Regina’s director of Ice Age evolution

His latest film has grossed over $800 million worldwide, but you probably won’t find Michael Thurmeier toasting his accomplishments at Hollywood parties or celebrating Christmas on a beach in Belize.

In this film publicity image released by 20th Century Fox

TORONTO — His latest film has grossed over $800 million worldwide, but you probably won’t find Michael Thurmeier toasting his accomplishments at Hollywood parties or celebrating Christmas on a beach in Belize.

The Regina-born director says he usually spends the winter holidays visiting family in Saskatchewan or Manitoba. And as for his success, he’s at a bit of a loss to explain the boffo box office of Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which came out Tuesday on DVD.

“(It) did really, outlandishly well, internationally,” Thurmeier said during a recent publicity stop in Toronto.

“It’s sort of shocking to everybody. … Feedback from what we hear outside the U.S. is that the family themes play really strong, particularly in Latin America, where family is hugely important.”

The franchise, about a motley group of prehistoric creatures, is the brainchild of Connecticut-based, Fox-owned, Blue Sky Studios and features the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary.

Thurmeier, 34, was hired by Blue Sky right out of Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont. He toiled away as an animator on the first Ice Age, which came out in 2002, and took on some supervising duties for Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, released in 2006.

Thurmeier received an Oscar nomination for the 2006 short film No Time for Nuts and, following that, he and Carlos Saldanha — who helmed the second Ice Age — took on co-directing duties for Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

The experience of directing a full-length feature gave Thurmeier a new perspective.

“When you’re in the trenches as an animator, it’s very easy to look at how the film is going and go: ‘Oh, we need to do this,’ ‘I would do that differently,”’ he said.

“It’s so daunting when all of a sudden you’re part of the team that’s responsible for absolutely every decision creatively and I had such a broader picture of the whole production and all the details and the difficulties that go into it.

“The flip side of it is it’s incredibly satisfying and you can see your ideas really up on the screen.”

Having young daughters (his girls are ages two and four) has also shaped what he puts on the screen. Thurmeier said he’s careful that the tone and style of his films aren’t too scary for young audiences. And he’s noticed a dearth of “cool movies” for girls, something he hopes to rectify.

Ice Age 3 was theatrically released in 3D, and the director said grappling with the technology was “an insane learning curve.”

But he acknowledges that the format is a way to bring audiences into theatres and give them an experience they can’t get at home.

As for whether there will be an Ice Age 4, Thurmeier is coy, while suggesting that the success of the latest film (it’s one of the top-grossing releases of the year) would make a sequel a no-brainer.

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