Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1 [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (27th November 2007).
The Film

For over twenty years Pixar has been at the forefront of modern day animated storytelling, creating computer generated films with stories that are easily accessible, themes that are universal and characters that are not only memorable but lovable no matter if their a toy, a bug, a monster, a fish, a super hero or even a rat. Pixar Studios has that rare gift of talented and passion and that translates onto the screen. Over the years their films have grossed high figures at the box office, garnered seven Academy Awards and managed to create magic onscreen.
Originally a Graphics Group division of Lucasfilm their goal was to move traditional cel animators into using computers as animation tools. They helped create special effects for early Lucasfilm productions but the company was sold off to Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs in 1986. The company developed hardware initially with John Lasseter using the tools to create animated demo reels to show off the hardware. The transition began and eventually Pixar was producing commercials when they released their first two short films "The Adventures of Andre and Wally B." in 1984 and "Luxo Jr." in 1986 about a pair of desk lamps, the baby lamp play with and subsequently flattens a rubber ball. The film would later inspire the Pixar logo featuring the lamp as the 'I' in 'Pixar'. The film would prove very popular and was nominated for an Oscar in the category of 'Best Short Film : Animated'. In 1991 Pixar would sign a deal with Disney that would launch their company and begin a run of feature-film successes starting with "Toy Story" (1995). Throughout that time more short films where made including the original short that inspired "Toy Story", "Tin Toy" (1988) would provide the template for that film. In many ways you can call it the original test in fact a lot of their short films where in essence research and development of talent and technology. The concept was simple; a tin toy tries to escape the destructive wrath of a toddler but the film was smart, funny and helped launch a new art form in CGI animation. Further shorts followed including "Knick Knack" (1989) in which a snowman wants to join a beach party but he can't escape his plastic snow globe. The films would feature a light but occasionally ironic sense of humor. The films are also imaginative and include the best visual based storytelling as the majority of these shorts feature little to no dialogue. In a sense they have the feeling of vaudeville acts or silent films that focus on expressions and mine in order to tell their story. Some of the best examples include "For the Birds" (2000), "One Man Band" (2005) and the most recent "Lifted" (2006) which also happens to be my favorite featuring a young alien being trained how to lift people using a tractor beam and not quite getting it right.
Fans of Pixar's films may have already seen these films, in fact they've all been available before released along with their feature film DVDs, but for the first time they are collected and feature new and exclusive features which make it an essential purchase for animation buffs. There's some wonderful content here as this collection of shorts couldn't be better, even the ones created to accompany some feature projects such as "Jack-Jack Attack" (2005) and "Mater and the Ghostlight" (2006).

Video

These films are presented in their original ratios which either 1.33:1 full screen, 1.78:1 widescreen or 2.35:1 widescreen. The transfers are all presented in high-definition 1080p at 24/fps and has been created using AVC MPEG-4 compression. All these transfers are taken from the original digital sources and are clean and sharp. The level of detail varied mainly as we progress through the years as the CG animation starts to take on more detail and texture, while the early stuff is slick and polished and has a very plastic feel to it. The image is clean without any flaws as they present the films with brilliant colors, deep blacks and appropriate shadow detail.

Audio

Four audio tracks are included in English uncompressed PCM 5.1 as well as standard Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in English, French and Spanish. The package states that there are 2.0 tracks but they are not present on the disc. I chose to watch each film with its PCM track and the results are great. The earlier films focus mostly on music than intricate sound design of which there is some but limited, as the films progress they get better and better sounding especially in the rear channels, the last film "Lifted" is a good example of the active 5.1 sound mix as is "One Man Band". Overall these are decent mixes and the 5.1 space is used well to help tell the story.

Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has released these films with extras that include audio commentary on all but one of the films, a featurette, 4 clips and a series of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

The first of 12 audio commentaries is on "The Adventures of André and Wally B." by Pixar's John Lasseter, Bill Reeves and Eben Ostby. In this track the participants talk about the development of this film for Lucasfilm and the genesis of the animation and creating 3-D characters with geometric shapes and altering then to create performance.

