Ray Romano Talks 'Ice Age: Continental Drift' and 'A Mammoth Christmas'

Friday, 02 December 2011 11:54 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Ray Romano Talks 'Ice Age: Continental Drift' and 'A Mammoth Christmas'

A prehistorical glaciological event may not seem like a premise on which to build a successful franchise of family films – it's certainly not as obvious as anything involving princesses or other familiar fairy tale staples – yet for almost ten years, the Ice Age films have been a reliable mainstay in animated features, generating more than $4 billion in box office, home entertainment, and merchandising sales.  2002's Ice Age cast three very different comedians, Ray Romano, Denis Leary, and John Leguizamo as a mammoth, a saber-toothed tiger, and a sloth who form a makeshift family.

After two theatrical sequels, that makeshift family has expanded dramatically, and in time-honored tradition, the animated characters that audiences know and love are starring in their own half-hour Christmas special, Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas.  The holiday special, which arrived on Blu-ray and DVD last week, finds Sid the Sloth venturing to the North Pole in order to remove himself from Santa's naughty list after destroying the beloved Christmas decorations of Manny the Mammoth.

Ray Romano, he of the much-loved series Everybody Loves Raymond, was kind enough to talk with IAR and several other international entertainment journalists about the Ice Age holiday special, as well as next summer's theatrical sequel, Ice Age: Continental Drift, a 3D adventure from Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox that follows the Arctic herd as their home continent breaks apart. 

While Continental Drift and A Mammoth Christmas are two distinct projects with different directors, the voice cast recorded their dialogue for both simultaneously.  Romano explained, "When I would go in for a recording session for the new movie like the first hour or so would be for the special. For a couple of recording sessions we piggybacked them together."

In the very first film, Romano's character, Manny, was thought to be the last of his kind, with woolly mammoths on their way to extinction.  In the first sequel, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Manny and his friends discovered another woolly mammoth, Ellie, voiced by Queen Latifah.  The second sequel, Ice Age: Rise of the Dinosaurs, had Manny and Ellie expecting their first baby mammoth, and in the Christmas special, their daughter Peaches is voiced by Ciara Bravo.

In the upcoming fourth film, however, Peaches has grown up considerably and is voiced by Keke Palmer.  The changing family dynamics are key to the story of Continental Drift, according to Romano.  "The new movie more is about the daughter that we have, Peaches, now is a teenager. It's kind of about that, about Manny dealing with a teenage daughter."

"You know, there is so much crazy stuff that goes on," he explained. "But underlying it all is just the plight of the families and friends and all the trials and tribulations of being a family and a parent. That's what this one is. It's her trying to go out on her own and have a boyfriend and this, and that, and Manny has to learn to let go. But there's a great adventure which moves the story."

Even Romano has been surprised to find that the first film led to such a robust franchise. Still, fans of the series are happy for more, and there are plenty of stories to tell.  Romano said, "After we did the third I said, 'Wow, this is a great franchise but it's three and out, isn't it?' And sure enough the fans just wouldn't let it go. I knew that if they came up with an interesting story–it's good, it's great. But you also want to make sure you're not overdoing it. You're not overstaying it. But I really enjoyed this last one we did. Again, they have other stories to tell. The baby is now a teenager and it's a whole other set of circumstances."

After a decade of providing vocal life to his animated alter ego, the actor finds it quite easy to slide into character by now.  "It takes a couple of minutes when I get into the recording studio," he said.  "I have a line that I use as my mantra, my way in. And it's a line from the first movie were Sid is trying to get him to go somewhere and he just gets into Sid's face and he says, 'I'm not going.' So I repeat that about a dozen times until I feel it. And the thing is, when people hear the movie they think that that's just me doing my voice and it's not. I'm tweaking my voice. It's Manny. I can distinguish between my normal speaking voice and Manny. I am doing the character. And yes, at this point, it's as simple as that. It's just repeating that line over and over again."

Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas is in stores now for the holiday season, while Ice Age: Continental Drift – featuring the voices of Romano, Leguizamo, Leary, and Latifah, along with Josh Peck, Seann William Scott, Jennifer Lopez, Josh Gad, Aziz Ansari, J.B. Smoove, and Alan Tudyk – arrives in theaters on July 13, 2012.

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