How could anyone critique Pixar? The world’s premiere animation studio became so for a reason, stunning both audiences and computer graphics animators with their display of technical prowess and storytelling ability. The Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1 brings together the studios 13 memorable shorts until 2007 onto one disc.
Starting in 1984 with The Adventures of Andre and Wally B., Pixar began their storytelling career with a simple, mildly amusing short. While time has not been kind in terms of its technical aspects, the influence on future works is in place.
The follow up, Luxo Jr., is the first time the studio would bring to life an inanimate object, the famous desk lamp used in their logo to this day. It’s a brilliant, funny piece, and remains one of their best works.
What’s unique about this set is that watching these shorts in order shows a steady progression in terms of complexity. The simplistic Andre and Wally B. is completely overshadowed just four years later by Tin Toy.
Everyone has a favorite short, this reviewers being Lifted, the hilarious struggle of a young alien trying to learn how to capture a sleeping farmer. For the Birds is a close second, dealing with a large out of place bird struggling to fit in with a group of smaller ones on a telephone line.
Also included on the disc are the film shorts based on the feature length movies. Mike’s New Car gives the Monsters Inc. characters a funny scenario to work with, Jack Jack Attack deals with the best part of The Incredibles, and Mater and the Ghostlight features Larry the Cable Guy pranking his fellow cars.
With the exception of Boundin’, every short included here is a winner. They’re all memorable in some way, and a great way to experience the advances in computer animation, from 1984 to 2007. Despite running under one hour, this is worth the asking price.
Since the earliest shorts were put onto film and look drastically different than the rest, consider the score to be cumulative. Obviously, Andre suffers from being the oldest, with noticeable interlacing, a soft look, and rather flat color. There’s nothing that could be done short of remaking it on modern equipment.
Luxo Jr. features some minor aliasing on the rim of the lamps, and Tin Toy suffers from some bleeding colors and a soft look. Knick Knack is the first all digital piece, and the result is a drastic increase in sharpness and clarity. Look at the girl with the sunglasses to see her right arm actually separated from her body. That single line of pixels is visible.
The more modern the shorts become, the better they look. Lifted, being the newest one, is remarkable. The aliens gelatinous mass is detailed with ripples and crevices. The inside of the house features incredible lighting, maintained by the rich black levels. Mater and the Ghostlight is easily on par with the feature film Cars in terms of its impressiveness.
Despite some lower fidelity on the earliest shorts, this PCM offering is a surprising piece of audio design throughout all of the shorts. Going back to Andre, the bee clearly moves through the soundfield as he gives chase. Luxor does the same with the ball and lamp. Tin Toy offers some great low end work when the baby falls down.
Arguably the best of the audio selections is One Man Band. The crispness and clarity of the clashing instruments is mixed flawlessly, and the surround work is spot on. There’s a drastic difference between the compressed Dolby Digital and PCM mixes here, and one that can be played repeatedly to hear how clear this short sounds.
Extras are limited although fun. The Pixar Shorts: A Short History is an excellent piece running 23 minutes detailing the history of the studio. There’s room for more information, especially as the studio struggled financially, but for the early years, it’s well done. A series of four snippets produced for Sesame Street with the lamps from Luxo Jr. continue the comedy in standard def.
Commentaries are included with each piece, and the contributors change with each film. In fact, Mike’s New Car is voices by the animator’s children. The other commentaries are nicely done given the limited time, despite some redundancy with the history feature.