Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Walt Disney Animation Studios Shorts Collection Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes an extraordinary new collection of award-winning and beloved short films featuring Disney's Frozen Fever, starring Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Sven and Kristoff, and the Oscar-nominated Lorenzo (Best Animated Short, 2004). The Short Films Collection includes contemporary shorts starring classic characters, such as the groundbreaking 2013 Mickey Mouse cartoon, Get A Horse! And the holiday treat Prep & Landing: Operation: Secret Santa, as well as celebrated Oscar winners Paperman (2012) and Feast (2014). Enjoy them together for the first time in this must-own collection with all-new extras including an inside look at the Disney Animation shorts, featuring introductions and interviews with the acclaimed filmmakers themselves.
Film (5 out of 5 stars)
While we've seen a couple of Pixar-centric shorts collection before, this collection is the first one (that I can recall) from Walt Disney Animation itself. And much like the Pixar collections, this is a great collection of the various shorts that were created to appear on Disney movies. Some of them have been included along with the movie that appeared with in the bonus features for that movie, but I like having them all in one collection where I can see them without having to pull out all of the other movies. 

Another great thing about this collection is that it shows Disney's versatility in animation. There's hand drawn animation, CG animation, and some of them like "Get a Horse," offer both styles in one. Some of these cartoons like "John Henry" contains hand drawn animation that looks a little rough and unpolished while "Paperman" takes it to another level with it's distinctive hand drawn look that's actually CG. Almost all of these shorts have been nominated for Academy Awards and two of them ("Feast" and "Paperman") have won. 

That's not surprising considering how much heart is in a lot of these shorts. Two of them, "The Little Match Girl" and "John Henry" have pretty downbeat endings, but all of them illustrate some aspect of humanity at its best or at its worst. The majority of them are very humorous with situations that we can all relate to, whether it's trying to meet the person of your dreams, trying to make someone happy with a surprise birthday party, the love between a pet and their human, the frustration of trying to set up various electronics, and how karma can sometimes nail us when we get too cocky. Some of these shorts like "Tangled Ever After" and "Get A Horse" are just straight out slapstick, which I always love to see. This is a fantastic collection that everyone should see.  

