Disney // 1984 // 54 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // December 3rd, 2007
13 sensational Pixar shorts together for the first time!
From a small offshoot of Lucasfilm in the 1980s to a computer hardware manufacturer of cutting-edge CGI machines to a partnership with Disney that eventually led to billions of dollars, millions of adoring fans and a computer animation empire built around lavish offices and scooters, the story of Pixar is an amazing tale of artistic nerdiness. Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1 takes viewers through the development of the company by way of its short films, thirteen of them spread out over the years, demonstrating how the artistic talent, computer technology, and storytelling rapidly improves over the years.
As a standalone DVD, this is a short but sweet offering; its charms may be lost on those in possession of the majority of this material previously included as supplemental features on past Pixar DVDs.
Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1 contains thirteen short animation films spanning more than twenty years of the studio's history, presented (roughly) in chronological order:
* "The Adventures of Andre & Wally B" (1984)
Created way back in 1984 before Pixar even existed, back when the talent worked under Lucasfilm, the very first short is about a bee and a weird amorphous Mickey Mouse-esque character. Short, rough around the edges, and barely scripted, this feature is included for posterity only.
* "Luxo Jr." (1986)
Pixar's first official short film brings the iconoclastic company logo -- the Luxo desk lamp -- to life in a charming short of two lamps entertaining themselves on a desk. A short demonstration, but the start of something magical, "Luxo Jr." was theatrically screened alongside Toy Story 2.
* "Red's Dream" (1987)
Created on Pixar's branded computer (yes, back in the day, Pixar actually built and sold animation computers) comes the first true indication of the emerging narrative talent in Pixar: a lonely unicycle in a bike store daydreaming of an exciting life. Heartbreakingly blue.
* "Tin Toy" (1988)
The early origins of Toy Story can be found here, in the form of animated toys coming to life, but hands down, this may be the most frightening piece of animation in the existence of the art form. Pixar's first stab at human-realistic computer animation with horrendous results, an animated human baby comes to life like a rubber doll possessed by Satan himself. A frighteningly fascinating glimpse into the emerging art form, but, holy crap, that baby scares me.
* "Knick Knack" (1989)
Released theatrically alongside Finding Nemo, "Knick Knack" may be the best-known example of the features presented here, as well as Pixar's continual fascination with animating inanimate objects -- in this case, a snowman trapped in a snow globe looking for his freedom. Hilarious and charming.
* "Geri's Game" (1997)
An Oscar winner for Best Animated Short Film, released theatrically alongside A Bug's Life, "Geri's Game" depicts a lonely man in the park playing chess against an oddly familiar opponent. Eight years after the previous short, the improvement in the technical skills of the Pixar animation team is evident here, bringing humans to life in a convincing fashion for the first time.
* "For the Birds" (2000)
Another Oscar winner for Best Animated Short Film, released theatrically alongside Monsters, Inc.. A clique of birds perched on an electrical wire get an unexpected visitor in the form of a large, awkward blue bird, much to their chagrin. A delightful play of color, character design, sound effects, and dialogue-free storytelling, this is the most quintessential Pixar short of the bunch, best illustrating the amazing talent and cinematic skill of the animators to entertain so easily in such a short span of time. It is also the last to be free from speech -- from here on out, they're all talkies.
* "Mike's New Car" (2002)
A supplement released alongside Monsters, Inc. on DVD, "Mike's New Car" tells the unfortunate tale of Mike and his awesome new car, a top-of-the-line behemoth with more buttons than a VCR remote. When Sully and Mike try to go for a drive, chaos ensues. Some beautiful animation and technological skill is evident here (check out Sully's fur). For fans of the film, this one scores high marks.
* "Boundin'" (2003)
An interesting departure for Pixar attached theatrically to the start of The Incredibles, "Boundin'" tells the musically narrated tale of a young sheep, happy as a clam until sheep-herders appear and shear him of his clothes. Luckily, a jackalope appears to give the young animal the secret to happiness -- bounce your cares away. A cute message and colorful animation will sure to delight the kids, but the format of music and monotone poetic narration failed to strike a chord in this reviewer.
* "Jack-Jack Attack" (2005)
Something of a deleted scene from The Incredibles, "Jack-Jack Attack" fills in the missing moments with the youngest baby and her hapless babysitter as Jack's super-powers manifest in dangerous and outrageous ways. A fantastic short, but only if you have seen the feature film, otherwise it makes no sense whatsoever.
* "Mater and the Ghost Light" (2006)
A short to accompany Cars, "Mater and the Ghost Light" brings back the protagonists from the film for a short adventure in a pseudo re-telling of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" -- or in this case, "The Car Who Cried Ghost." After playing endless pranks on the inhabitants of his town, the cars decide to team up and get back at Mater with a prank of their own -- a story about a haunted ghost light that eats cars. This one runs just a bit too long for my tastes.
* "One Man Band" (2005)
Two street performers vie for the affections of a young girl and her money. Clearly lifting animation influences from the then-upcoming feature Ratatouille, "One Man Band" experiments with more angular character designs and European locals and features some outrageous musical performances from its two musical acts, each trying to outperform the other to comedic absurdity.
