Friday, 7 October 2016

'Ice Age' | Character Archetypes

Throughout filmic history, the idea of an Archetype has always been present, allowing stories to build a framework of characters, which ensures that the tale is not only readable but relatable. Now obviously there are numerous examples of classic stories and films that don't choose to pigeon hole their characters into these Archetypes, potentially allowing for a more original story, but when searched for hard enough, character Archetypes can always be found on one level or another. These Archetypes can be split down into essential roles that need to be filled for the story to progress and build, whether it be the almighty hero character, the un-readable trickster or the devious shadow, these roles are all essential to a story and can most definitely be identified. A strong example of these Archetypes presence could be in the 2002 animated feature Ice Age, directed by Carlos Saldanha and Chris Wedge.

Fig 1: Movie Poster, Ice Age

Ice Age not only utilizes these roles, but also attempts to 'double up' on them as well, creating a more rich and unpredictable story, a tale that has been described as "a pleasure to look at and scarcely less fun as a story" (Ebert, 2002). Now although arguably questionable due to its nature of change, Archetypes exist in 9 forms, all present in most films and certainly present in this animated epic. The 2002 animated feature highlights perfect examples of these roles throughout, and even uses the same character for multiple Archetypes, creating not only a more interesting film, but also a more condensed cast of characters that audiences have most certainly grown to love.

The first Archetype that is usually identified is 'The Hero', in Ice Age's case, this role is arguably filled in the form of a trio, as Manfred, Sid and Diego begin their trek across the plains to return the lost child to its parents. Now although these characters do fill the role of 'Hero', its certainly worth noting that all three of the prehistoric pals actually go onto fill another Archetype each, ultimately giving the story a more relatable edge as audiences will generally find it more convincing if the hero of the story isn't simply a one dimensional character, Freer states that "sharply-defined relationship dynamics and likable characters that are worth rooting for" (Freer, 2015) are a real quality this film carries, which certainly reinforces the idea of multi dimensional characters being evident. This idea of Dual roles leads this review nicely onto the next Archetype, 'The Sidekick'. Often used as a form of comic relief, 'The Sidekick' will accompany the soul hero on their quest and provide some much needed laughter, often getting into the odd scrape along the way. In Ice Age, this role is undoubtedly taken by the loveable sloth, Sid. As Manfred leads the quest, Sid is always close by to ask a ridiculous question or lead the group into an accidental shambles. It is also definitely worth mentioning the side character of Scrat at this point, a character that doesn't really ever come into contact with the main heroes but supplies numerous accounts of comic relief throughout the film, essentially qualifying him for the role of sidekick, if Sid is the sidekick to the hero, then Scrat is the sidekick to the entire feature. The next Archetype is 'The Maiden', in this particular film 'The Maiden' isn't as easily identifiable as the groups sole purpose is to return the lost child, however the role is filled none the less. As the story progress' the audience is shown brief clips of the child's heartbroken mother, leading the viewer to form a bond with the mother and further root for our trio of hero's. This character of the mother does seem to occupy the maiden role, as it is essentialally the trio's goal to reach said maiden.

Fig 2: Screenshot, Ice Age

Just like 'The Maiden', the role of 'The Mentor' is also a little difficult to identify as the group doesn't necessarily find a mentor along their journey. None the less it is Manfred who takes the role, as the stubborn Mammoth can be seen as a mentor to not only the child, but also Sid and Diego as he seems to be slightly older than the rest of the group and has a strong moral compass that he projects onto the group on numerous occasions throughout the film. The next Archetype is 'The Mother' a role that is often filled by a slightly older character that shows compassion and kindness throughout the story, in Ice Age this is no different, as the child's mother shows compassion throughout the story and displays countless other 'Motherly' qualities as she is literally a mother herself. The Archetype of 'The Child' is also a literal one, as the child that the heroes are returning home is literally an infanr, a character that doesn't really understand what is going on the majority of the time and finds themselves innocently stuck in trouble. It is also interesting to mention that at times the character of Sid also occupies this Archetypal role, as he can also be seen to display child-like features along the duration of the quest.

Now comes an Archetype that is potentially the most identifiable within a story, 'The Shadow', the bad guy, the character that seems set on destroying the hopes of the hero or potentially embodies the reason our hero is on their quest. In the case of Ice Age, this role is taken by the villainous Sabretooth Soto, a character that is attempting to carry out an evil deed throughout the entire story. Now, the same character fills the Archetypes of 'Shapeshifter' and 'Trickster', this character being Diego, the Sabretooth that accompanies the heroes for the entirety of their quest and is in his own right a hero himself. However it cannot be ignore that the Sabretooth does possess the qualities of these more villainous roles. Throughout the journey Diego is struggling with his own carnivorous demons and his secret agenda to deliver the other heroes to the villain of Soto. However, Diego eventually realizes that his loyalties regarding the villainous pack of Sabretooth Tiger's and much less valuable than the friends he has found in the Loveable Sloth and Mammoth, resulting in the changed Diego owning up to his scheme and ultimately saving the day, redeeming his heroic qualities.

Fig 3: Screenshot, Ice Age

The 2002 animated classic that is Ice Age perfectly illustrates the ways in which these character Archetypes can be molded and utilized to shape extremely interesting and loveable characters, ultimately allowing for a much richer and enjoyable story. There is no doubt that these roles within stories will continue to be met in tales of the future, simply because they work and are effortlessly relatable. Not only did Ice Age prove to be a strong example of these Archetypes at work, it continues to be a story flush with loveable characters that audiences adore, as Vasquez Jr. puts it "This is a charmer full of laughs" (Vasquez Jr., 2009), a statement that's rather difficult to disagree with.


Ebert, Roger, 2002, Ice Age,, Accessed on: 07.10.16

Freer, Ian, 2015, Ice Age Review,, Accessed on: 07.10.16

Vasquez Jr., Felix, 2009,, Accessed on: 07.10.16

 Illustration List

Fig 1: Poster, Ice Age,, Accessed on: 07.10.16

Fig 2: Screenshot, Ice Age,, Accessed on: 07.10.16

Fig 3: Screenshot, Ice Age,'s_Saber_Pack, Accessed on: 07.10.16

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