A collection of thirteen Pixar award-winning short subjects.
Much has been made of Pixar's extraordinary twelve-year run at the pinnacle of feature-length animated filmmaking, but the studio's contributions to the world of short-form animation are no less remarkable. Although the animated short got its start in movie houses at the turn of the twentieth century (giving birth to such iconic cartoon characters as Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop and Popeye), over the years it all but disappeared from the cinema, pushed aside in favor of more movie trailers and a seemingly endless series of pre-show promotional announcements.
If only for their own films, Pixar changed all that, re-introducing the concept of pre-show entertainment with a series of animated shorts designed to precede their feature-length films. Although they're often discussed as an afterthought to the features that follow, each has individually managed to tap into the same audience-pleasing voodoo that seems to mark all of Pixar's work. In fact, over the years, I've found myself looking forward to the studio's opening shorts almost as much as I do the films themselves.
As such, cramming all of the studio's notable short films to date into one convenient package, 'The Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1' is a dream come true for fans like myself. The collection features all of the shorts that have appeared with Pixar's theatrical releases, as well as some of the studio's notable early animated efforts and the bonus shorts that have seen release as home video supplemental features. In all, there are 13 shorts included:
As I sat watching the entire collection, I found myself continually impressed by the raw storytelling skills on display -- even in the studio's very early days. With the exception of "The Adventures of Andre and Wally B" (essentially an anticlimactic quickie that lacks the narrative strength of later efforts), every one of the shorts use expression, music, and mood to convey a thousand words worth of dialogue. Three of the films -- "Geri's Game," "For the Birds," and "One Man Band" -- don't even include a single line of dialogue, yet they still manage to convey a nearly unmatched level of genuine emotion from their characters. Not to overstate matters, but most of the shorts register as cinema in its purest form.
It's tough to objectively point to any of the films as superior to any of the others, but I find that I particularly enjoy "Luxo Jr," "Knick Knack," "Geri's Game," and "One Man Band," all of which utilize a familiar whimsical abandon to tell tales of extraordinary emotional depth. Pixar made me believe that a lamp has feelings, a snowman in a snowglobe has everyday frustrations, an old man won't be undone by a world that's left him alone, and a young girl still has the ability to teach two adults a thing or two about life. In all, Pixar's shorts have been nominated for eight Academy Awards and have brought home the Oscar an impressive three times. Even so, the level of artistry on display makes me surprised that Pixar didn't earn all eight. "For the Birds" is one such winner and also happens to be my hands-down favorite, sending me into fits of laughter every time I see it. This time around, it even had my toddler son bouncing up and down, cheering for an awkward but lovable bird who inadvertently gives a batch of bullies what they deserve.
I do have a few minor issues with the consistency of this collection, but most boil down to a question of personal taste. First, companion pieces like "Mike's New Car," "Jack-Jack Attack," and "Mater and the Ghostlight" may not pack quite the same oomph for viewers who haven't seen the films they accompanies ('Monsters Inc,' 'The Incredibles,' and 'Cars' respectively). Second, "Lifted" -- an alien abduction spoof that appeared alongside 'Ratatouille' in theaters -- falls somewhat flat for me, if only because it relies on slapstick comedy instead of the brilliant character nuances of Pixar's more unassuming shorts. Finally, "Boundin" is little more than a musical fable that pushes its straight-forward moral home without tapping into the thematic subtleties exhibited in more resonant shorts. Still, even the weakest shorts in this collection are thoroughly enjoyable -- each one offers a unique look at the world, and no two feel alike. It's simply another testament to Pixar's quality and talent.
'The Pixar Animated Shorts Collection: Volume 1' is an essential companion piece that hits a homerun with nearly every swing. Kids will adore the shorts on their surface-level merits and adults will thoroughly enjoy the complexities and rich character development hidden just beneath the surface. While each viewer is likely to have an entirely different batch of favorites, the collection as a whole is a wonderful treat and shouldn't be missed by anyone.
The 'Pixar Short Films Collection' is presented with a gorgeous 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that further demonstrates Disney's commitment to visual quality with regards to high definition. I knew I would have a great time revisiting Pixar's shorts, but I honestly didn't expect to be wowed by the picture. That'll teach me to assume. In reality, most of the short films in the collection are as beautiful as the recent Blu-ray transfers of 'Cars,' and 'Ratatouille.' Colors leap off the screen, contrast is spot-on, and fine details are jaw-droppingly sharp. Simply take one look at the sparkle in Lightning McQueen's paint job in "Mater and the Ghostlight," the skin and clothing textures in "Geri's Game," or the hundreds of tiny feathers in every frame of "For the Birds." The depth and the dimension of the picture is downright eerie at times.
The only downside in the package is the presentation of some the earliest shorts. Given their age, I suppose it shouldn't surprise that "The Adventures of Andre and Wally B," "Luxo Jr," "Red's Dream" and "Tin Toy" just don't have the same vibrancy as the digital-to-digital transfers of the other more recent shorts, and are plagued by pixelation and drab colors. On the opposite end of the spectrum, "Knick Knack" was remastered for its theatrical release with 'Finding Nemo' and looks as stunning here as the modern shorts. But it begs the question -- why weren't all of the shorts updated to take complete advantage of their presentation on this release?
With that being said, I can hardly complain. Disney and Pixar have dropped three bombs on the landscape of high definition -- for the most part, like 'Cars' and 'Ratatouille,' the 'Pixar Short Films Collection' is a visual wonder that will simply take your breath away.
'The Pixar Short Films Collection' features a powerful PCM 5.1 surround mix (48 kHz/24-Bit/6.9 Mbps) that shook the room on several occasions. Music is the key element in the majority of the shorts and I'm happy to report that it isn't a front heavy affair. The surrounds are used to full effect to deliver an orchestra of treble whines and bass booms across the entire soundfield. The dancing melodies in "Geri's Game" and "One Man Band" are crisp and light -- the PCM track doesn't skip a beat and the audio quality isn't degraded in the slightest. "Mike's New Car," "Jack-Jack Attack," "Mater and the Ghostlight," and "Lifted" are the most striking of the bunch and showcase extremely aggressive soundscapes. Dynamics are particularly impressive and the LFE channel pumps plenty of low end presence into the various car engines and superpowers on display.
Like the video, my only nitpick is with the earlier shorts. "Knick Knack" once again receives the benefits of its remaster, but the four opening shorts don't pack nearly the same impact as their more modern brethren. "The Adventures of Andre and Wally B" is easily the weakest of the bunch (as it's merely presented in stereo). Still, comparing this disc to its standard-def counterpart, even the early shorts receive a noticeable high-def audio upgrade, so I can't complain too much. In the end, this disc sounds as good as it looks -- fans will be pleased to find out how much respect has been paid to this collection of astounding shorts.
This Blu-ray edition of the 'Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1' includes all of the supplemental content features from the concurrently-released standard-def DVD.
The 'Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1' is a rare treat -- a niche title produced with the same care and attention that blockbusters like 'Cars' and 'Ratatouille' are given. This Blu-ray edition features an excellent video transfer, a confident 24-Bit PCM audio track, and a nice offering of supplemental material. This one's definitely worth picking up for fans of Pixar and/or animated films in general.