It doesn't take a paleontologist to know that there were no dinosaurs in the ice age. Yet Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs introduces said reptiles into the timeline in the third film.
But director Carlos Saldanha was ready to defend the historical accuracy of his family fantasy film. "Bring it on, bring it on," Saldanha joked in a press conference this month in Marina Del Rey, Calif.
In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) discover an underground world where dinosaurs still live. The character of Ellie (Queen Latifah) even acknowledges that she thought dinosaurs had been extinct by the time of the ice age. So even the ice age characters knew there shouldn't be dinosaurs around.
"It's not so much that dinosaurs lived in the ice age," Saldanha said. "The concept was more [that] they discovered this world of dinosaurs that nobody knew existed. So we tapped into that. We weren't going for the Discovery Channel kind of accuracy. We were going for the fun of 'What if these two worlds lived in the same spot?' and how much fun we can have with that."
Romano offered another explanation of dinosaurs existing in the ice age. "Also, in your defense, when you say dinosaurs weren't in the ice age, well, animals don't really talk, either," Romano said during the same press conference.
The Ice Age filmmakers say they pay respect to real science in other ways. As co-director of the first film, Saldanha recalls checking in with paleontologists from the Museum in Natural History in New York, who OK'd everything about the first movie. That is, as long as the filmmakers assured him there would be no dinosaurs in it. Perhaps Saldanha had his fingers crossed when he made that promise.
"We knew it," Saldanha said. "When the third one came, when the concept came through, discovering this world of dinosaurs, we took creative liberty to make something that was entertaining, fun and not trying to go for the scientific accuracy. We just created this parallel world that never collided until this movie."
Romano chimed in again. "By the way, 90 percent of the population doesn't know that dinosaurs didn't exist during the ice age, so don't tell anybody."
The filmmakers did make one artistic decision based on evolutionary science. Their dinosaurs do not speak English like the rest of their prehistoric cast. "Well, the concept behind it was that dinosaurs were creatures from a long time ago, so that's why they don't talk," Saldanha said. "They didn't evolve as much as our guys."
To Romano, this part was realistic. "Now, come on, dinosaurs don't talk," Romano deadpanned. "That's ridiculous."
Romano should be happy about the addition of dinosaurs to the story: They define his entire character motivation for the third film.
"Manny as a character was always the biggest thing on Earth," Saldanha said. "On the third one, we said, 'OK, let's play with that.' Part of the character story of Manny in this movie was about him overcoming his own fears and him also thinking he could control the world. He could have the baby and make the world perfect for the baby. So the dinosaurs created this ginormous obstacle that, in a way, made him realize that he needs much more than just his ego that is there to have this life with the baby and have a life with the friends."
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs opens July 1.