Why Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is more of a family affair

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Queen Latifah, who provides the voice of Ellie in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, told reporters that audiences will meet a different mammoth from the one she played in the previous animated movie, Ice Age: The Meltdown: This third installment begins with Ellie and Manny (Ray Romano) expecting their first baby mammoth.

"Ellie has grown so much since the last movie," Latifah said in a press conference earlier this month in Marina del Rey, Calif. "She's married now. She's got a baby on the way. She grows so much between the last film and this one, because the last one she thought she was a possum. She was kind of like a big kid. She wanted to play with her brothers all the time, and she hung from a tree by her tail, for that matter. Now she's a little more mature, so it's really about kind of making sure she had that nurturing warmth in her voice, and she seems to be a voice of reason, really pushing [Manny] to go make up with Sid [John Leguizamo]. If things are wrong, she's always trying to push people back together, so it was really just trying to bring that kind of love to the character."

Having that sort of female influence in the boy animals' club reminded Romano of his old sitcom days. "The dynamic, not to bring up my show, but Everybody Loves Raymond, my show, was like I was the voice of reason, because there were crazy characters," Romano said during the same press conference. "The brother, the mother, they were all nuts, and I kind of had to keep that glue together. But then the wife was really the overall voice of reason, because then I was the crazy one, which is kind of the same [in Ice Age.] I thought [Sid] was crazy; it was about me trying to keep him [in check], but then you kind of reel us all in."

If the series continues, a sequel could take the mammoths to the next level of family as parents of a young mammoth girl, whom they name Peaches at the end of Dawn. "I think that there's a lot to play with us having a daughter now," Latifah said. "Kids grow up so fast in these movies, so I definitely would like to see some fun happen around that."

Romano expects mammoth daddy issues to resemble human ones. "Peaches won't want anything to do with me," Romano said. "Yeah, I guess the natural progression is the kids will get older. We don't want to be grandparents."

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs opens July 1.