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Recommended
4 stars
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
2.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Film Collection

Street Date:
August 18th, 2015
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
August 13th, 2015
Movie Release Year:
2015
Studio:
Disney/Buena Vista
Length:
79 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated G
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The shorts in the 'Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection' run the spectrum from outrageously goofy to startlingly somber. On one hand you have Goofy trying to hook up his new home theater system in one of his patented anti-how-to videos, and on the other you have 'The Little Matchgirl,' which ends on one of the most depressingly realistic notes any Disney movie has ever ended on. Suffice it to say, the collection is eclectic.

Perhaps the most intriguing and interesting aspect of this newly curated collection of shorts is the varied forms of animation depicted throughout. There's the roughly sketched line drawings of 'John Henry' which provide a rustic throwback to Disney's 2D animation heyday; or the blending of 2D hand-drawn animation and CGI wizardry in “Paperman,” and “Lorenzo,” which offers a glimpse into what's possible when these two techniques are seamlessly intermingled. Every film has a different style, and picking up on the nuanced differences in animation techniques is part of the fun.

This collection contains 12 of Disney Animation's short films. Films like 'Tangled Ever After' and 'Frozen Fever' were attempts to expand on well-known Disney properties meant to lure people to the theaters in order to see them. While those two shorts may provide the most probable pathway to marketing this set, they aren't the films that really stand out. Sure, they're sort of amusing -- we get to see Pascal and Maximus engage in animal-related hijinks, or revisit the land of Arendelle for Anna's birthday party -- but at best they're pleasant distractions.

It's the more experimental films of this collection that really shine. 'Lorenzo,' a short film from 2004, conjures up 'Fantasia'-like emotions when a fat blue cat's tail is cursed by an evil black sorcerer cat. This shouldn't surprise anyone as 'Lorenzo' was originally meant to be included in a third 'Fantasia' film, 'Fantasia 2006,' until the project was shelved.  Once Lorenzo's tail is cursed the film jumps off into a bizarre cartoony nightmare where the fat blue cat is tormented by his sentient appendage. It's beautifully animated (set to the wonderfully lush piece of music “Bordoneo y 900”) as watercolor paintings come to life through the aide of computer animation. It's one of my favorite shorts in the collection.

There's something for everyone here. Yes, these short film collections might feel like cash grabs, but it's nice that many of these shorts are ones that are hard to access any other way. Whereas the Pixar shorts are attached to each film once it's released on home video, some of these Disney Animation shorts have been relatively lost for years.

I still can't get over how gloomy 'The Little Matchgirl' is. I must confess that even though the film was created in 2006 and released as an extra on the Platinum Edition of 'The Little Mermaid' DVD, I had never seen it and it's going to stick with me for a while. As an adaption of Hans Christian Andersen's “The Little Girl with the Matches,” 'The Little Matchgirl' shows us the unforgiving depression and coldness that Russian orphans in the late 1800s were forced to endure. There's not much that can prepare you for that ending, but like all good short films it establishes itself quickly, tells its story flawlessly, and ends on a note that leaves you a little stunned.

As a fan of animation and short films this is a collection right up my alley. The wide variety of stories condensed into a brisk 79 minutes is an invigorating experience. 

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

This is a 2-disc set that comes with a DVD/Digital Copy and a 50GB Blu-ray disc. The discs are packed in a standard keepcase that comes with a slipcover.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Even with the wide variety of animation techniques, each film in the collection displays its own unique, but flawless visuals. None of the features, even the older ones like 'John Henry,' seem to display any noticeable artificial tweaking of the source. 'John Henry' comes complete with its rough animation, almost like we're watching a sketchbook come to life.

The fully CGI films like 'Frozen Fever' and 'Tangled Ever After' mirror their feature-length counterparts when it comes to providing a perfectly detailed animated image. 

Shadows and dark areas are free from noise across every film. For a great example of the true inky depths of the blacks harbored within just watch 'Lorenzo.' Colors are strikingly clear and vibrant. I didn't notice any egregious banding or aliasing. 'John Henry' features some color fill flickering, but chalk that up to the source material and Disney not overly messing with it.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English mix is standard across all films. As for foreign languages, they're sparser and spread out. Not every film contains the same foreign language tracks.

The music bellows through every channel in the music-centric films. 'Lorenzo's tango is packed with full-bodied bass that resonates through the subwoofer as well as any action film explosion. Rear channels are surprisingly packed with sound in films like 'Paperman' (the business of the city, and the paper planes churning into a wind-blown frenzy) and 'Tangled Ever After'. 

Clarity is top-notch. Even the older films aren't hampered with any noise or distortion in the track. Dialogue is heard clearly whenever it's spoken. Directionality is superb. The consistency between films was the worry, and now that worry is laid to rest.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Note: Also included in here is a Disney Movie Anywhere (DMA) version of 1995's 'Runaway Brain.' You will need to redeem your Disney Movie Rewards code to gain access to this short. This is a strange way to include this since 'Runaway Brain' is one of Disney's most popular shorts and has a cult following. Just give it equal billing with the rest of the shorts on the disc and make it a baker's dozen.

  • Disney Animation: The Short Story about Shorts (HD, 7 min.) – Actor T.J. Miller hosts a quick Disney Animation roundtable, which discusses the various forms of animation technology used in Disney shorts and how they're developed.

  • Filmmaker Introduction (HD, 10 min.) – There's an option provided that you can play each short with an introduction from the filmmakers. Each intro is around a minute long or so, usually less. Most of them talk very briefly about the inspiration for the short and the steps they took in development to get a completed product.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no Blu-ray exclusives provided here.

Final Thoughts

It's understandable that a shorts collection isn't for everyone. However, this collection of Disney shorts provides an easy way to see some of these lesser known films. One can marvel at the endless variety of animation techniques and technology, while becoming involved in a dozen disparately different stories. With a wonderful visual presentation, and some stellar audio, the 'Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection' comes recommended.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Supplements

  • Filmmaker Intros - The filmmakers behind the shorts share their journeys and introduce their films.
  • @DisneyAnimation: A Short Story on Shorts - Continuing a legacy started in the earliest days of the Studio by Walt Disney, the Shorts Program is thriving today at the Animation Studios that bears his name, producing award-winning shorts that tell new stories and experiment with artistic and technical innovations. This latest chapter in the @DisneyAnimation series gives us an inside look at the process of developing and producing a short. Hosted by actor/comedian T.J. Miller (voice of "Fred," Big Hero 6), we will meet a few of the artists and filmmakers who make the shorts, and learn why they are such an important part of the fabric of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Round Table Panelists include Lauren MacMullan (Get A Horse!), Mike Gabriel (Lorenzo), Kristina Reed (Feast, Paperman), Stevie Wermers-Skelton and Kevin Deters (the team behind The Ballad of Nessie, Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa, How to Hook Up Your Home Theater).

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