After acquiring the rights to the Ice Age franchise, Disney are returning with a new edition to the saga in The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild. Focusing on the beloved character of Buck Wild, the newest instalment will take us back to the magical Lost World from Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Crash and Eddie, seeking some independence from their adopted family, return to the Lost World and soon find themselves in danger. Saved by Buck Wild they join them on an adventure to Save the Lost World from Dinosaur Domination.
Film Focus Online attended the international press junket hosted by Anthony Morrison co-host of the D23 Inside Disney podcast, to catch up with Simon Pegg who plays the titular Buck Wild and Justina Machado who plays brand new character Zee. Joining them was the film’s director John Donkin and executive producer Lori Forte who has worked on all the Ice Age films since their inception in 2003.
Here are some of the most interesting insights into the upcoming film!
Machado was asked how she felt knowing she was voicing brand new character Zee
She said, “It was a lot of fun voicing someone so strong, a social warrior, somebody who’s so rational and has it so together.”
Pegg was asked how it felt to have a film revolve around Buck Wild
Pegg quipped that he has been “dropping hints for twenty years” about Buck Wild having a more central role in the franchise. He commented that since this is the “era of the cinematic universe” that there is no other franchise more suited to expansion than Ice Age.
Forte and Dorkin were asked how the project came together
Forte commented that “It felt so natural to go back to the lost world and its so natural to come back to Buck because it’s a character that everybody loves.”
Dorkin added that this film allows us to “peel back the layers of all that is Buck and actually the introduction of the Zee character gives us a glimpse into some backstory into the character of Buck… they’re not just wacky because they’re wacky. They have some history that brings them to who they are today.”
Forte was asked if any elements of the previous film inspired this one
Forte provided a fascinating anecdote revealing the backstory to the creation of the Lost World
“When we were researching the first film, we had someone from the Museum of Natural History come and talk to us and they said, ‘Whatever you do when you are making this film make sure you don’t put dinosaurs in with mammoths because they never lived at the same time, they were millions of years apart!’ and so we actually did a wink wink and nod nod in the sequence in the first movie called ‘the Ice Museum’ where Sid is walking through this museum and we see a T-Rex in Ice. We figured that was a great way of putting the dinosaurs and the mammoths together. So we did that and then we came up with a mythology and created a whole world under our feet…”
She goes on to give an insight into Buck Wild’s mentality after living so long in the Lost World - “And obviously with Buck living there far too long he has no real relationships. His relationships are with inanimate objects because he’s so close to nature like rocks and tree stumps and a pumpkin as a daughter”
The Host commented that the film is about family and specifically “chosen family” and “finding the courage within yourself.” He asked Dorkin as director how he developed that and his experience translating it to kids and parents in an animated film.
Dorkin replied that
“Family has been a central theme all the way back to the first Ice Age film…it is sort of in the DNA of the whole franchise…so it was really fun, in this one, to explore in this one, ok so what if your family needs to grow and Crash and Eddy are yearning to be on their own and away from their adopted sister…and what does that do to you emotionally and how do you get over that. Then it’s exploring a bit into Buck’s family…he lives a solitary life but now he’s recognised the joy and the fulfilment you get from having a family of your own. So he starts to think about that and his relationship. “
Pegg was asked how he prepared for the role now that he was the star of the film.
He gave an insight into his experience playing the iconic character as well as a behind the scenes look into the voiceover process:
“Buck’s sort of in my muscle memory now because I’ve played him a few times…I just have to get a lot of sleep before sessions because they are always extremely energetic and Buck is just full on all the time and it’s exhausting…you do a voiceover session and at the end you are always exhausted because you put everything into your voice. Whereas if you're doing a live action performance you have your gesticulations and your expressions to lean on. With this it all goes through that one facet of your ability to perform.”
He then reflected on his emotional connection to Buck due to his own family
“I have a strong affection for Buck…not least because he was born the same year my daughter was born…She's grown up with those movies and with him. And weirdly as this new Ice Age instalment, my sister just gave birth this week so there’s a new Ice Age baby to take the stories forward.”
The Host described Zee as a “badass” who “gets it done.” He went on to ask who Zee is to Machado and how she developed her character.
