"Art challenges technology, and technology inspires the art. That's it in a nutshell the way we work at Pixar." John Lasseter
For anyone who's ever enjoyed a Pixar film, or even a cartoon for that matter, might I suggest adding the newly-released Pixar Short Films Collection Volume I to your DVD library. Aside from receiving 13 Pixar short films, there's an excellent behind-the-scenes feature that takes you through those early days at Pixar; how they went about making those first short films -- the long hours, the sleepless nights, the skimpy paychecks -- to how their entire lives changed when Disney called and requested they take a gamble on their first feature film. That film, of course, turned out to be Toy Story. And the rest is history.
And that's exactly what you get with this DVD: A Pixar history lesson. It's best if you, like I did, start out with the bonus documentary on Pixar, featuring folks like John Lasseter and his Pixar crew who take you through what it was like back in the mid-80s to be introducing a new kind of computer animation to the world. The kind of animation that talked, spoke and engaged the audience. Originally, Pixar was a high-end computer hardware company that sold their Pixar Image Computer to government agencies and the medical community. Lasseter was the only animator on staff, and the entire crew would spend days, weeks, months creating these tiny short films they would preview at trade conventions to pimp their product. Problem was, the Pixar Image Computer didn't sell. These shorts made no money (even though they won Oscars), and some considered it a waste of time. Eventually, the Pixar animation department struck a deal to create some commercials for outside parties. Following the commercials, they wanted to make something small; a half hour made-for-TV movie. However, Disney called ... and they said screw the TV movie -- if you could make something 30 minutes long, you could do 90 minutes. Thus, a $26 million, three-picture deal was struck and Toy Story was born.
But Pixar wouldn't be anywhere without their shorts; tiny films that continue to play before Pixar features to this day. The DVD includes 13 of them, and out of that you get:
- The Adventures of André & Wally B -- This was their first true short film; the one that WOW'ed everyone. And it's just some dude running away from a Bee -- ancient stuff -- but unbelievable considering when it was created.
- Luxo Jr. -- Ever wonder where the Pixar lamp came from. Well, it was inspired by -- you guessed it -- a regular old lamp on a desk at Pixar. This short first introduces the lamp, which would later go on to become an icon.
- Tin Toy -- This short was inspired by Lasseter's nephew, who couldn't pick up a toy without sticking it in his mouth. This idea would later serve as the inspiration for Toy Story. This was also their first Oscar winner.
- Red's Dream -- Pixar's "blue period," and the moodiest of all their films.
- Knick Knack -- A snowman tries to escape his snowglobe in order to get closer to a girl in a bikini.
- Geri's Game -- One of my personal favorites; it features an old man who plays chess against himself.
- For the Birds -- A bunch of birds sit perched on a telephone wire, and find their quiet time interrupted when a large, dopey bird enters the equation.
- Mike's New Car -- This short features Mike and Sulley from Monsters Inc., and revolves around Mike showing off his new, state-of-the-art car to Sully ... although things soon go terribly wrong.
- Boundin -- Another one of my personal favorites -- the dancing sheep! Need I say more?
- Jack-Jack Attack -- This is like a short within a film, as it shows us what happened when Jack-Jack discovered his powers while home with the babysitter -- from The Incredibles.
- Mater and the Ghostlight -- Featuring our friends from Cars; Mater is haunted by a mysterious blue light.
- One Man Band -- A girl with one coin to make a wish wish finds two street musicians competing for said coin.
- Lifted -- Featured before Ratatouille -- a young alien must find a way to beam up a sleeping human while his perturbed supervisor looks on.
Each short film (except, unfortunately, Jack-Jack Attack) comes with the option to watch with filmmaker commentary on or off (listening to the commentary is a must for those first shorts, because they came at a time when no one was doing what these folks were doing). It's a tad frustrating that you can't access the commentaries from a solo screen; all of them are stored along with the shorts.
As far as bonus features go, you receive the aforementioned must-see documentary on Pixar, along with four Sesame Street animated shorts featuring Luxo and Luxo Jr. For those interested in picking up the Blu-ray copy, be aware that it carries no additional bonus features. There are three Easter Eggs located throughout. You can access the first from the Short Films selection page (test animation of Luxo Jr.), there's another on the Subtitles menu (Beach Chair CGI short from 1986) and then another on the Audio Options page (Flags and Waves, 1986).
Audio and Video
All of the shorts are presented in Dolby 5.1 with the exception of The Adventures of André & Wally B which comes to you in Dolby Digital 2.0. One of the great things about Pixar films is the sound; the filmmakers have a lot of fun playing around with it, and it shows throughout each short. You'll be sitting in your living room, and it will sound as if bugs, creatures, animals, you name it are buzzing and zipping past your ear.
Like with all Pixar DVDs, the transfer looks fine. Keep in mind some of these toons are a bit old and will not look as spiffy as, say, the newer ones like Lifted -- but the quality holds up, each scene is bursting with color and you won't be disappointed. Like with the audio tracks, keep in mind it does vary between fullscreen and 2:39:1 widescreen. Additionally, each widescreen short is enhanced for 16x9.
If you have an animation buff in the family, someone who digs Pixar or you're looking to entertain the kids for an hour (the entire 13-short series lasts roughly 55 minutes), then this is a wonderful DVD to pick up. And hey, it'll keep ya busy until Pixar's next, Wall-E, arrives in theaters next summer.