seriously. The first one had a really great emotional core, but I think we wanted to let people know we were in it for a good time on this one. I like to think I have terrible music taste, and I like those guilty pleasure songs, but I know a lot of people are like that too. I didn’t put any terrible songs in this movie. One of my favorite things in this movie, when the herd decides to go on their mission and go into the mist. In that dramatic slow mo. I said I wanted it to feel like Armageddon. So I said ‘put in the cue’ from Armageddon. The composer as we were scoring the movie, he said ‘look guys, this totally sells the moment, why don’t we just license the music from Armageddon?’. So we did and we had to send a copy of the movie to Jerry Bruckheimer and he had to sign off on it. So we actually have music in it from Armageddon.
Ice Age: Collision Course will be in theaters on July 22nd. Stay tuned for our review: