As they race to develop digital animation divisions and franchises that can compete with Pixar, most studios have adopted Pixar's successful recipe for targeting both child and adult audiences with the same film: 1) Start with characters and situations designed to appeal to young audiences that lend themselves to toy lines and advertising tie-ins. 2) Appeal to parents and guardians by mixing in dialogue and mise-en-scène peppered with references to contemporary politics, pop culture, and homage to other, more mature, films. 3) Sit back and watch the revenues pour in.
Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha's 2002 film Ice Age took a slightly different approach. Instead of trying to satisfy the intellects of these parents and guardians, they appealed to their sense of nostalgia for the cartoons of their youth. Ice Age recalls the animated shorts of Chuck Jones, specifically his creation Wile E. Coyote. Scrat (Chris Wedge) is essentially a vegetarian update of the character (although curiously with bigger teeth), with a taste for giant acorns instead of roadrunners. While the film's striking, minimalist winter landscapes invoke the spare desert settings of Jones' films.
In Ice Age: The Meltdown, the franchise's second installment, director Saldanha (now flying solo) has come back to the fold a bit. There is a marked increase in the amount of citation, subtext, and adult humor ("You're not saving the species tonight or any other night," Queen Latifah's Ellie tells Ray Romano's Manny). For the kiddies there's more Scrat and two new cute characters, the possums Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). Meanwhile, the vast fields of snow have been replaced in large measure by more traditional woodsy backgrounds.
The film clearly reflects the contemporary unease surrounding the issues of global warming and Hurricane Katrina. Manny and company discover that the ice is melting and that their valley is in imminent danger of catastrophic flooding (they "live in a bowl"). They evacuate, prompting one character (Jason Fricchione's "Molehog Grandpa") to resist, saying "I was born in this hole, I'm gonna die in this hole."