Plate Tectonics by Squirrel– “Ice Age: Continental Drift”

Note: This is cross-posted on my geology blog Georneys here.

My friend Arthur just made my day by sending me a link to the teaser for the 4th installment of the “Ice Age” movie series. This clip is adorable but also completely ridiculous scientifically.

This clip makes me smile and laugh, but I do worry– a little– about young children believing in plate tectonics by sabre-toothed squirrel after watching this movie. I think most children are smart enough to figure out that plate tectonics (which isn’t called continental drift, by the way) doesn’t really happen by squirrel. However, I wonder if there’s any way to talk 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios into including an extra on the DVD or on their movie website that explains how plate tectonics really works. Even just a two or three minute clip– it could even be a cartoon– with a proper scientific explanation would be wonderful. I know that many children watch all of the extras on their favorite movies religiously.

If I wrote a letter and tracked down the contact information for the people in charge of the “Ice Age” movies, would other geologists [added: and scientists and skeptics] also write letters and help me with my campaign? Note that I don’t want them to change their script– I just want them to include some educational information as a sort of extra. There is plenty of time for this campaign as the movie is not scheduled to come out until 2012. I’ll get started on my research, but please reply below or send me an email if you’d be willing to support my effort– even if it’s just signing a letter that I write to Fox.

Also, I have a few connections to the entertainment industry through some skeptical friends of mine. I’ll do some networking and try to come up with the best way to reach Fox & Blue Sky Studios, the two organizations in charge of this movie.


Evelyn is a geologist, writer, traveler, and skeptic residing in Cape Town, South Africa with frequent trips back to the US for work. She has two adorable cats; enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking; and has a very large rock collection. You can follow her on twitter @GeoEvelyn. She also writes a geology blog called Georneys.

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  1. I’m not really concerned that children will take this seriously,but I do think you have a great idea to see if Fox & Blue Sky Studios could use the DVD extras as an opportunity to teach some basic geologic science.Very smart!Could be a good marketing opportunity for them as well.Win-Win is the way that I would present it to them.Good luck!

  2. I thought the clip was hilarious but a good part of the reason was because they mangled the science in such a silly way. (Giraffes got long necks because they were stretching across a rift when it occurred? This is much funnier if you are familiar with Lamarckism.)

    I know when I was a kid I would have loved an annotated “Can you find the mistakes?” version of the trailer, with explanations. But then, I was a very nerdy kid…

  3. I agree with tmac57 that I don’t think kids will take it all too seriously, but the idea to use DVD extras an an educational opportunity is awesome and I fully support this endeavor (especially as an educator myself.)

  4. How do you know that’s not how it happened? Were you there?

    I don’t think that trailer would be all that funny if one didn’t already know about drift. Except the last bit on the iceberg. That’s hilarious no matter what.

    But agreement with the others that adding science can never be bad.

  5. Hehe, that was actually pretty funny. And I think part of why is how ridiculous the whole thing is. Like Wile E. Coyote not being affected by gravity until he remembers he’s floating in midair. Scientific accuracy in cartoons would make a lot of them boring.

    But I’m all for the extras idea. Shoot, when it showed that cut out of the layers of the earth, I immediately thought that when the kids who see this get to that point in their science class, they may see the diagrams in their books and be more interested because of the association with the cartoon. Actually having a science lesson bundled with the movie would be fantastic. I know I would’ve watched it when I was a kid.

  6. I think the idea with the extras is awesome!! I would totally watch that as a kid, and I would probably love to watch it as much as an adult! I know a few adults who love the Ice Age movies, and they look at all the extra footage/bonus features. They would find it all very interesting. If they found a cute and creative way to do it as a cartoon, I think it would work perfectly with the movie as bonus features. I can’t imagine why it would be a bad idea. Unless, of course, they just don’t have the extra funds to do it (or think that it wouldn’t make much of a difference as far as getting more money in return for the extra work that would need to be done to make the science bonus features).

    I would, for sure, sign on with this!!!

  7. Kids don’t watch Extras, unless they’re funny, or include their fav idol of the day.
    AS for adding science to a kids vid..good luck ! Animation is not cheap and the bean-counters probably wont allow it.
    So please let children be children, with all their absurd notions of the beginning of things, and strange imaginings.. it gets very serious way to quick these days.
    Tell them what you think is the truth by all means. Most children will work these things out, or with your help, learn, …by asking.

  8. The entire animation (which is very cute and funny) proceeds pretty much exactly like a creation myth.


  9. Unfortunately it isn’t children you need to worry about – 80 % of America believe the earth was pretty much the same 6000 – 10000 years ago as it is today! Those are the ones that scare me! And they probably don’t let their children watch these movies – they are to busy visiting creationist museums.

  10. Anyone remember “Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land”? (Check it out on YouTube). I saw it in one of my HS math classes, and it left a pretty solid impression on me–I remember some of the material 40 years later. That was a full-length program and was undoubtedly much more expensive than a short clip would be. I think/hope that a brief science sound- and video-bite would not be too expensive to produce and would be extremely well-received by children and adults alike.

    Sort of a public service announcement by the studio, but instead of trying to imprint some sort of moral lesson, such clips would have the objective goal of teaching a bit of honest-to-FSM science. I like it very much. And the studios would have no problem getting all the free editorial/accuracy help they need from science teachers who are sick and tired of the nonsense that passes for science in advertisements and most TV programs.

  11. @prfesser:

    LOVED that movie. Also a big Magic School Bus fan as a kid. I’m not a parent now and since I teach high school, I feel constantly out of touch, but do they have any contemporary science/math/logic based programs for kids?

    As for the money question- I’m sure they could very easily market this towards schools. If it’s even half as well done as the terrible historical reenactment videos I’ve seen schools purchase, then it will be a goldmine.

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