Does Angry Birds even require an introduction? I mean, if you own a smart phone or have stepped outside your house since 2009, chances are good that you've been exposed to one of the largest mass market campaigns in recent memory. The simple, yet addictive game has numerous iterations - which includes a legit Star Wars license - and has produced books, toys, bed sets, toiletries, clothing, stationary, and much, much more. By now, we'd think a product has reached its peak level of saturation, but with a major motion picture set for release in 2016, it's clear that Rovio are shooting for nothing less than world domination... and they're well on their way to getting it. In March of 2013, we saw the premiere of Angry Birds Toons, and because it was easy - not to mention free - to access from each game app, children everywhere have been exposed. This practically guarantees that children across the globe will be dragging their parents to theaters in droves. Still, that doesn't necessarily mean there's room for the birds with 'tudes in the home video market, but Sony was willing to take that risk. Did it pay off?
Believe it or not, the transition from point-and-swipe time filler to animated hijinks went surprisingly well. Granted, my expectations weren't high for webisodes which revolved around a cell phone game, but I found Rovio's approach to be quite the delight. Instead of shoehorning unnecessary dialogue or overly dramatic plot points - both of which would have changed the face of the franchise - they instead opted for something that was more akin to Looney Tunes. These 26 shorts - which make up half of the 1st season - are all under 3 minutes apiece, and use their time to convey the birds and pigs unique personalities, all while adhering to the many animated tropes we've grown accustomed to. Characters often defy gravity until they're aware of their surroundings, pain can be taken without serious consequences, and each 'story' is supported with bouncy scores and zany sound effects. The animation is simplistic, but shouldn't be mistaken for being cheap. It's clear that the value of production was important to everyone involved, and it shows.
Of course, production values amount to little if the content is lacking, but these shorts manage to continue the witty wink-and-nod hilarity of the games, and feels like an extension of the series as a result. Actions and reactions are by and large the core of comedy, and because the birds and pigs have been left to speak a universal language of movement and facial expressions, the events that transpire should appeal to everyone regardless of age or what region of the world they call home. The short length of each cartoon is also a plus, because the gags can come off at a rapid fire pace, and the creative staff don't have to worry about fatigue setting in with their audience. Furthermore - and I swear, it's as if they thought of everything - since each episode can be viewed out of sequence, the format is guaranteed to remain accessible throughout the entire series. Oh, and in case you were wondering, yes - Rovio has a four season plan in place, which means the show should end around the same time that the movie is released... surprise, surprise.
The only negative thing I can say about this release, is that Sony might be overshooting who their target audience might be and how much they're willing to spend. The MSRP is $26.99, and since we're able to stream these episodes from our handheld device of choice for free, the cost of entry on home video seems a little steep, especially since we're only treated to half a season, which amounts to 72 minutes of Angry Birds goodness. That said, who knows? I've actually seen evidence that the PS4 version of Angry Birds Star Wars has sold out on occasion... and that comes with a $50 asking price, mind you. Yes, people have actually been willing to spend $50 for a game that's only a buck or two on an iphone. You know, on second thought, I guess Sony knows PRECISELY what kind of fan base they're selling to...
All in all, Rovio have blended something new and added a hefty dose of nostalgia for good measure, so the Angry Birds Toons are a lot of fun and provide tons of laughs. If you have a kid who adores the games and/or Toons, then you may have no choice but to pick this up. Honestly, I don't see many adults running out to buy this for themselves - especially since it's free to watch online - but I think parents will find repeated viewings with their children to be enjoyable nonetheless.
Angry Birds Toons has made the leap from compressed internet video, to an unhindered 1080p, AVC encoded transfer (1.78:1). The animation is simplistic yet beautiful, so all the colors leap off the screen like a bird that was launched from a slingshot. Lines are solid, that subtle 'brushed' look to some of the textures can be seen for the first time, and contrast and black levels are both immaculate. There's nothing to worry about in terms of compression, either. There's no edge enhancement, banding or digital artifacts. This is definitely a huge step up from the streams on an iphone, so fans will be in for quite the surprise, especially since they'll see minute details they never knew were there before.
Dolby Digital 2.0 is what we have here, which is something of a disappointment. Lossless audio is always preferable, but I'm certainly not going to harp on the choice too much. For what it's worth, the score and sound effects are pleasing in stereo and there's still a nice sense of clarity. Like the video, the sound here blows the online streams away.
-Meet the Characters (Blues, Chuck, Matilda, Red, Pigs) - These are extremely short featurettes that highlight the abovementioned characters.
-Meet the Flock - Catch the assortment of birds in one brief sitting, as we see clips of them as they appear in the series.
-Behind the Scenes (Series, Story, Art) - At less than 9 minutes combined, there isn't much here in the way of actual behind-the-scenes information, but with the simplicity of the series, these featurettes serve their purpose well enough.
-Wreck the Halls - A special bonus, Christmas themed short.
-Character Art Gallery - A small collection of character images.
Angry Birds has woven itself into the fabric of our culture, and it's likely to stay there for a long, long time. That said, I'm aware that feelings on the franchise are mixed at best - Some absolutely adore the characters and simplistic gameplay, and others feel as if the franchise has overstayed its welcome. Regardless, it's hard to ignore the charm of Rovio's Toons, as they're witty, hilarious and highly reminiscent of the days when we used to watch Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry. Quality of the content aside, I don't believe this release is for everyone. These episodes are free to stream from the Angry Birds apps, and that's certainly going to be enough exposure for some. If you're a fan of the series however, or have a child who would love to watch these on the big screen in your living room, this is a no-brainer... but for everyone else? This Blu-ray still comes recommended, but with the caveat of waiting for a price drop.