Judge Adam Arseneau was once attacked by a Luxo lamp.
Our review of Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1 (Blu-Ray), published February 2nd, 2008, is also available.
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.
Facts of the Case
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)
• "Luxo Jr." (1986)
• "Red's Dream" (1987)
• "Tin Toy" (1988)
• "Knick Knack" (1989)
• "Geri's Game" (1997)
• "For the Birds" (2000)
• "Mike's New Car" (2002)
• "Boundin'" (2003)
• "Jack-Jack Attack" (2005)
• "Mater and the Ghost Light" (2006)
• "One Man Band" (2005)
• "Lifted" (2006)
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 Rebuttal Witnesses
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.
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• Filmmaker's Audio Commentary
• IMDb for The Adventures of Andre and Wally B.
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