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Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 1
DVD Released: 11/6/2007
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/2/2007
Are you a fan of greatest hits albums? Some people are and some aren't. If you already have all of the music by your favorite artist, then why by it again? On the other hand, it can be nice to have all of the best work by a particular group in one convenient package. This argument can be made for Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 1. Sure, most of these are available on other DVDs, but fans will enjoy having them all together.
Today, Pixar is world-renowned for its full-length films like Toy Story and Monsters Inc. But, in the beginning, the fledgling group concentrated on animated shorts to show off their talent and perfect the hardware and software which went into creating these technological wonders. Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 1 collects 13 of these shorts, spanning 23 years. They show the evolution not only of the technology, but of the storytelling talent of the Pixar crew.
The shorts included here are:
"The Adventures of Andre & Wally B." (1984) (2 minutes) An odd creature in a
fez meets a bumble-bee. No dialogue. Definitely an experiment.
"Luxo Jr." (1986) (2 minutes) This is where the famous desk-lamp icon comes from. 20 years later and it's still charming.
"Red's Dream" (1987) (4 minutes) A unicycle fantasizes about performing with a clown in a circus. Just say no to drugs. The animation is good, but the clown's face is somewhat boxy.
"Tin Toy" (1988) (5 minutes) Clearly a pre-cursor to Toy Story. A toy soldier is terrified of a violent toddler. Hey, I wasn't even in the movie and I was terrified of the toddler. Even given the age of this short, the baby animation looks crude...and scary.
"Knick Knack" (1989) (3 1/2 minutes) A snowman trapped in a snow-globe wants to get out and play with the other souvenirs on the shelf. One of the more Looney Tunes-like of the shorts.
"Geri's Game" (1998) (5 minutes) If I were going to give kudoes to the Pixar short with the best twist ending, then it would have to be this one. Fans will remember that Geri had a cameo in Toy Story 2. A stellar leap in the detail of the animation.
"For the Birds" (2001) (3 minutes) A gawky birds tries to fit in a with a group of little birds sitting on a power line. Short, sweet, and funny.
"Mike's New Car" (2002) (4 minutes) A classic. Yes, it's all about slapstick and cheap jokes, but the jokes work and these are two characters of which I never tire. Great looking animation.
"Boudin'" (2004) (5 minutes) A vain sheep loves to dance until he gets shorn. A jackalope must teach the sheep to dance again. The rare Pixar short set to a song with lyrics. Very 3-D animation and nice water effects.
"Jack-Jack Attack" (2005) (5 minutes) Similar to "Mike's New Car" as it builds upon a scene from a feature-length film. Kari the baby-sitter must contend with the super-powered baby Jack-Jack.
"One Man Band" (2006) (5 minutes) Two one man bands vie for the coin belonging to a little girl. Goes back to Pixar's roots of having no dialogue. Nicely detailed animation.
"Mater and the Ghostlight" (2006) (7 minutes) Hey, it's Larry the Cable Guy. Is that a good thing? The characters from Cars star in this short. Mater likes to play pranks on the other residents of Radiator Springs, so they get their revenge. Nice to see these characters again, but this is an overly-long one-joke short.
"Lifted" (2007) (5 minutes) An alien in training attempts to use a tractor beam to abduct a human. Suffice it to say that he needs more training. Very clever.
As with any collection, Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 1 offers a mixed bag. On the whole, most of the shorts are charming, but offerings like the very short "The Adventures of Andre & Wally B." were clearly meant to be an example of the medium, as opposed to pure entertainment. On the other hand, entries such as "Boundin'" and "Lifted" show what talented storytellers and artists can do with a minute amount of time. The shorts clearly owe a debt to the classic cartoons of the 1930s and 1940s, as most of them contain no dialogue and rely solely on visual jokes. It's also interesting to note that "Mike's New Car", "Jack-Jack Attack", and "Mater and the Ghostlight" could essentially be deleted scenes from Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, and Cars respectively. The cynical will see this as an attempt to merely cash in on the popularity of those films, while fans will enjoy seeing their favorite characters again...well, maybe not so much with Mater. Casual Pixar fans will most likely be satisfied with the fact that they already own most of these shorts on other Pixar DVDs, but rabid Pixar fanatics will want to pick this one up, especially for those shorts which aren't available elsewhere.
Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 1 comes to life on DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The aspect ratios for the shorts vary from 1.33:1 to 1.85:1. The images also vary in quality, although most are very sharp and clear. (I can only assume that the transfer were taken from digital sources.) "Luxo Jr." shows some slight distortion, but otherwise the pictures look great. As one would expect, the colors really stand out here, most notably in "Knick Knack". The shorts all contain a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. For most, the sound comes across as stereo, but some of the later shorts, most notably "Lifted", utilize full surround sound, offering good rear and subwoofer effects.
The Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 1 does contain some extras. Most of the shorts have AUDIO COMMENTARIES from the filmmakers involved. In "The Pixar Shorts: A Short History" (23 minutes) veteran members of Pixar talk about their beginnings starting with the first short. There is also a discussion of the evolution of Pixar. Includes clips from old "making ofs" showing John Lasseter at work. The DVD also has four very brief shorts from Sesame Street featuring the "Luxo Jr." lamps -- Surprise, Light and Heavy, Up and Down, Front and Back. I was surprised that there wasn't some sort of demarcation noting which shorts had won Academy Awards.
Disney also brings Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 1 to Blu-ray
Disc. The transfer is 1080p HD AVC. As noted above, the aspect ratios range
from 1.33:1 to 1.85:1. Similarly, the image quality varies as well. "The
Adventures of Andre & Wally B." shows some shimmering and distortion. "Luxo
Jr." looks somewhat dull. In contrast, "Boundin'" is incredibly clear and show
what people mean by "3-D animation", as the image has a ton of depth. The colors
on "Knick-Knack" are gorgeous. With "Mike's New Car", we can really see the
detail in Sully's fur. The Blu-ray Disc has a Linear PCM Uncompressed 5.1 audio
track running at 6.9 Mbps -- although "The Adventures of Andre & Wally B." still
plays a 2-channel track running at 2.4 Mbps even with the PCM option chosen. As
with the video, the audio ranges from passable to outstanding. Some shorts,
such as "Luxo, Jr." may as well be in simple stereo. But, just check out
"Knick-Knack" to hear what the audio can do here. This short offers great
surround sound and a surprising amount of bass. "Lifted" and "Mater and the
Ghost Light" sound very good as well. The extras on the Blu-ray Disc mirror
those on the DVD. Completists who want to see these shorts look as pristine as
possible should opt for the Blu-ray.
Review Copyright 2007 by Mike Long