Blu-Ray Review: PIXAR Short Films Collection, Volume 2
Even though PIXAR Animation Studios has impressed us with their mastery and craft regarding computer-generated imagery in films, one mustn’t forget their original stomping grounds: animated shorts.
Back when the company was trying to prove itself, the one way to build up its reputation was by creating short films that told small stories, and also helped develop new technology and experience for the small crew. In a way, this was similar to what Walt Disney did with his studio in the 1930’s. Not content to just make Mickey Mouse cartoons, Walt developed the Silly Symphony shorts as a way to develop storytelling, and advance the skill of his studio artisans.
When Blu-Ray was beginning to gain attention in 2007, PIXAR released their Short Films Collection, Volume 1. This release included all of their short films up through 2007’s Lifted, which played with Ratatouille that summer. Five years later, we have the release of Volume 2.
The shorts included in the latest release span from 2007 to the present day. They include:
Your Friend The Rat, Presto, BURN-E, Partly Cloudy, Dug’s Special Mission, George & A.J., Day & Night, Hawaiian Vacation, Air Mater, Small Fry, Time Travel Mater, & La Luna.
It’s interesting to note how the creation of shorts in the last 6 years has changed from the ones included in Volume 1. Half of the Volume 2 shorts were created as home video release extras.
Each of the shorts contains an optional audio commentary to listen to. I love commentaries by PIXAR’s personnel, because they are usually full of facts about the production, and thoughts about daily life. One commentary I really liked was Peter Sohn’s for his short, Partly Cloudy. I didn’t really warm up to the short when I first saw it, but hearing how Peter made the short almost like a love-letter to his Mom, it really put a new light on it.
Of the shorts included, George & A.J., Small Fry, and Time Travel Mater are the only ones that are exclusive, as they haven’t been included with any other Blu-Ray/DVD release. Of the three, George & A.J. is the oddball of the group. Done using drawn images and put together in AfterEffects, it holds together more as a series of gags than a story to me. Even writer/director Josh Cooley’s commentary attempts to bring in a smooth-sounding narrator to add some comedy, but this also fell flat for me.
For me, while I love the concept of Time Travel Mater (which was originally envisioned as a Back to the Future parody), I still get a charge out of Small Fry. Originally released in theaters with 2011’s The Muppets, this short involved Buzz Lightyear getting stuck in a fast-food restaurant, where he finds a support group for discarded ‘fun-meal’ toys. PIXAR seems to have cornered the market on fun therapy-session scenes (remember the ‘fish are friends, not food’ meeting in Finding Nemo?), and it helps that writer/director Angus MacLane has several psychologists in his family.
As for special features, that belongs to the collection of 7 short films created by several of PIXAR’s famous alumni. These include:
Lady and the Lamp, and Nightmare, directed by John Lasseter
Somewhere in the Arctic, and A Story, directed by Andrew Stanton
Winter, Palm Springs, and Next Door, directed by Pete Doctor
Each of the directors gives a little introduction regarding their shorts, each of which has been restored in high-definition. One can kind of see each of the director’s trademarks that would shape the films they’d direct in the future. For example, John Lasseter’s student films deal with inanimate objects with personality, which he would parlay into the short Luxo Jr, and later films like Toy Story and Cars.
One of the marketing techniques Disney has done with many of their discs, is release them as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack, and Volume 2, unlike Volume 1, includes a DVD disc containing almost all the same features as the Blu-Ray. Though those with Blu-Ray players will be treated to a crisper, more colorful palette when viewing the shorts.
Of course, the big question some of you may be asking is, “should I get it?” Well, yes and no. If you’re one of the many legions of major PIXAR fans, you’ll definitely get a copy. What could deter some of the less-infatuated from seeking this title out, is the fact that 2/3 of the shorts in the collection are most likely on other DVD’s in your collection. As well, Volume 2 is not one of those discs that you find marked down at your local department store. The lowest price I was able to find it for was $28 on Amazon.com.