By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Funnyman Ray Romano, who has voiced woolly mammoth Manny in the “Ice Age” animated adventure comedies, may be slightly exaggerating when he says the franchise has lasted longer than the actual geological event did, but the popularity of the animated franchise, which began in 2002 with Blue Sky’s “Ice Age,” shows no signs of slowing down. Romano, along with John Leguizamo voicing silly Sid the Sloth and Denis Leary as Diego, the wary saber-toothed tiger, have entertained a generation of filmgoers with their fun-filled efforts to survive as the planet continues to transform.
Scrat, the recurring acorn-obsessed character from the short films that always precede the movies, sets the prehistoric heroes—and their growing brood—on yet another adventure in “Ice Age: Collision Course,” the fifth installment of the franchise. In pursuit of his beloved seed, Scrat accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that threaten the planet forcing Sid, Manny, Diego and their families to leave their icy homeland to embark on a quest to find a new place to live. On their journey they meet a host of colorful new characters. While they struggle to save the planet from being destroyed by an asteroid, they also have to deal with everyday family matters such as Manny realizing his little girl Peaches (voiced by Keke Palmer) is growing up, while Diego and his mate Shira (voiced by Jennifer Lopez) consider parenthood and Sid woos Francine (voiced by Melissa Rauch), a pretty sloth.
Although they have voiced the characters for more than a decade, the actors usually see each other only when it comes time to promote the film and attend the premieres. When they get together to talk about “Ice Age: Collision Course,” comedic icons Romano and Leguizamo let the one-liners fly.
Q: Since you record your voices separately, are you ever able to bounce off ideas with one another?
Leguizamo: We tried in “Ice Age 2,“ but it didn’t work because we all started over talking each other and they couldn’t separate our voices on the tapes, so they had to throw it away.
Q: How do you feel that Sid finally gets a girlfriend?
Leguizamo: Finally I got to link up and schmooze. And she’s hot, too. That Francine was high maintenance. She was a pain in my … sloth butt.
Romano: She’s hot in real life. In real life, she’s hot.
Leguizamo. Easy cowboy.
Q: How do you feel it’s improved you as a performer since you are alone when you’re doing all your lines and scenes?
Romano: It’s another skill you’ve got to develop, I’ll tell you that. From the beginning, it took me a while to get used to moving, to emote without being able to use my body. I don’t know where that helps you in acting but it is another skill.
Leguizamo: But do you think being a stand up comic helped you do the voices because you’re used to being in front of a mic by yourself?
Romano: Yeah, but you’re still feeding off the audience.
Leguizamo: You’ve got the crew. You can make them laugh.
Romano: Yeah, the crew is there.
Leguizamo: They’ll laugh. It’s complicated at first because there’s no cartoon. And then they draw according to your emotional cues, but you have to feel free. It takes a while to feel free. Then it’s great. You’re by yourself and no one is nagging you.
Romano: You don’t have to get dressed up.
Leguizamo: There’s no ego involved. There are no press agents wondering, “When’s my client going to get the time?”
Q: Do kids come up to you in public when they hear your voice because you sound like Manny?
Romano: I think the parents usually tell the kids first. It could go either way then.
Leguizamo: It always goes bad for me because Sid is a cute character, and then kids see me and they’re horrified. I try to warn dads that it’s not going to go well, that this has happened before. I do the voice and the kids get freaked out.
Romano: They can’t put it together but then there are kids that are fascinated by it. It goes either way, but it’s fun.
Q: What is the attraction of doing a movie like this?
Leguizamo: Money. Ray’s a rich billionaire. But the rest of us aren’t as rich as Ray.
Romano: That’s redundant—rich billionaire.
Q: Since you have played these characters four previous before, do you watch the earlier films each time you do another “Ice Age?” How do you get into character?
Romano: I’ve always had this one line from “Ice Age 1“ that gets me back in character. It’s when Sid is telling me they’re migrating to the south and I’m going north and I just say, “I’m not going, Sid.” I just say that over and over. I’m not kidding. Every recording session I just say that over and over. People don’t think I’m doing a voice but in my head I’m doing a voice. People say, “Oh. That’s what you sound like.” I go, “No, not in my head.”
Leguizamo: I’ve met 20 year olds who grew up with “Ice Age.“ They were five when the first one came out and now they’re grown people. And I was a lot older than 15 when this started.
Romano: Yeah the real Ice Age didn’t last this long.
Q: Was there a specific line or situation that was a challenge for you in any of the films?
Romano: There’s always a line that feels weird coming out of your mouth. You’ve got a little leeway. You can change it up a little. John, let me ask you because my character isn’t very open for improv. But your character is so extemporaneously shouting stuff. Do you wing it sometimes in the recording studio?
Leguizamo: Yeah. We do a little improvisation. I mean the lines are pretty darn funny the way they’re written, but there’s still room to goof off and ad lib. You’re right, my character yammers so I can yammer away any garbage. Then they’ll clean it up later.
Q: Ray, like Manny, you have kids that are growing up and maybe bringing home a date. How are you handling that?
Romano: Well, my daughter is out of the house already. She’s been out of the house for two years now, but when she was living at home my wife was in charge of hating the boys she brought home. She had an issue with every guy my daughter brought home for us to meet. And I was sitting back and I’m kind of over-protective too, but she was taking that lead role in that. But also I cut the guys a little slack because I was a guy like that. I was a slacker. I was a guy without a job. But I knew if he’s a good guy I’m okay with that. But when they leave, like what Manny is going through, I relate to it. It’s rough when your kids leave the house. But I’ve also got three boys who are not going anywhere for a long time.
Q: Do you guys recognize yourself in your animated characters?
Leguizamo: Well, they film us now (when we’re recording). They didn’t do that at the beginning. And then they use that to animate with.
Romano: They’ll film your movements and then they’ll draw to it so, sometimes, yeah. But we have to give credit to the animators. It’s fun. In “Ice Age,” the original, my character was reading those sketches on the wall of a cave and he saw his family. It got emotional. And I was looking at it like I was going to get credit for the emotion. People might start crying here and yet I had nothing to do with it. It was all the animators.
Q: “Ice Age” is such a hit in Latin America. Have you met your Spanish-speaking voiceover counterparts?
Leguizamo: I heard they do a better job than we do. That’s what I heard.
Romano: John, weren’t you been offered to do it?
Leguizamo: At the beginning I was offered to do it, but I was stupid, I passed on it.
Romano: Ice Age is huge in Mexico. Isn’t it?
Leguizamo: Yeah. It’s a family thing. We’re a really family-oriented culture. And “Ice Age” is all about family. The beautiful thing is that we show different species can make a family. It doesn’t matter where you come from, which is the more beautiful message of it all. It’s about loyalty, not blood.
Q: Do strangers ask you to do your “Ice Age” voice for them?
Romano: I had to leave a voice message once as Manny.
Leguizamo: I’ve done a few birthdays where I say, “Hi, kids. Happy birthday. It’s Sid. Stay in school.”
Q: The “Ice Age” characters have to leave their homes in a hurry because of a pending natural disaster. Do you have apocalypse kit and what’s in it?
Leguizamo: I live in New York so I have one. Because of (Hurricane) Sandy, I had a kayak for four people, Hazmat suits and gas masks.
Romano: For real?
Leguizamo: Yeah, and a lot of my friends do. Some of my friends have satellite phones. New Yorkers are paranoid. The first city that’s going to be taken out if we’re taken out is New York.
Romano: I got a flashlight and Cialis just in case I’m the last guy alive.
Leguizamo: You’ve got a lot of responsibility to rebreed.