Blue Sky Studios burst onto the animation scene in 2002 when it’s debut feature, Ice Age, earned over $380million at the worldwide box office and amassed a string of fairly positive reviews. The studio had been around since 1987 having spent the previous 15 years working as a special effects production house and music video producer. Officially bought outright by 20th Century Fox in 1997, Blue Sky shifted direction to become one of the conglomerate’s most trustworthy sources of original material, amassing a total of 11 films in 15 years, including 4 Ice Age sequels. In this edition of Ranked, we’ll take you through each of them, ordering the films from worst to best.
As always, feel free to share your opinions in the comments below!
11. Ice Age: Collision Course (2016)
Worldwide Box Office: $408.6million
Starring: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah, Stephanie Beatriz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Adam Devine, Max Greenfield, Jessie J, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Offerman, Keke Palmer, Josh Peck, Simon Pegg, Seann William Scott, Michael Strahan, Wanda Sykes
In making less than half of the $877million its predecessor made, Ice Age: Collision Course is likely the final ever instalment of the central Ice Age franchise as such huge drop-offs are usually the death knell for any given saga at a studio, even when said studios are built around the story in the way Blue Sky is built around Sid, Manny and Diego. Unfortunately, this means the series will go out with a whimper, as Collision Course was a shallow and perhaps even hollow presentation of the characters, voices and animation that the studio had so wonderfully delivered in its past. Blue Sky finally reached the bottom of the creative barrel with this one, offering by far their poorest release to date.
10. Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)
Worldwide Box Office: $877million
Starring: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah, Aziz Ansari, Peter Dinklage, Drake, Nick Frost, Josh Gad, Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, Keke Palmer, Josh Peck, Simon Pegg, Seann William Scott, Patrick Stewart, Wanda Sykes, Alan Tudyk, Rebel Wilson
Ice Age 4 (Continental Drift) marked an important moment for Blue Sky Studios as the film came in the height of the studio’s popularity and their central franchise’s popular appeal, yet on the cusp of their downward trend. It was, officially, the second highest grossing movie in the history of the studio, yet it can be seen so clearly to define the very reason as to why Blue Sky has struggled to bring audiences to their movies in the years since. Continental Drift was the first sign of the studio beginning to lose creative credibility, turning to another sequel to bring audiences back to their product in the name of money. This time however, there wasn’t such universal appeal to the film as had occurred elsewhere; an issue that turned a lot of audiences away from the franchise following this film’s release. To adults, Ice Age had finally begun to suffer from accidental self-parody, one of the least respectable traits any film/franchise can adopt. It was better than Ice Age 5 because it held a sense of nostalgia for the characters and their journeys, but Continental Drift still only ranks at number 10, in the 2nd lowest position on this list.
9. Rio 2 (2014)
Worldwide Box Office: $500million
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Bruno Mars, Jamie Foxx, Kristin Chenoweth, Andy Garcia, George Lopez, Jermaine Clement, Will.i.am, Tracy Morgan, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro
In looking to capitalise on their critically and financially successful original movie Rio, Blue Sky went back to their characters to give the same sequel treatment they had given to Ice Age, offering the central couple a family for the adult members of their audience to identify with. Though this had been developed to huge success in Ice Age 2, Rio 2 didn’t have the same level of box office boost the majority of sequels usually have and thus became a somewhat forgotten title in the Blue Sky filmography, a problem unaided by the lack of creativity in the writing room and a loss of Brazilian energy in the overall picture.
8. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)
Worldwide Box Office: $886.7million
Starring: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah, Simon Pegg, Chris Wedge, Karen Disher, Josh Peck, Seann William Scott, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Joey King, Jane Lynch
By the time the Ice Age franchise had reached this, the third instalment in its now 5-film-long saga, it had become clear that there was money to be had. What Dawn of the Dinosaurs proved was that there was perhaps more money than even the studio could anticipate, with the film going on to earn over $886million globally – the highest gross of any Blue Sky Studios release to date. On the screen, the story was quite different, with the addition of Simon Pegg – fresh off success in Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Mission: Impossible III, and heading into Star Trek – having little effect on the dwindling quality of the franchise. It was clear that, in exploring the hollow Earth theory that would bring Dinosaurs back to the universe despite the central cast fighting off two extinction events previously, Blue Sky had sought to retroactively fix the relative speed at which they presented pre-historic earth, which reaked of bad decision making and a lack of foresight that would leave this film feeling more like a cash grab than any of the movies the studio had released beforehand with seemingly more care and affection. It’s not that this film was necessarily really bad, it’s more that it was lacking the feeling of being genuine, to children and adults alike, leaving it at a relatively low number 8.
7. Robots (2005)
Worldwide Box Office: $260.7million
Starring: Robin Williams, Ewan McGregor, Halle Berry, Chris Wedge, Amanda Bynes, Mel Brooks, Jennifer Coolidge, Jim Broadbent, Drew Carey, Greg Kinnear, Stanley Tucci, Paul Giamatti, Lucille Bliss, Paula Abdul, James Earl Jones, Jay Leno, Al Roker
Blue Sky’s 2005 outing Robots is an oft-forgotten cg-animated release despite starring the incomparable Robin Williams alongside some of the era’s most beloved and talented actors. This was likely due to the movie’s adequate, but generally bland, central story that failed to live up to the work being done at other studios at the time, with the unusual design of the characters and style of animation further separating the movie from the typical must-see type of animated movie from the era.
6. Epic (2013)
Worldwide Box Office: $268.5million
Starring: Beyoncé, Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell, Pitbull, Aziz Ansari, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Christoph Waltz, Chris O’Dowd, Blake Anderson, Judah Friedlander
With a title like Epic and a $100million production budget (the 3rd highest in the studio’s history), Blue Sky had a lot to live up to with this 2013 release. All of the pieces seemed to be in place, including some of the most dynamic and vibrant animation the studio has ever produced and a cast that was filled with stars likely to appeal to people of all ages, yet the movie didn’t quite hit in the way that other 2013 hits Monsters University, Despicable Me 3 and particularly Frozen did, and this was largely due to its less imaginative story. Even so, the movie did carry a charm that hit well with the audiences that did see it, and while it may be one of the less memorable Blue Sky releases, it certainly holds up as a fairly good watch.
5. Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who! (2008)
Worldwide Box Office: $297million
Starring: Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Selena Gomez, Carol Burnett, Seth Rogen, Isla Fisher, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Jonah Hill, Dan Fogler, Jaime Pressley, Jesse McCartney, Joey King, Ariel Winter
The back catalogue of Dr. Seuss books from which to make enticing and interesting movies from is certainly large and filled to the brim with originality, so when Dr. Seuss’ widow Audrey Geizel said she would never allow another live-action adaptation to be made again following the release of the ill-fated Mike Myers starring The Cat in the Hat (2004), animated film producers could be heard salivating all across North America… probably.
Blue Sky got their hands on the rights to Horton Hears A Who! and released the movie in 2008 following much anticipation. The result was a fun and very different animated movie that may not have captured the experience children have reading the book for the first time, but certainly stood up as a solid animation movie entry for the year as well as Blue Sky overall. In pairing two of the biggest comedy stars of the time, Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, and backing them up with a selection of rising stars including Amy Poehler, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Will Arnett, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears A Who! had a lot going for it behind the scenes too, establishing it as a noteworthy release for the studio that just makes the top 5 in this list.
4. Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)
Worldwide Box Office: $661million
Starring: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Chris Wedge, Josh Peck, Seann William Scott, Jay Leno, Alan Tudyk, Will Arnett, Ariel Winter
$80million may seem like a lot for an animated movie, but when your predecessor turned just $59million into $383million and Disney/Pixar have been making $200million animated features for a decade or more, it seems like Blue Sky/Fox got Ice Age 2 (The Meltdown) for a snip. Factor in the $661million return at the global box office and it’s clear as to what a huge success the film was with audiences too, the majority of whom ate up the typical sequel formula of doing everything the original did only bigger. Ice Age: The Meltdown was exactly what a sequel should be in that sense – it captured the essence of the original and played with ideas regarding the universe the first movie had set up – but, much like a lot of sequels in the wider film sphere, The Meltdown did suffer from recreating some of the more popular moments and losing just a drop of the first movie’s originality and sense of heart, placing it at number 4 on this list.
