Ice Age Originally Planned To Kill Off A Main Character

The Ice Age movies have been a family favorite franchise for 20 years, but the original plan in the first film was to kill off one of the main characters. With Ice Age being one of the earlier computer-animated movies, Blue Sky Studios didn't know they had a future franchise in the making, or that audiences would respond so affectionately to Manny, Diego, Sid. In molding the best version of the story of a mammoth, a sloth, and a saber-tooth tiger setting out to return a human baby to his tribe, the filmmakers decided that the story needed a noble sacrifice, with the death of one of the trio.

In Ice Age, woolly mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), and ground sloth Sid (a perfectly cast John Leguizamo) rescue a human baby. They are joined on their quest to return him to his tribe by saber-tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary), who is secretly leading them into an ambush by his pack. Following a series of misadventures the unlikely travel companions bond, and when Manny saves Diego's life, he has a change of heart. Diego protects them from his pack but is severely wounded in the fight. Manny and Sid are forced to leave in order to catch the humans and assume Diego has died. Upon returning the baby to his tribe though, they are then surprised and relieved to see Diego return, limping, but alive.

Related: Watch The Ice Age 4 Short Scrat's Continental Crack-Up

In the original ending of Ice Age, Diego wasn’t so lucky. The plan was to kill off the character, dying of his wounds. This death of a major character got as far as being screened for test audiences, but children in the audience burst into tears when Diego’s death was shown. Voice actor Denis Leary had warned Ice Age's producers that this would happen, and the scene was re-written to show Diego surviving his injury. Killing off a main character would have ended the movie on a dour note, at odds with the tone of the hijinks and comedy that preceded it. However, it would have also been a bold move for the film, giving it more gravitas and probably resulting in Ice Age joining the distinguished ranks of other family movies with tearjerker deaths such as The Lion King and Bambi.

The revised ending in Ice Age does certainly feel like an afterthought, especially in light of both Diego's character arc and how his "death" scene is shown. It's structured, acted, animated, and scored to seemingly bid goodbye to the tiger. It doesn't seem as if the scene was altered in any meaningful way, presumably due to the time and cost of doing so, as well as the fact that it's one of the most emotional scenes in the film (at least on first viewing). It was no doubt far easier to just add some additional animation at the end of the movie than rework the whole sequence. The explanation for Diego's remarkable recovery however is somewhat lackluster, with him shrugging it off with a quip of "nine lives, baby!" The fate of Ice Age’s other saber-tooth tigers though was probably not so bright.

While Diego was integral to the first Ice Age movie, its sequels have struggled to give his character anything meaningful to do. From a franchise perspective (as well as not traumatizing kids) it was probably the right decision to have Diego survive. Now that Disney has acquired the Ice Age franchise in the Disney/Fox merger, they might be able to use the character better. However, if Ice Age had remained a stand-alone movie, from a story perspective the original plan to kill him off would have been a strong end for the character.

Next: Every Movie Franchise Disney Has Bought From Fox

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