The next audio commentary is on "Luxo Jr." by Pixar's John Lasseter, Bill Reeves and Eben Ostby. The guys comment on the background of Pixar and modeling the lamp, where the idea came from and the various challenges to making this film.

Audio commentary is featured on "Red's Dream" also by Pixar's John Lasseter, Bill Reeves and Eben Ostby. With this film the guys wanted to create something using the Pixar Image Computer which helped develop the night scene and rain for the film as well talk about making the bikes and how the film effectively showcased Pixar's hardware.

Next is audio commentary on "Tin Toy" by Pixar's John Lasseter, Bill Reeves and Eben Ostby. Here the guys talk about the origins of the film, the technical effort in doing a human character, building the models in CG and getting around doing bendable arms and legs as well as touch on the sound design.

Following that is audio commentary on "Knick Knack" by Pixar's John Lasseter, Bill Reeves and Eben Ostby. This film came out from the need to make something simple after the complexity of "Tin Toy" and was inspired by Chuck Jones cartoons.

Next up is another audio commentary on "Geri's Game" by director Jan Pinkava. Pinkava comments on what he wanted to achieve from this film, in creating the character and the themes of the film. He also comments on the challenges of creating a film wit hone character and creating drama and comedy among other things.

The next audio commentary is on "For the Birds" by director Ralph Eggleston. In this track the director talks about the different personalities of the birds and animating the feathers. He talks about how most Pixar shorts are done for research and development but in this case it was fun that drove the film.

Following that is audio commentary on "Mike's New Car" by Liam Maxwell Gould and Nicholas Samuel Docter the kids of the two directors. The directos decided to send their kids to record this track as they talk about the film, their favorite parts and in basic form talk about computer animation and how the film goes from theaters to DVD.

Next up is audio commentary on "Boundin'" by director Bud Luckey. Bud talks about how this film was based on his experiences on the mountain plains of Montana, he talks about the design and detail put into the film and provides some production trivia.

Yet more audio commentaries are included this time on "One Man Band" by directors Andrew Jimenez and Mark Andrews and music writer Michael Giacchino. These guys talk about their film and the development of various aspects of it but most importantly the music, which Giacchino talks about not sounding like a score. Merging themes is another big talking point in this informative track.

Next is another audio commentary this time on "Mater and the Ghostlight" by directors John Lasseter and Dan Scanlon. The two talk about wanting to do a short for the DVD and the inspiration behind this film as well as the design of Mater.

Finally the last audio commentary is on "Lifted" by director Gary Rydstrom. Rydstrom talks about his first directorial effort with passion he comments on his move from sound design and how the film has a few references to his former career. He also comments on the lighting and the Spielberg-esque music created for the film among other things.

Also featured on this disc is "Pixar Shorts: A Short History" featurette that runs for 23 minutes 32 seconds. This clip covers the history of the short films created at Pixar but also chronicles the history of the company as well as we get a look behind each of the first major films produced leading up to their feature film deal with Disney, during the first feature shorts where put on hold but soon re-instate giving other animators a chance to direct and create their own stories. The clip focuses on the development of the technology and the evolution into what can be done today with computers. For a short clip this is a worthy watch and covers a lot about Pixar's rise.

4 "Sesame Street" clips are next, these clip feature the Luxo Jr. lamp as it teach basic lessons and include:

- "Sesame Street: Surprise" which runs for 21 seconds the lamp jumps out of a box.
- "Sesame Street: Light and Heavy" runs for 1 minute 3 seconds and shows kids the difference between a light ball and a heavy one.
- "Sesame Street: Up and Down" runs for 38 seconds and shows kids the difference between jumping up and jumping down.
- "Sesame Street: Front and Back" runs for 46 seconds and shows kids the difference between front and back.

Rounding out the extras are a series of start-up bonus trailers for:

- "Disney Blu-ray" spot which runs for 1 minute 10 seconds.
- "Meet the Robinsons" which runs for 2 minutes 28 seconds.
- "Ratatouille" which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.

Packaging

This Blu-ray is packaged in a standard case housed in a cardboard slip-cover.

Overall

The Film: A+ Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


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