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‘Ice Age’ director turns over new leaves

Chris Wedge wanted realist look for fantasy forest world his animated film “Epic.” | Astrid Stawiarz~Getty Images

Chris Wedge wanted a realist look for the fantasy forest world of his animated film “Epic.” | Astrid Stawiarz~Getty Images

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Updated: June 27, 2013 6:30AM

Man cannot live in an Ice Age forever.

That’s why director-writer-producer Chris Wedge abandoned Manny, Sid, Scrat and company (at least for the moment) to take a walk in the woods.

“We’ve all been there, but have we ever really seen the woods?” Wedge says.

In “Epic” (now in theaters), a teen finds herself jettisoned to the deep forest, where there is a battle between forces of good and evil. Voice talent includes Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Pitbull and Beyonce as — what else? —a queen.

1 What was the inspiration for “Epic”?

It’s easy to imagine that there is a hidden world in any forest. We don’t normally see it because we just don’t look closely enough. In my mind, I saw this world including these leaf men and women take little rides on hummingbirds while the bad guys ride on bats. After three incarnations of writing the story, I finally got it right.

2 You’ve made it clear you didn’t want to do the standard summer animated fare.

I wanted this to feel less like an animated movie and more like an epic action adventure film. That’s why I wanted to make this world more realistic than any other world I had ever done. It was about adding a lot of details that we wouldn’t normally add, like making the humans and the world have more texture and details. Of course, there is still a lot of fun. For instance, a blackbird in the woods makes for a very noble-looking jet ride if you’re a leaf man.

3 Do you ever resent the label that you’re making these movies just for kids?

I didn’t set out to make a family movie. I set out to make a movie I thought would be fun for anyone to watch. Sure, I would have run to see this movie at 11, but I’d go see it now. I also wanted to make people think about the world and provoke imaginations at any age. I took some inspiration from old-fashioned fun movies, too, like “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and “Star Wars.”

4 How tough was it to get Queen Beyonce?

I have my wily ways. Beyonce saw the material and really liked it. From the start, I wanted her to play Queen Tara, the life of the forest. But it had to be an update of an animated queen. In this movie, she doesn’t just sit there on a throne. She’s a powerful warrior. In the recording studio, I found that Beyonce had a very commanding speaking voice.

5 We can’t let you go before asking about the next “Ice Age” film.

I don’t think kids will have to hold their breath for long. We will make another “Ice Age,” but we can’t do it until we have the right story.

Big Picture News Inc.

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