Pixar's first collection of short films captured a glimpse of the company's growth from 1984 to 2006, from their early CGI experiments to the unprecedented winning streak they've been on since 1995's Toy Story. Whether these short films accompanied their full-length productions or were created as direct-to-video bonus features (or otherwise), there's always been a uniform level of quality in just about every effort they've put forth. This second volume covers a much smaller window (just 2007 through this year), but the 12 shorts included with this collection are often just as enjoyable as those that came before.
List of Shorts: Your Friend the Rat • Presto • Burn-E • Partly Cloudy • Dug's Special Mission • George & A.J. • Day and Night • Hawaiian Vacation • Air Mater • Small Fry • Time Travel Mater • La Luna
Plain and simple: there's plenty to like here, whether you've seen most of these before or not. The most obvious highlights include Presto (a magician and his bunny battle wits during a live performance), Partly Cloudy (the dangerous job of a baby-delivering stork), Day and Night (our title characters feud with one another in a delightful mixture of hand-drawn and CGI animation), Small Fry (a Toy Story adventure of pint-sized proportions) and La Luna (a grandfather, father and boy sail together to collect star pieces from the full moon). These shorts are nearly flawless despite their varied formats and subject matter: some are practically wordless, some are touching, but all are done with skill and perfect precision.
Others are less impressive but still enjoyable in their own right. Burn-E and Dug's Special Mission play out more like deleted scenes than anything else; the former is a bit more engaging and stylish, but it won't make much sense unless you're familiar with Wall-E. Hawaiian Vacation is another fun and colorful Toy Story short, though it doesn't quite have the spark and replay value of Small Fry. The two Mater shorts are also worth a look...but I'm not the biggest Cars fan, so I'd imagine the kids will like these more.
Your Friend the Rat and George & A.J. might appeal to some, but they're both pretty forgettable in my book and feel out of place. The former is at least a little educational and fun at times, but wears out its welcome less than halfway through the 11-minute running time. The latter is presented in hand-drawn storyboard form and its unfinished appearance and dull story make it the least essential of the collection. Even so, the highlights of Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 2 outweigh everything else, making this a slight but appealing release that's worth looking into. Those who already own the bulk of Pixar's recent output probably shouldn't bother...but to sweeten the pot, a handful of extras has also been included.
Video & Audio Quality
As expected, these are flawless 1080p transfers, thanks to the high quality source material and Disney's careful treatment of it. Colors are bold and bright, textures almost leap off the screen and black levels are consistent. Digital problems, including edge enhancement and banding, are basically non-existent. Even the student films (listed under "Bonus Features") look exceptionally clean and crisp, despite many of their hand-drawn roots. Overall, these are truly top-notch visuals and fans should enjoy every minute.
HEADS UP: This images in this review are taken from the DVD and do not represent Blu-Ray's fancy-pants 1080p resolution.
The audio isn't quite as consistent, mostly due to the inclusion of several lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes for the first six shorts. The other six include DTS-HD 5.1 or 7.1 Master Audio mixes...but regardless of any perceived increase in fidelity, nothing sounds downright disappointing. Limited dialogue is always crisp, the music sounds full and plenty of clever directional touches will keep your ears busy. Optional French and/or Spanish dubs are included during eight of the twelve shorts, while English, English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are also included during the shorts and extras...even the audio commentaries.
Packaging, Presentation & Menu Design
Seen above, the pleasing menu designs and offer smooth, simple navigation...though oddly enough, there are occasional transitions. This two-disc release arrives in a dual-hubbed keepcase; a matching slipcover and promotional insert are also included. The Blu-Ray appears to be locked for Region A playback only.
Roughly the same amount as Volume One
, at least lengthwise. Leading things off is a collection of Audio Commentaries
for each short, featuring the respective directors and other contributors including editors, production designers, producers, etc. This is a solid collection of chats...and while the brief length of each one limits the level of detail we're provided with, there's enough meat here to keep most fans happy.
Also here are seven Student Films (below) from popular Pixar directors John Lasseter (Nitemare and Lady and the Lamp), Andrew Stanton (Somewhere in the Arctic and A Story) and Pete Docter (Winter, Palm Springs and Next Door). It's interesting to see their individual styles take shape during these hand-drawn projects, but they're probably not films you'll be returning to very often. As an added bonus, each short film includes an optional Director's Introduction with additional details for the hardcore fans. More often than not, the introductions are often as long as the actual films, which can deflate expectations a bit.
Last but not least, a DVD Copy is also included. All of these bonus features are presented in full 1080p where applicable and include optional subtitles (yes, even the audio commentaries and introductions).
Like most sophomore anthologies, Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 2 is working with a handicap: there's much less ground to cover, so the perceived value of this stand-alone release isn't quite as high as expected. There's also the argument that most everything's available on discs you might already own, whether in DVD or Blu-Ray form. Also, the list price is $40 for some reason. Still, this is a fine release in its own right, thanks to the charming presentation and appeal of playing these nugget-sized adventures back to back. As expected, Disney's A/V presentation should disappoint no one. The audio commentaries and student films are a nice touch (though hardly worth a purchase on their own), so Volume 2 is most appropriate for those with incomplete Disney/Pixar Blu-Ray collections. Mildly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance design projects, teaches art classes and runs a website or two in his spare time. Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD-DVDs and writing stuff in third person.