The Pixar Shorts Collection, Volume 1 is one of a trio of Pixar titles, including Ratatouille and Cars, marking the simultaneous debut for the fabled animation studio on Blu-ray Disc. Like Cars and Ratatouille, you’ve never seen Pixar’s stunning work look as good as it does in 1080p high definition, or sound as good as it does in uncompressed PCM audio. This is, to date, the definitive high-def collection of Pixar’s history dating back to their early days working in the halls at Lucasfilm.
Pixar has come a long way since operation under George Lucas” umbrella, as evidenced by a sped-up trip through the studio’s current front dates, front door, massive playful lobby, and into their elegant screening theater which prefaces the main title screen. From this theater any or all of Pixar’s 13 Shorts spanning 23 years are ready for viewing while clips from each are projected onto the theater’s screen.
Appreciating Pixar’s past is best experienced by viewing all the Shorts in chronological order, then viewing them again with the commentary tracks turned on. This trip through Pixar’s history begins with The Adventures of Andre & Wally B. (1984), a crude Short that marks a major milestone for the animators as it allowed them to create the hardware and tools that would help spawn their most famous Short, Luxo Jr. (1986). A simple tale of a parent lamp following their child lamp would thrust the small company into entertainment’s limelight and pave the path towards feature films.
The Adventures of Andre & Wally B. and Pixar’s third Short, Red’s Dream (1987), have never been available on any home video format before. The remaining Shorts, through Pixar’s latest released with Ratatouille, are as follows:
- The Adventures of Andre & Wally B. (1984)
- Luxo Jr. (1986)
- Red’s Dream (1987)
- Tin Toy (1988)
- Knick Knack (1989)
- Geri’s Game (1998)
- For The Birds (2001)
- Mike’s New Car (2002)
- Boundin” (2004)
- Jack-Jack Attack (2005)
- One Man Band (2006)
- Mater and the Ghostlight (2006)
- Lifted (2007)
Pixar used their Shorts to demonstrate new advances in hardware, and subsequently sell the hardware to fund more research and Shorts. As the tools at Pixar’s disposal evolved and modernized, so did the visual complexity of their Shorts. This evolution is most evident in Knick Knack where plastic surfaces and simple geometric shapes allowed the animators to create bright imagery their previous Shorts lacked. From Knick Knack on, the benefit of 1080p high definition from pristine all-digital sources is on display like few discs have accomplished before.
One of my favorite Shorts I first saw in theaters was Boundin”. This 2004 Short looked good then, but in no way did that large-scale presentation even begin to approach the clarity, sharpness or impact of how beautiful it looks on Blu-ray Disc. There are no flaws to be found, anywhere, from up close or afar. The same can be said for all of Pixar’s Shorts on this disc. Brad Bird spoke the truth when he said Blu-ray Disc allowed Pixar animation to be viewed as it should be for the first time outside of Pixar’s studio. These Shorts represent reference quality video.
Pixar has been known for outstanding audio as well as picture quality thanks to the amazing work of Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom. The 48 kHz/24-bit 5.1 uncompressed mix on this Blu-ray Disc pushes Gary’s effects to new levels of realism and immersion. Surrounds and LFE are explosive and expansive when called upon, and the variety of strange, quirky voices from Pixar’s unique characters are spot-on accurate with no distortion or imbalance with the effects or score. There’s no better feeling watching an anticipated disc and stumbling upon reference video and audio, which the Pixar Shorts Collection, Volume 1 delivers in spades.
Some might argue the selection of supplemental material on this much-anticipated release is a far cry from what Disney/Pixar could have offered. Maybe this opinion is based on the scads of making-of material found on more recent Pixar feature-length film discs. Rather than overburden viewers with a laundry list of making-of featurettes, Disney/Pixar has instead chosen to focus their history into one short documentary to supplement the informative Commentary tracks that appear on almost every Short.
I would have joined the argument had this documentary regurgitated information from the commentary tracks, but it doesn’t. Pixar: A Short History (23:32, 1080p) digs deep into Pixar’s past with previously unseen behind-the-scenes footage of John Lasseter manning the Pixar stations when he had a lot more hair on his head. The runtime’s majority focuses on the period leading up to Toy Story, Pixar’s first feature-length animated tale, which is the exact period not touched upon in supplementals found in previous DVD releases. Amazingly this documentary manages to induce a greater appreciation for Pixar than previously imaginable by delving deep into their humble beginnings.
Also included are a quartet of brief snippets Pixar created for Sesame Street in the late 1980s with the Luxo and Luxo Jr. lamp models. The lamps act out a word or two in each snippet to help teach kids their meaning. I would have been blown away by the animation had I seen these as a child playing on Sesame Street, and their still good for a single viewing today.
Even though 11 of the 13 Shorts in the Pixar Shorts Collection, Volume 1 are available on previously released DVDs, none look or sound as good as they do in their Blu-ray Disc high definition debut. It’s also a lot easier to pop in one disc and view them all rather than shuffle through a stack of feature film discs to locate them one by one. The only way this collection could improve would be to utilize the 3D technology Pixar used to film Knick Knack by including a pair of 3D glasses. Otherwise, this is about as perfect a high definition home video release as can be hoped for.
– Dan Bradley