Machado described the collaborative process developing the character with John and Lori. She commented that it’s “so hard to play someone in control and badass. Those are my favourite characters to play and they gave me the liberty to do that.” Justina described the experience as “a wonderful escape” having gotten the role at the beginning of the pandemic, “to go into the studio and play this great character, so I just looked forward to every session and it was pretty organic how it all came about.”
The panelists were asked about the experience of creating the film during the pandemic.
Pegg said it was the first time he and Machado had met as they had recorded all their scenes separately “We just met…this is one of the most incredible things about animation and a testament to John and Lori. It’s about assembling all the pieces and creating a chemistry which you would have hoped felt present…It was amazing watching the film and seeing Buck and Zee having this relationship and chemistry and simpatico and never having met Justina. It’s a very odd thing.
Dorkin described the experience of reading against Simon and Justina while recording voiceover in an overlapping dialogue scene. He asserted that “the zoom set-up worked really well for this because I was wearing headphones and had an isolated mic…we could just yell at eachother and it was completely separated and then when I had the counterparts… I was able to take the two pieces together and find the best, funniest bits, and that was a lot of fun for me.” He goes on to say “ironically the Covid thing helped in the sense that directing the talent through the Zoom mechanism oddly was pretty great.”
Pegg added that he was able record most of his sessions from his house meaning he didn’t even have to wear trousers for a lot of the sessions. He then hilariously refused to confirm whether he was even wearing trousers at the virtual press conference.
The panelists were then asked if there were any memorable moments when making the film.
Pegg declared that “Any time playing Buck is memorable just because it’s always such a full on experience.” However, seeing the picture of Zee for the first time was memorable for him. He described her as “totally his equal” and “a counterpart to him in so many brilliant ways.”
Dorkin gave an insight into the development of Zee’s physicality. He wanted to ensure that she was “graceful and powerful.” He described a scene in the third act in which Zee “takes care of business” and how after a few recording sessions with Justina he showed her the clips, so Zee’s physicality also informed her voice and vice versa.
The Host asked Justina how it felt to see Zee drawn up for the first time.
She commented that she liked that she was “shapely” and loved her “Josephine baker skirt.” She joked that while Zee is very agile she “can’t even do a cartwheel, so it was really nice to see myself on camera doing all these things I could never do in real life.”
The panellists were asked why they decided to centre the franchise's first spin-off on Buck Wild.
Forte revealed they decided that Buck, “deserves his own spin-off because the character himself is just so iconic, he’s clever, he’s an adventurer, he’s a swash-buckler, he’s the protector and guardian of the lost world… We love to go on adventures with him because he’s just not afraid of anything. But at the same time he’s a loner, he’s solitary, he doesn’t have people around him. 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 kind of shakes up his solitary-ness a little bit.”
Machado was asked whether she was a fan of the franchise beforehand.
She described herself as “a big fan” but said “it was a bit scary to come into this family and be as exciting as the other characters, but after seeing the movie I’m really proud of what we did.”
To end the press conference panellists were asked what they hoped audiences would take away from this ice age adventure.
“We love the idea that once you’re in a herd…and you have that connection it’s ok if there is some physical separation because there’s always going to be that shared love and support and that is resonant right now because so many of us are separated, isolated from family members…With the current global situation…literally every human on the planet is going through this together and if we could remember that and use that as a bonding experience instead of a divisive experience that would be great.”
“We started with a story before Covid even happened so it’s just a universal message for all time, and because Covid happened it seems strikingly apparent now that the message of family and staying together even if you’re not together…I think its a universal message for all time too.”
Pegg brought up the important issue of ‘asking for help’ in the sub-text of the film, describing it as a “particularly male issue.”
“Buck is such a loner and is so used to doing everything for himself that the idea of relying on his friends or trusting someone to do something else is a little bit uncomfortable for him… as a guy asking for help from your female friends and to trust in them to take over…A lot of guys growing up are taught not to ask for help because it's seen as unmanly, which is terribly damaging and I think for the film to kind of address that is important…You trust the people around you, you’re heard.”
On a closing note the panelists discussed that while the film is “just enormous fun,” it is “all that serious stuff” behind it that gives the franchise it’s sticking power. Forte asserts that that is “the cornerstone of all the films…it’s gotta be about something, it’s have heart, it’s gotta have that emotional connection to these characters.