* "Lifted" (2006)
Shown theatrically with Pixar's Ratatouille, this is modern-era Pixar at its finest: an abduction gone horribly awry with a young alien performing his "abduction test" under the watchful eye of an instructor and making a terrible mess of things. Beautifully animated and side-splittingly hilarious, this is arguably the best short of the bunch.
Oh, how far Pixar has come. From a small group of ambitious computer animators funded by Lucasarts back in the early eighties, John Lasseter and his group of creative wizards belted out groundbreaking animation, advertisements and technological advances in computer graphics. Eight feature films and a few dump trucks full of money later, John Lasseter and his crew essentially run Disney today. Not a bad career move, if you ask me.
Essentially a twenty-year retrospective, Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1 gives insight into the progression of Pixar during its formulative years, prior to its partnership with Disney making feature films back in the early nineties. Though earlier examples are rough around the edges (literally) it is fascinating to witness in chronological progression how Pixar's computer animation technology and their storytelling art matures and progresses throughout the years. Pixar's first forays into animation are cute but crude in style and substance, while later entries are dazzling in their sophistication, the span between them vast like an ocean. This is not to dismiss earlier ventures for being entirely without merit, but when placed side-by-side with cutting-edge examples of CGI, one cannot help but shake one's head in amazement at how far the craft has come.
For animation fans, this set has inherent value in appreciation of the art form of computer-generated images, a retrospective of sorts for the entire industry, not just for Pixar. Little details, like the subtle progression of textures slowly improving over the years become clearly evident here as one enjoys these short animations, which are all true marvels without exception -- even the more mediocre examples are still stunning demonstrations of technical proficiency and animation skill. Of course, the creative team at Pixar achieved its success not only in technical merit, but in storytelling abilities. All these shorts are marvelous examples of how successful the short film format can be, when one puts the right people behind the project. With the possible exception of earlier, rougher examples, each short is a perfectly condensed narrative, with perfect plot development, and pathos despite being (for the most part) dialogue-free. It takes skill to tell a story without words.
The main attraction to this set for collectors and fans (since most of these shorts make appearances on other Pixar DVDs) is a newly recorded commentary track with Pixar brains John Lasseter, Bill Reeves, and Eben Ostby commenting for the earlier features, and the corresponding directors of each short adding their thoughts on later installments, "Jack-Jack Attack" being the only film without a commentary track. A nice feature to be sure, since each director and commentator gives insight to the creation and inspiration of each piece. A 24-minute documentary, "The Pixar Shorts: A Short History" is also included, taking viewers into a quick retrospective history of Pixar's animation offerings over the years. Both features compliment each other nicely without being overly redundant.
The technical presentation is tight on this set, but varies with the source material. All the features appear in their native aspect ratio, most in full frame but later in anamorphic widescreen as the technology progresses. Colors are vibrant, black levels are strong and detail is sharp throughout. The all-digital source material makes for a crystal-clean image, but earlier animation examples look old, for lack of a better word; no doubt due in part to the recording medium utilized at the time. The source materials for some of the older films are suspect as well, with interlacing noticeable at times. Audio is well-done overall, a stereo for the most part save for more recent offerings which get a surround presentation -- all features offer a clean presentation free from any noticeable defects. French and Spanish language tracks are also available for those who desire such things.
The biggest inherent flaw with this disc is that it targets precisely the people who would already own the vast majority of this content -- namely, fans of Pixar. With the exception of "Red's Dream," all these shorts have made an appearance in some form or another; either before the theatrical releases or included as supplementary materials on past Pixar DVD releases.
Anyone interested in a retrospective history of the works of Pixar would already be familiar with the vast majority of these shorts already, if not own them outright on DVD, making this disc fairly redundant. The newly recorded commentary track does not offer sufficient value to entice purchase outright.
Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1 isn't a double-dip per se, but it ventures perilously close to infested waters. Tread carefully, smart shopper.
A simple retrospective, Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1 reminds viewers that even more impressive than the incredible feats of visual animation, the key ingredient in Pixar's massive success has always been the storytelling and heart in its works. These films may be quasi-double-dipping in terms of original content on DVD, but that does not detract from their masterful triumphs of short film storytelling and stunning animation.
A short but sweet DVD, these short films are way too enjoyable to find guilty.
Review content copyright © 2007 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English, The Adventures of Andre and Wally B.)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 54 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Filmmaker's Audio Commentary
* The Pixar Shorts: A Short History
* Sesame Street: Surprise
* Sesame Street: Light and Heavy
* Sesame Street: Up and Down
* Sesame Street: Front and Back
* IMDb for The Adventures of Andre and Wally B.
* IMDb for Luxo Jr.
* IMDb for Red's Dream
* IMDb for Tin Toy
* IMDb for Knick Knack
* IMDb for Geri's Game
* IMDb for For the Birds
* IMDb for Mike's New Car
* IMDb for Boundin'
* IMDb for Jack-Jack Attack
* IMDb for One Man Band
* IMDb for Lifted