Find out what goes on behind the scenes of an animated movie in our exclusive interview with Galen Chu, co-director of Ice Age: Collision Course.
You’ve worked on all the Ice Age films in one way or another – what do you like about the franchise so much?
For me the Ice Age movies all have a heartfelt core and in all the films you’re following Manny’s story as they’re told from his point of view. In the first ones he’s stubborn, alone and hating the world and in the end he warms up to Sid and Diego and considers them family. Family is the key theme throughout the franchise, and in Ice Age: Collision Course he’s learning how to let go of his daughter who is now grown up and wanting to get married, and he has to grace the fiancé, which most dads probably have a hard time doing, as no one is ever good enough for their daughter.
This film turns the subplot of Scrat into the main storyline. What were ideas behind that?
When Mike (co-director) and I knew we’d be working on this together, we knew we wanted to incorporate the Scrat more into the main story, and play on that cause-and-affect relationship he has with the herd. He’s going to spending the whole film in the cosmos, raining down obstacles for our herd to get past, like meteor showers and other surprises. So he directly affects the journey and in turn makes it harder for them.
We see a few new characters being introduced in this film. How did these come about and what are their backstories?
We have Julian, who is fiancé to Peaches (Manny and Ellie’s daughter) and he represents Manny’s new personal threat. Then we have Brooke, played by Jessie J, who is Sid’s love interest in this film. She’s from Geotopia which is a new ‘world’ introduced in this film, and all the characters from Geotopia have a new age/hippy vibe about them. Geotopia is made up entirely of crystals, and is the Ice Age version of Shangri-La. One of my favourite scenes is when Brooke sees Sid for the first time and instantly falls in love with him, it’s really silly but I like it. We have the Shangri-Llama who is the spiritual leader of the Geotopian world, and who poses as an obstacle for the herd.
Without being too biased, is there anyone that is extra fun to work with and will have a laugh?
I’ve got to say, and I’m not making this up, Simon Pegg is the best to work with. He is so brilliant, its never a stressful day because he just brings all sorts of magic and he makes the material better. He has a sequence in the film where he sings an entire song, and when we asked if he’d be willing to try it, we didn’t know he was going to be so good at it.
This is Jesse-Tyler Ferguson’s first animation film. How did he fair with the voiceover experience?
Being in a booth is a really intimidating thing to do, especially with Jesse, because he works on a set (Modern Family) and he has a lot of other actors to work from and bounce off. So that makes it easier for them to gage the moment, but this is just reading lines in a booth so the process was new but I think he really did a good job and he came up with a great voice for the Shangri-Llama.
Was there a situation where all the stars were all in the room together?
Unfortunately not, and the reason we don’t do that is if they are all together, they tend to step on each others lines a little bit and jump in. So we like a clean sample of their voice, which makes it harder for them so we really do respect all the actors.
Do you ever jump on the actors’ facial expression and hand movements to translate into their animated character?
Yes definitely, what we do when we are recording the actors is we put a little lip cam that records all their movements from the shoulder upwards, and it really helps and inspires the animators to create these unique character traits.
Our readerships is dads, so what would you tell them about the new film before taking their kids to the cinema?
It fits in the context of the other films but also can work well without kids having seen the previous ones, there’s loads of exciting new things in this one for kids, like the Scrat being more involved and spending his time in a spaceship in the cosmos, and we have all the new characters in a new world, and this film really explores colour a lot more so there’s this vibrant new colour palette which will catch children’s attention.
This is a much-loved franchise, is this the last one?
Well we always just put the movie out there, after working on it for three years, and if the audience loves it and it feels like they’re hungry for more, then we’re happy to give them a new Ice Age. Ideas have been discussed and there’s always room for more but it all depends if the audience embraces this one.
What’s been your highlight so far, working on all the films?
Well I’m a little biased but working on this one as a co-director has been special, working with Mike and all the actors.
When the core cast and crew of the Lord of the Rings trilogy finished filming, they all got matching tattoos to remember their time, would you, consider it? A little Manny or something?
(Laughs) I don’t have any tattoos but if they were all game for it, I’d be up for it!
Ice Age: Collision Course is in cinemas nationwide now.