3. Rio (2011)
Worldwide Box Office: $484.6million
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Rodrigo Santoro, Jermaine Clement, George Lopez, Leslie Mann, Tracy Morgan, Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes, Judah Friedlander
Set in emerging Brazil’s most iconic city, Rio de Janeiro, Blue Sky continued their tradition of rendering some of the most aesthetically pleasing animations in the genre by marrying the city’s real-life battle between its urban landscape and the encroaching wild to their 2011 release Rio. What was perhaps the most creative aspect of the film was the way in which they did so through a tale centring on the only creature in the vicinity that could possibly cross the fresh-hold between rainforest and urban slums, the bird. Voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway, the birds of paradise at the centre of the film’s self-discovery/romance story arc were used effectively to tell the wider tale of Brazil and particularly Rio de Janeiro, but they were also selected for having an incredible visual appeal that fitted with the movie’s overall colourful glow and energetic presentation.
Some of the most enjoyable aspects of this film are contained within the picture’s presentation of a unified city celebrating the colourful and bouncy nature of its country, yet with as many side characters to laugh at as you’d expect from an animated film and a story that works effectively despite its generic formula, Rio is the sort of movie that children and adults can enjoy for vastly different reasons, yet enjoy all the same.
2. The Peanuts Movie (2015)
Worldwide Box Office: $246.2million
Starring: Bill Melendez, Noah Schnapp, Kristin Chenoweth,
Praised for its close relationship to its much beloved source material and the manner in which Blue Sky animated the movie in a way more in-keeping with Peanuts’ original animation, The Peanuts Movie is the most underrated Blue Sky Studios film to date.
The lowest grossing Blue Sky movie ever, The Peanuts Movie perhaps suffered financially from a lack of star power in the recording booth and a waning fandom surrounding its subject matter, as well as an ongoing lawsuit between Blue Sky animators and the studio itself concerning fair pay opportunities. The film itself however, was undeserving of such blemishes against it, as the quirky and wholesome tale at the centre of the movie was a joy to the limited amount of people who watched it, and the animation was entirely in keeping with this mantra, making it a must see of Blue Sky Studios’ filmography.
1. Ice Age (2002)
Worldwide Box Office: $383.3million
Starring: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Chris Wedge, Jack Black, Alan Tudyk, Cedric the Entertainer, Jane Krakowski
When Blue Sky Studios came out of the box with Ice Age in 2002, the animated movie industry took a step back. The film was released on the cusp of the modern CG-animated era of Western animation that Antz (1998) and Shrek (2001) of Dreamworks Animation, Dinosaur (2000) of Disney Animation and only four feature-length Pixar movies – Toy Story (1995), A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999) and Monsters, Inc. (2001) – had embraced previously. By releasing Ice Age in the midst of Disney and Dreamworks’ strong hold over the developing genre, Blue Sky and 20th Century Fox made a bold claim for space within the same realm, earning over $380million at the box office, the equivalent of around $526million when adjusted for inflation.
In this respect, the movie was of great significance, yet the original Ice Age sits atop of this list not only for its accomplishments but also for its art. The movie, which was beautifully animated for a film of its time – compare it to the likes of Shrek and you’ll quickly notice the vast visual improvement offered in Ice Age – was a fun and original children’s comedy that importantly featured some of the adult themes that had come to make much of the 1990’s Dinsey renaissance so well respected. Presenting a group of unlikely friends coming together to overcome the odds of their own collective extinction, Ice Age hit all of the right story beats and created intriguing and relatable moments upon which to ponder. Perhaps most importantly, Ice Age was an animated film because it would’ve been impossible to create the movie by other means, therefore making it the truest form of modern, studio-driven animation genre, and the most memorable Blue Sky release to boot.