In recent years, the “Ice Age” series has mostly been forgotten or maligned. The series’ first four films were box-office hits, but by the release of the fifth film, the bizarre, slapdash sequel “Ice Age: Collision Course” in 2016, in which the series officially jumped the shark and sent Scrat to space, it seemed the world had moved on from the herd’s exploits. But I’ve always admired “Ice Age,” in ways that have garnered me a reputation (yes, I am the Jesus Scrat guy).
In February 2021, two years after Disney acquired 20th Century Fox, Disney announced they would be shutting down Blue Sky Studios, the production company behind “Ice Age,” which was a heartbreaking announcement for a wide variety of reasons.
To add insult to injury, Disney announced a sixth film in the franchise, produced by an entirely different animation studio on a shoestring budget with none of the original voice cast, save for Simon Pegg as Buck Wild, and inexplicably, no Scrat, despite him being the series’ de facto mascot.
Then, in February 2022, a year after the announcement of Blue Sky’s closure, their final completed project was revealed: “Ice Age: Scrat Tales,” a series of six shorts for Disney+ showcasing Scrat raising a son, Baby Scrat, while also continuing his Sisyphean pursuit of the beloved acorn.
Scrat is a delightfully old-fashioned character archetype. In an era where our mascots are mostly sanitized and kind, Scrat is and always has been a bit of a bastard. He’ll mow down anything and everything in the name of his acorn, including, quite possibly, this adorable child, and that’s what makes the slapstick work.
If Scrat wasn’t so devious, it would just be cruel to watch this poor squirrel be put through the wringer. But as the series progresses, we see Baby Scrat’s deviousness is on par with that of his adoptive father, if not surpassing it entirely.
The episodes themselves are very short at about four minutes each and harken back to the best of Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese, with delightfully animated physical comedy that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
The first episode, “Nuts About You,” is an adorable showcase of the joys of parenthood for exactly as long as it needs to be before we’re reminded of what Scrat’s true mission in life is. It’s a pitch-dark premise to see Scrat feuding with a child, but it really, really works, making for some seriously funny moments.
“Lofi Scrat Beats to Sleep/Chill To” is possibly the funniest of the bunch, getting a big laugh out of me every time Baby Scrat pulled out a new “instrument.” “X’s and Uh-O’s” is pretty low-key for much of its runtime but will still be relatable and hilarious to anyone who’s ever had to train a new coworker. “Nutty Reflections” is the most surreal, offering the closest thing to introspection Scrat has ever had in his 20 years of screentime.
“Teeter Toddler” shows the first hints of Scrat and Baby Scrat truly warming up to one another, culminating in “Nut the End,” which simply needs to be seen to be believed.
It explores a what-if scenario that at first is endearing, then quickly falls in line with all that came before. The title itself, a play on “not the end,” seems like an act of bittersweet defiance. Although this short is the final project of Blue Sky Studios, it’s not the end for all of the immensely talented artists who have poured their souls into the company.
But if this truly is the last we’ll see of Scrat, it’s the perfect sendoff for such an iconic character.
“Ice Age: Scrat Tales” is remarkably tight, side-splittingly funny and brilliantly animated. It’s often hard to let go of a seemingly never-ending story like Scrat’s, but something this heartfelt and witty eases the blow a little bit. And with how the “Ice Age” franchise seemed to run itself into the ground toward the end, this is for the best. “Scrat Tales” seized an opportunity to redeem the franchise and went out on a high note.