Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 2 Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
From Disney•Pixar, the Award-winning studio behind Toy StoryUp and WALL•E, comes a new collection of short films.  Experience the revolutionary animation and unforgettable characters with 12 short films together for the very first time.  This must-own collection also features seven rarely screened student films from directors John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter.  Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital as of November 13, Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 2 will delight audiences of all ages.

Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

If you are a fan of Disney/Pixar like I am, chances are good that you’ve seen at least one of these short cartoons attached to one of Pixar’s movies in the theater or on their Blu-rays.  The good news is that all of these cartoons  are enjoyable, but the bad news is that unlike volume 1, this time most of these cartoons may already be in your collection if you own some Pixar Blu-rays.  Out of these twelve cartoons, only three of them (“George & A.J”, “Small Fry”,  and “Time Travel Mater” haven’t been previously released and to be honest, with the exception of “Small Fry”, those are amongst the weakest ones of this collection.  Not that they are bad, but compared to most of the others, they do pale somewhat in comparison.
Here are the the cartoons that are included in volume 2:
  • BURN•E – BURN•E is a dedicated, hard working robot that finds himself locked out of his ship and quickly learns that completing a simple task can often be a difficult endeavor. Based on characters from ‘WALL•E.’ (Directed by: Angus MacLane)
  • Dug’s Special Mission – In this funny short based on the character from ‘Up,’ Dug is sent on a foolish mission by Alpha, Beta and Gamma so that they can hunt for the Bird of Paradise Falls by themselves. Soon Dug discovers that where he belongs is not where he’s been looking. (Directed by: Ronnie del Carmen)
  • George & AJ – Inspired by Carl’s escape, senior citizens around the city unite to make their own “escapes,” much to the chagrin of George and A.J., in this short that features characters from ‘Up.’ (Directed by: Josh Cooley)
  • Air Mater – In this hilarious short, Mater decides he wants to learn how to fly and is accidently recruited by an elite group of formation flyers, the Falcon Hawks. (Directed by: Rob Gibbs)
  • Time Travel Mater – When a clock lands on Mater’s engine, he travels back in time to 1910 where he meets Stanley, the founder of Radiator Springs. (Directed by: Rob Gibbs)
  • Your Friend The Rat – ‘Ratatouille’s’ Remy and his brother Emile guide fans through world history from a rat’s perspective. (Directed by: Jim Capobianco)
  • Partly Cloudy – This humorous short features baby-delivering storks who receive their special packages high in the stratosphere, from clouds who sculpt babies and bring them to life. (Directed by: Peter Sohn)
  • Presto – When Presto, a great turn-of-the-century magician, neglects to feed his rabbit one too many times, the magician finds he isn’t the only one with a few tricks up his sleeve. (Directed by: Doug Sweetland)
  • Day & Night – This short follows Day, a sunny fellow, who encounters Night, a stranger of distinctly dark moods. As their suspicions turn to curiosity, they are delighted to find that this budding friendship can offer a new perspective on the world. (Directed by: Teddy Newton)
  • Hawaiian Vacation – Fans will love this “Toy Story Toon,” as Woody and Buzz lead a group of toys in giving Ken and Barbie the Hawaiian vacation of their dreams – without ever leaving home. (Directed by: Gary Rydstrom)
  • Small Fry – Fans’ favorite team of toys is back in this clever “Toy Story Toon.” Buzz Lightyear is left behind at a fast food restaurant where he finds himself in a support group for discarded toys. As Woody and the gang devise a way to rescue their friend, Buzz tries to escape the toy psychotherapy meeting. (Directed by: Angus MacLane)
  • La Luna – The timeless fable of a young boy coming of age in the most peculiar of circumstances, in which he discovers his Papa’s and Grandpa’s unusual line of work. (Directed by: Enrico Casarosa)
In addition to these cartoons we also get the student films from most of Pixar’s brain trust with films by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter.  These student films (NitemareThe Lady & the LampSomewhere in the ArcticA StoryWinterPalm Springs, and Next Doorall surprisingly show early signs of what would appear in their movies later in their career.  The monster in Stanton’s A Story has the same turquoise and purple coloring as Sully and Nitemare is  basically an early version of Monsters Inc.  That’s not the only to foreshadow later movies as John Lasseter’s The Lady and the Lamp has inanimate objects come to life much like they do in Toy Story, not to mention to serve as a possible inspiration later for the company’s mascot – Luxo the Lamp.
It’s fascinating to see these early movies and to spot the many correlations in their later output.  Pete Doctor even acknowledges the fact as part of their individual introductions to each of their films.  My favorite cartoons are the Toy Story ones but several of them are very funny like Presto which seems like a classic Looney Tunes cartoon.  Others like “Burn-E”, “Dug’s Special Mission”, and “George and A.J.” are tangential stories that take place during the events of Wall-E and Up.  Any fan of Pixar will be happy with this second collection.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Not surprisingly, these cartoons like great on Blu-ray like all of Disney/Pixar movies generally do.  These 1080p cartoons look fantastic, with bright colors that are true and eye-catching.  Black levels are solid and dark and the contrast is excellent throughout.  The detail of these various shorts is very impressive for both the CGI ones and the line drawn animated ones.  This second volume looks cleaner and doesn’t suffer from the same blemishes that popped up in volume 1.   This time around there’s no major issues or digital defects to speak of.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

