Blu-ray Review Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 2 Blu-ray Review

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  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    One of the most interesting things about the first collection of Pixar shorts issued a few years ago was in observing the tremendous leaps in CGI technology that were occurring over the years of those initial Pixar efforts. In this second volume of shorts, the focus shifts now to pure admiration: the extent of originality in concept and brilliance of animation techniques seen in these twelve shorts (most of which have been seen as bonuses in previous Pixar feature releases) is nothing short of astounding. While only three of these shorts even got Oscar nominations, many of them are more than worthy of the award. All are so entertaining and contain such creative visual touches and brilliant gags that repeated views are warranted and now easy to accomplish since they’re gathered together here on this single disc.





    Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 2 (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
    Directed by Angus Maclane et al

    Studio: Disney/Pixar
    Year: 2005-2012
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1/1.85:1/2.39:1   1080p   AVC codec
    Running Time: 75 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: various including Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, DTS-HD MA 5.1, Dolby TrueHD 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1/7.1 Spanish, French
    Subtitles:  SDH, French, Spanish

    Region: A-B-C
    MSRP: $ 39.99


    Release Date: November 13, 2012

    Review Date: November 7, 2012




    The Program

    4.5/5


    Below are the twelve shorts with a brief description of each along with their running times and the participants in the audio commentary which is an option with each short.


    Your Friend the Rat (11:16) is the longest of the shorts, a fact-filled and very amusing history lesson about the influence of rats over the centuries narrated by Ratatouille’s Remy and his brother Emile and featuring a dazzling array of different animation styles (as a salute to Disney animator Ward Kimball’s 1950s educational shorts) contained in this single short subject. (Commentary by director Jim Capobianco and production designer Nate Wragg)


    Presto (5:15) is the gem of the collection. It’s a hilariously plotted story of a second-rate magician and his troublesome rabbit who refuses to cooperate with his master without a promised carrot. Done in pantomime and with astonishing, detailed animation with colors that pop off the screen, the short was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Subject. (Commentary by director Doug Sweetland)


    BURN-E (7:35) tells the story of dedicated robot BURN-E’s problems with accomplishing a simple task taking place during other activities on board the ship in WALL-E. (Commentary by director Angus Maclane who is very forthcoming about the dramatic license he took in a couple of key scenes.)


    Partly Cloudy (5:49) brings forth the vaunted Pixar heart in a sweet tale of a stork whose baby deliveries require him to deal with some of the toughest and least lovable animals imaginable. (Commentary by director Peter Sohn)


    Dug’s Special Mission (4:42) is another alternate story going on while Up is transpiring dealing with the lovable pooch trying his best to carry out orders from the sadistic and coldhearted Alpha. (Commentary by director Ronnie del Carmen and technical director Brad Winemiller)


    George and A.J. (4:01) is the least interesting of the volume’s entries as the two van operators from the rest home in Up deal with other potential residents who aren’t anxious to be relocated there. It’s not done in CGI but rather as regular flat, only partially rendered animation. (Commentary by director Josh Cooley and is the most hilarious of the commentary tracks as he turns his duties over to a professional announcer who proceeds to overplay every aspect of the production, much to the director’s chagrin.)


    Day & Night (6:02) is another of the set’s Oscar nominees as Day and Night, at the beginning antagonists, learn to appreciate and celebrate each other’s uniqueness. This was also Pixar’s first 3D animated short. (Commentary by director Teddy Newton and layout artist Sandra Karpman)


    Hawaiian Vacation (5:53) is the first of two delightful Toy Story toons in the collection as the gang tries to cheer up Ken who’s disappointed when Bonnie doesn’t take him with her to Hawaii. (Commentary by director Gary Rydstrom, story supervisor Jason Katz, and supervising animator Angus Maclane)


    Air Mater (5:12) is the first (and lesser) of two Cars toons as Mater learns to fly and joins an aerial formation squad known as the Falcon Hawks. This was the first short animated by newly created Pixar Canada. (Commentary by director Rob Gibbs)


    Small Fry (7:06) is the second of the Toy Story shorts as Buzz is left behind at a fast food restaurant only to be supplanted by a Buzz giveaway toy who tries to pass himself off as the real Buzz Lightyear while Buzz himself must endure discarded toy psychological counseling group sessions. (Commentary by director Angus Maclane)


    Time Travel Mater (6:23) will appeal to cinematic history fans as Mater travels back in time to the desert region before Radiator Springs was founded doing his best to make Stanley (Steamer) make that event happen. Animated with nods to the sepia, black and white, and two-color Technicolor eras, the visuals of the short are often more impressive than its plot. (Commentary by director Rob Gibbs, production designer Anthony Christov, and film editor Varbin Bullock)