Here are the shorts (and filmmakers appearing in each shorts Introduction):  
  • Frozen Fever (2015) – Elsa and Kristoff plan the best birthday ever for Anna – but when Elsa catches a cold, her powers put more than just the party at risk! From Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, Peter Del Vecho, Aimee Scribner
  • Feast (2014) – One man’s love life as seen through the eyes of his best friend and dog Winston and revealed bite by bite through the meals they share. From Academy Award Winner, Patrick Osborne, Kristina Reed
  • Get A Horse! (2013)Mickey, Minnie and friends hitch a ride on a musical hay wagon – but Peg-Leg Pete tries to one-up them with his jalopy. From Academy Award Nominated, Dorothy McKim, Eric Goldberg, Adam Green
  • Paperman (2012) – A young man in an office sees the girl of his dreams in a skyscraper window across the street. But how can he get her attention? From Academy Award Winner, Kristina Reed, John Kahrs
  • Tangled Ever After (2012) – The Kingdom gathers for Rapunzel and Flynn’s royal wedding – but Maximus and Pascal run into a bit of trouble with the wedding rings. From Nathan Greno, Aimee Scribner, Mark Kennedy
  • The Ballad of Nessie (2011) – The Ballad of Nessie tells the honest-to-goodness true tale of Scotland’s Loch Ness and its most mysterious resident. From Kevin Deters, Stevie Wermers-Skelton, Dorothy McKim
  • Tick Tock Tale (2010) – An antique clock shop is robbed, leaving the fate of the kidnapped clocks in the small hands of an outcast who seems a little cuckoo. From Dean Wellins
  • Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa (2010) – Mrs. Claus enlists Wayne and Lanny on a secret mission to retrieve a mysterious item hidden deep within the office of Santa Claus! From Kevin Deters, Stevie Wermers-Skelton, Dorothy McKim
  • How to Hook Up Your Home Theater (2007) – Goofy tackles every consumer’s nightmare – selecting the perfect home theater system, and worse, trying to hook it all up. From Kevin Deters, Stevie Wermers-Skelton, Ian Gooding
  • The Little Matchgirl (2006) – It’s Christmas Eve, and a poor little match girl finds visions of happiness in the flames of the matches she lights to keep warm. Academy Award Nominated, Dave Bossert, Tom MacDougall
  • Lorenzo (2004) –  Lorenzo is the story of pampered cat, Lorenzo, who is “dismayed to discover that his tail has developed a personality of its own.” Academy Award Nominated, Mike Gabriel
  • John Henry (2000) – The story of the legendary steel-drivin’ folk hero, who pitted his strength against that of a machine and won the contest. From Mark Henn.
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
You may be wondering how the video quality for all of these various cartoons look due to their varying styles of animation. I'm happy to report that this 1080p (1.78:1) transfer looks incredible and each of them looks great irregardless of the animation used. Even the rough hand drawn look of "John Henry" looks great while the CG cartoons like "Frozen Fever" look as amazing as you'd expect. The colors for all of these shorts are brilliant and well utilized, especially in the impressionistic "Lorenzo" that kind of reminded me of the stylized multi-hued pink elephant sequence from Dumbo
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Walt Disney Animation Studios Shorts Collection's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also very impressive. The dialogue (for those that have it) is intelligible and clean sounding and the music for all of them is also excellent. The surround activity varies between the various shorts, but most of the shorts do take advantage of the rear speakers which adds a lot of immersion to the shorts. All but one of these shorts ("John Henry") offer foreign languages options, but three of them ("Lorenzo," "The Little Match Girl," and "Paperman") don't offer it because there's no dialogue in them.
Extras (2 out of 5 stars)
Now we come to sad news. The extras on this disc could have been better but at least we got something. It's nice to have the filmmaker intros and the short talk that gives us a background look at how they came together, but I wish they had included more. One interesting addition though, is the Mickey Mouse bonus cartoon "Runaway Brain" that you can only see once you've activated the Disney Movie Anywhere code on their service. I love getting bonus cartoons but I wish they had included it on the disc itself.
  • Filmmaker Intros - The filmmakers behind the shorts share their journeys and introduce their films. These are usually just a couple of minutes long, but it's nice to hear from the people that made the cartoons, who are obviously proud of what they've done.
  • @DisneyAnimation: A Short Story on Shorts - Continuing a legacy started in the earliest days of the Studio by Walt Disney, the Shorts Program is thriving today at the Animation Studios that bears his name, producing award-winning shorts that tell new stories and experiment with artistic and technical innovations. This latest chapter in the @DisneyAnimation series gives us an inside look at the process of developing and producing a short. Hosted by actor/comedian T.J. Miller (voice of “Fred,” Big Hero 6), we will meet a few of the artists and filmmakers who make the shorts, and learn why they are such an important part of the fabric of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Round-table panelists include Lauren MacMullan ("Get A Horse!"), Mike Gabriel ("Lorenzo"), Kristina Reed ("Feast," "Paperman"), Stevie Wermers-Skelton and Kevin Deters (the team behind "The Ballad of Nessie," "Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa," "How to Hook Up Your Home Theater"). I enjoyed this featurette but I wish that it ran longer.
  • "Runaway Brain" (1995) - This is only available on Disney Movie Anywhere once you've activated the code. This short film originally released in 2004 as part of the Walt Disney Treasures Collection: Mickey Mouse in Living Color, Vol. 2 DVD set. This short was nominated for an Academy Award and screened during 1996 Cannes Film Festival. I'm very happy to get this cartoon but I do wish that they had included it on the disc as well.
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
The Walt Disney Animation Studios Shorts Collection is a great set that has a wonderful collection of cartoons that really shows off the breadth of Disney's animation talent and why they are still the company to beat. The Blu-ray offers some amazing video and audio quality, but the extras could have been expanded more. This is an easy set to recommend!

Order your copy today!

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