Originally a part of Lucasfilm before being bought by Steve Jobs in the mid-80's for $5M (gee, I think Steve Jobs made a few bucks on that investment), Pixar has gone on from a small start to become an enormous success, with films like "Toy Story 2", "Monsters, Inc.", "Finding Nemo", "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille" all grossing over $400 million dollars worldwide. "Pixar: 20 Years of Animation" was an exhibition highlighting the studio's work, which ran at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC from late 2005-early 2006 and is currently making its way around the world.
While the studio has become legendary for their critically and commerically successful animated feature-length films, Pixar has also produced some wonderful short films that have either ended up on the DVDs of their feature films or have played before the films theatrically.
While Pixar shorts have been included on DVDs previously, never before have they been all together in one place. "Pixar Shorts Vol. 1" pulls together nearly all of the Pixar-produced short so far, from the earliest works ("The Adventures of André and Wally B.") to the latest effort, "Lifted" (which is also found on the "Ratatouille" DVD.)
Although I can't say I'm a fan of a couple of the newer shorts ("Mater and the Ghostlight", "Jack Jack Attack"), some of the other new works (such as the recent "Lifted", which features an alien teenager trying to abduct a human and failing in the alien version of Driver's Ed) fare better. The early shorts, which I haven't seen in quite a while, now seem primitive in comparison to what's out there today (although were obviously stunning for the time), but the storytelling skill and masterful character design that has made Pixar works so beloved is clearly visible from the studio's earliest works, such as the Oscar-winning "Tin Toy".
As discussed in the documentary included on the DVD, early efforts such as "Luxo Jr." stunned audiences not only due to the technical requirements (as early computers were certainly not capable of nearly as much output and we are told a rendering system used for early works cost "hundreds of thousands"), but also the fact that these were among the first CG animated films to show things like emotion. Even early on, Pixar was doing things no one had ever seen.
The Adventures of André and Wally B. (1984)
Luxo Jr. (1986)
Red's Dream (1987)
Tin Toy (1988)
Knick Knack (1989)
Geri's Game (1997)
For the Birds (2000)
Mike's New Car (2002)
Jack-Jack Attack (2005)
Mater and the Ghostlight (2006)
One Man Band (2005)
VIDEO: The shorts are presented either in their original full-frame or widescreen aspect ratios. The oldest shorts look a tad soft, but the shorts from "Knick Knack" onward look terrific, with excellent sharpness and terrific detail. No artifacting, edge enhancement or other faults are spotted. Colors look bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: All of the shorts are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Some of the more recent shorts (especially "Lifted") do have more complex sound design and put the surrounds to consistent use.
EXTRAS: Nearly all of the films have audio commentaries included, with "Jack Jack Attack" being the only commentary-free short.
"Lifted" (director Gary Rydstrom)
"Luxo, Jr.", "Red's Dream", "Tin Toy", "Knick Knack", "Andre and Wally B" (director John Lasseter, Eben Ostby and William Reeves)
"Geri's Game" (director Jan Pinkava)
"Boundin'" (director Bud Lucky)
"For the Birds" (director Ralph Eggleston)
"Mater and the Ghost Light" (directors John Lasseter and Dan Scanlon)
"Mike's New Car" (the sons of directors Pete Docter and Roger Gould)
The commentaries are often quite informative, especially the Lasseter tracks. First-time director Gary Rydstrom also has a lot of fun discussing his first directorial effort, as well as some of the elements of his own life that inspired aspects of the film. The commentary by the young kids on "Mike's New Car" actually doesn't start off too badly, but the discussion quickly grows a little chaotic. Still, it seems as if the kids are entertained by being able to give a little lecture about the picture.
We also get the terrific "Pixar Short Films: A Short History", which is a 23-minute overview of the history of the company, as well as a discussion of some of the earlier short films. Additionally, 4 shorts done for "Sesame Street" are also included.
Final Thoughts: "Pixar: The Short Films Collection" offers a collection of marvelous animated shorts from the studio, as well as a lot of informative and insightful supplemental features. However, the even for fans, the relatively short amount of material does make the $29.99 price tag seem a little expensive. I'd recommend seeking this one out on sale.