Sunday, December 22, 2013

Movie Review: Pixar Short Films Collection 2

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Animation to make you laugh with good bonus features
Cons: No “Play All” option
The Bottom Line:
Collecting the shorts
With view toward how they are made
Fans of art will love

Second Round of Pixar Shorts – Same Entertainment Value

Pixar revived the art of the short theatrical animated release.  Well, it may not really be true, but for many of us it feels that way.  Their habit of putting something fun before their newest releases is something I look forward to as much as their movies themselves.  Couple that with the shorts they’ve started doing for DVD special features, and you’ve got enough material for Pixar Short Films Collection 2 already.

This disc contains twelve shorts.  As far as I am aware, only three are new to DVD while the rest have been previously released.  It may not be a must buy, but for the die hard fan, it is nice to have them all in one place.

Some of these shorts were originally created as bonus features for their DVD releases.  Those are fairly easy to spot since you’ve got familiar characters in them.  The disc starts with one of these and the longest short as Remy from Ratatouille shares with us why rats are really our friends.  It’s pretty funny, although the warning at the end is the best part.  There’s also “Dug’s Secret Mission” which follows everyone’s favorite dog from Up in the 24 hours before he meets Carl and Russell.

There are also two each of the Cars Toons and Toy Story Toons.  Mater becomes part of a flying squad in “Air Mater” and he travels back in time to the creation of Radiator Springs in “Time Travel Mater.”  Meanwhile, the Toy Story gang plans a "Hawaiian Vacation" for Ken and Barbie and Buzz meets some forgotten fast food toys when he gets switched out in the ball pit in “Small Fry.”

Finally comes the non-franchise shorts that ran before features in the theater.  We’ve got the likes of “Presto” about a magician and his rabbit.  There’s also “Partly Cloudy” which shows us what happens to the stork who has to deliver all the sharp and prickly animals.  Then there’s “La Luna” which shows us three generations of men working together to clean up shooting stars.

There is quite a variety of shorts on the disc, and they are all enjoyable.  Whether they feature familiar characters or new ones, I enjoy watching these, and it’s nice to have them at my finger tips if I want to watch one in particular.  Yes, I have most of these, but that means having to remember which movie it was on when I want to watch them.

As a bonus feature, the directors of each short have provided an audio commentary, sometimes with the help of another staff member who worked on the short.  These are interesting as we get to see some of the thought processes behind the shorts and technical issues that had to overcome in making it.  The exception is the commentary for "George and A.J." which was funny for a bit, but I was hoping to learn more about this one.

The animation geek in me really enjoyed the other bonus feature, the student shorts of John Lassiter, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter.  These are hand drawn and rather crude (student shorts, remember with limited budgets and fast production schedule while working on other projects), but they are fun.  My favorites were "Winter" and "A Story."  It’s always nice to see how the story men of today got started.

I mentioned earlier that three of these shorts appear to be showing up on DVD for the first time.  One of these is “George and AJ,” which tells us what happens to the two men who went to collect Carl at the beginning of Up.  It was originally released for the digital version of the movie only, and I hadn’t seen it before.  It’s basically storyboards with voices talking (limited animation if any at all), but it’s pretty funny.  While the Toy Story Toon “Small Fry” premiered before The Muppets in the theater, it wasn’t included on the DVD, so this was my first chance to see that one.  Finally, there’s “Time Travel Mater.”  I really like how this one ties in to the new Carsland at Disneyland’s California Adventure which makes sense since it premiered on TV the week after that area of the park opened.  A little bit of the Cars Toons goes a long way, but I love this one, so I was thrilled to get it.

The animation on all of these shorts is beautiful.  (Okay, there’s the one I just talked about that is storyboards, but it’s worth viewing for it’s own reasons anyway.)  You can tell they are using these to push boundaries for the feature films, and the experiments pay off.

The story telling is also very impressive.  While the ones that feature familiar characters do include dialogue (with the original cast members for the most part), the non-franchise shorts don’t have any speaking at all.  And yet through just the animation acting, we still get the story and some truly great laughs.

And that’s the biggest thing on this disc – the gags are wonderful.  While there are some sweet moments, these are first and foremost intended as comedies, and you will laugh as you watch.

The one flaw for this disc is the lack of a Play All feature.  While I don’t need it for me, it would be pain for parents to have to turn on the next short every few minutes if their kids are watching this.

But the main audience for this is probably people like me who are interested in these shorts and learning a bit about what went into them.  For me, Pixar Short Films Collection 2 was great.  I’m very pleased to have it as part of my collection.

Included Shorts:
1. Your Friend the Rat
2. Presto
4. Partly Cloudy
5. Dug's Special Mission
6. George & A.J.
7. Day & Night
8. Hawaiian Vacation
9. Air Mater
10. Small Fry
11. Time Travel Mater
12. La Luna 

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