There’s a mix of different mixes depending on the cartoon as “Day and Night”, “Hawaiian Vacation”, and “La Luna” are Dolby TrueHD Master Audio 7.1 mixes, while “Your Friend the Rat”, “Presto”, “Burn-E”, “Partly Cloudy”, ”Dug’s Special Mission”, “George & A.J.”, “Air Mater”, “Time Travel Mater”, and “Small Fry” are Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes.  All of them sound good but the upgrade that the three 7.1 mixes received makes a noticeable difference.  The dialogue for each of them is clear and easily understood and the rear channels offer some nice ambiance but most of these cartoons don’t have a lot of surround activity for the most part.

Extras (3 out of 5 stars) 

While I’m happy with the extras that are on this disc, I do wish they had offered more of them considering the cost of this Blu-ray for a fairly short collection of cartoons.  Maybe I’ve gotten spoiled by the other full feature Pixar releases that have a lot of extras, but I was hoping for more.
  • Commentaries – Each of these twelve cartoons have their own commentary track with their respective director which includes Jim Capobianco, Nate Wragg, Doug Sweetland, Angus MacLane (one three tracks), Peter Sohn, Ronnie del Carmen, Brad Winemitter, Josh Cooley, Teddy Newton, Sandra Karpman, Gary Rydstrom, Jason Katz, Rob Gibbs (one two tracks), Kim Adams, Bob Pauley, Torbin Xan Bullock, Anthony Christov, Enrico Casarosa, and Kevin Reher.  Since the commentary tracks run the length of the cartoon, none of them offer a ton of information due to the short running time, but they are interesting and at times funny.  Fans of the shorts should enjoy these tracks.
  • Pixar Directors’ Student Films - Here’s almost forty minutes of early pre-Pixar work by three of Pixar’s brain trust.  Each of these seven shorts have an optional director’s introduction to them where they talk about what they were trying to accomplish with each one.  This batch includes John Lasseter’s “Nitemare” and “Lady and the Lamp”, Andrew Stanton’s  ”Somewhere in the Arctic” and “A Story”, and last but not least, there’s also Pete Docter’s “Winter,” “Palm Springs” and “Next Door” too.

Summary (4 out of 5 stars) 

This is a great collection of cartoons but there’s a chance you might own some of them if you already own the other Pixar releases.  This Blu-ray offers some excellent video and audio quality and the extras are decent too but I wish that the studio had been a little bit more generous with them considering the full price cost of this Blu-ray.  If you are a fan of Pixar’s work and don’t already own these on other releases, then this is an easy Blu-ray to recommend.
Order your copy today!

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