    La Luna (6:57) is the Oscar-nominated short which accompanied Brave in theaters as three generations of Italians go about their family business tending to the phases of the moon. (Commentary by director Enrico Casarose and producer Kevin Rehen)



    Video Quality

    5/5


    The shorts are presented in their original aspect ratios varying from 1.78:1 to 1.85:1 to 2.39:1 and are all delivered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. There are absolutely no problems at all on display in any of the shorts. Color depth is stupendous (especially impressive in Presto and the two Toy Story shorts), and sharpness is exemplary throughout. Contrast has been dialed in to perfection, and there is no banding in any of the images.



    Audio Quality

    4.5/5


    The shorts have varying audio codecs from lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 EX tracks to DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby True-HD 5.1 and 7.1 tracks. There won’t be many complaints with the sound design of the material though naturally the lower budgets of these short subjects means that their sound designs are never as complex and sophisticated as those of their feature film siblings.



    Special Features

    4/5


    Every short has audio commentary by its director and in some cases with other members of the production team (see above listing for complete information on participants). All the commentaries squeeze large amounts of information into a very short span of time and are worth a listen. The commentary for Josh Cooley’s George and A.J. is especially memorable.


    Three of  Pixar’s Oscar-winning directors: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter offer for the first time their student films for public presentation. Each film contains an introduction by its director which may be chosen or avoided by the viewer.


    Lasseter’s two films (both done in filmed pencil test motif) are Nitemare (7 ¼ minutes) where a frightened child has night terrors trying to fall asleep and The Lady & the Lamp (6 minutes) where lamps in a shop fail utterly to make an impression for their owner.


    Stanton’s two films are Somewhere in the Arctic (5 ½ minutes) as Eskimos hunt a polar bear and A Story (6 ¾ minutes) where a young boy is snatched through the TV screen to have some adventures.


    Docter’s three films are Winter (3 ½ minutes) where a child is dressed in too many clothes for winter play, Palm Springs (3 ¼ minutes) where a caveman and a dinosaur hilariously interact, and Next Door (6 ½ minutes) where an adult man is driven crazy by a noisy little girl (obviously offering some story inspiration for Docter’s Up).


    The disc contains promo trailers for Planes, Monsters University, and Peter Pan.


    The second disc in the set is the DVD copy of the program.



    In Conclusion

    4.5/5 (not an average)


    Fans of  Pixar’s award-winning animation will no doubt have many of these shorts as additions to other discs, but the Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 2 brings these wonderful short subjects together in one convenient package and offers commentaries and student films as interesting bonus features. Highly recommended!




    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC

     
  2. JamesNelson

    JamesNelson Second Unit

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    Matt, your review states that Day & Night was Pixar's first 3-D animated short. However, I believe that honor goes to Partly Cloudy, which was shown in 3-D with UP! a year earlier.
     
  3. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Quote:
    I was just repeating what the director's commentary reported. Perhaps Partly Cloudy was a conversion and not filmed specifically in stereo.
    Or maybe it was begun before Partly Cloudy but completed after it.
     
  4. cafink

    cafink Producer

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    When I saw Toy Story 3 in 3D in the theater, I thought the effect was mostly wasted--the effect didn't enhance the film at all. However, the Day & Night short which preceded the film did benefit from 3D, which really enhanced its unique style of animation. I was perplexed and disappointed that the 3D Blu-ray of Toy Story 3 included the short in 2D only, and remain frustrated that here, with its second Blu-ray release, it's still unavailable on 3D.
     
  5. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I'll be adding this to the collection for sure, Matt...but I'm curious about something.

    In your opinion do the Lasseter/Stanton/Docter student films fall into the category of "novelty" or are they entertaining? I'm sure they're interesting to see what these guys were doing when they were getting started. I guess what I'm asking is: are they any good?
     
  6. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I think they show a quirky sense of humor that helped establish Pixar's approach to comedy in their feature films. I enjoyed all of them and am glad they were included.
     
  7. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Thanks, Matt.

    I figured as much. Only worthwhile stuff from the folks at Pixar.
     
  8. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I particularly liked Lasseter's Nitemare and Docter's Palm Springs.
     
  9. AlexF

    AlexF Supporting Actor

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    So, the 3D shorts are still only available in 2D on this set? Just want to confirm -- still picking the set up regardless... :)
     
  10. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Yes, the film shorts are only presented in 2D here.
     

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