Disney and Pixar invite you to discover these masterpieces of storytelling from the creative minds that brought you Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo and many more! With revolutionary animation, unforgettable music and characters you love, these dazzling short films have changed the face of animation and entertainment and are sure to delight people of all ages for years to come.
Pixar Short Films Collection, vol. 1 7.5
eyelights: the historical perspective that it provides.
eyesores: the animation is frequently out-dated.
Unlike most people, I’m not a die-hard Pixar fan. While they have had their share of glories (the ‘Toy Story’ series, ‘Monster, Inc.’, ‘Up‘, ‘Wall-E‘), I also think that they have a fair share of over-rated ones too – decent but average films that are gushed over for reasons that escape me (‘Finding Nemo’, ‘The Incredibles’, ‘Ratatouille’).
But they are innovators and I love animation of all sorts, so I was immediately curious the moment that I heard that they were releasing ‘The Pixar Short Films Collection, ,vol. 1’, a compilation of the 13 shorts that they had made through the years, since their inception. I just had to check it out: there would surely be a few gems in there somewhere.
And there were, even if they weren’t all home runs:
1. The Adventures of André and Wally B. (1984): This is Pixar’s first short and it’s extremely rudimentary – on all levels. It’s super short, there’s no story, just a gag or two and the animation consists of geometrical shapes thrown together to create characters: the backgrounds are static and the characters’ motion is basic, if not off-screen. It’s interesting as a development piece, and from a historical standpoint, but that’s about it. 4.0
2. Luxo Jr. (1986): This one is a case of making the most of what little one has. Pixar used basic geometrical shapes to create a pair of lamps, and having them play with -or chase- a ball. It’s simple, it’s adorable, and it effectively brings to life its intentions. This one is a major winner, even some 25 years later. 9.0
3. Red’s Dream (1987): This one is in the same mold as ‘Luxo Jr.’: it gives life to an inanimate object and tries to make us connect with its simplistic, if not childlike personality. The animation is more ambitious and elaborate but, given the technology at the time, it doesn’t succeed entirely. This is a case where “less is more” would have been the best approach, but I suspect that the animators were trying to push themselves – and probably needed to. 7.0
4. Tin Toy (1988): I found this one grating because the animation was even more elaborate than the previous Pixar shorts, but it didn’t work: the baby looked like a disproportionate monster and its diaper looked like a big rubber clump, while the set design appeared incomplete. The Tin Toy itself was fine-looking, but that’s because it was made with basic geometrical shapes. As for the story, it was meant to be humourous, but I found it slightly annoying. Meh. 6.25
5. Knick Knack (1989): This one’s an amusing short with a snowglobe snowman who’s trying to escape his glass prison to join a beach party further down on the table – and, in particular, to carouse a bikini babe who’s been flirting with him. It’s an absurd little bit, heavy on the slapstick and gags, and the animation is superior to most of the previous Pixar shorts. It would be a half-decade before they put together ‘Toy Story’, but they had already made a lot of headway since their debut. 7.75
6. Geri’s Game (1997): This short features the old man from ‘Toy Story 2’. He’s in a park, playing chess with himself, but actually playing each side competitively, taunting himself and even cheating. It’s a very amusing bit, but what makes it work is how well-conceived the main character is – finally, Pixar has made a decent-looking human character that is expressive and that moves with fluidity. The background is more elaborate but remains static, however. Still, it’s a fun short and is well worth seeing. 8.25
7. For the Birds (2000): This one’s cute but predictable. I suspect that Pixar were playing around with making feathers look realistic, because there’s not much else to it: it’s about a bunch of similar-looking birds hanging out on a wire, who are soon joined by a goofy-looking bird whom they mock and treat with utter disdain. Little do they realize that, in picking away at him/her, they would eventually make their own lives miserable. The animation is good but simplistic. 7.5
8. Mike’s New Car (2002): This little ditty features the two main characters from ‘Monsters, Inc.’, Sulley and Mike. It’s very basic: Mike just bought a new, 6-wheel drive vehicle and he wants to take it out for a drive. But, between the two of them, they never manage to get the car out, instead spending their whole time pressing various buttons and getting into all sorts of trouble. It’s amusing, but nothing more. It’s filler and the animation also makes it look like the short was meant as a tosser; it’s hardly as elaborate and detailed in scope as the feature film was. 7.75
9. Boundin’ (2003): This is the story of a happy-go-lucky sheep who gets depressed when his wool gets sheared off. Basically, it’s an inspirational tale about keeping one’s chin up when things don’t go your way. The animation is blockier than the previous ones, but it looks like the focus was mostly in making the environments three-dimensional. I enjoyed this even though there wasn’t much to it and it was very countrified – a major detriment for me. 7.75
10. Jack-Jack Attack (2005): I adored this one! While I wasn’t a mega fan of the Fantastic Four-inspired film ‘The Incredibles’ , this spin-off short was loads of fun. In it, Jack-Jack’s babysitter Kari recounts her day of babysitting with the superpowered toddler. Having forgotten all of his powers, of which there are many, I was rediscovering them at the same time as she was encountering them. The animation here is quite good, and it compares quite well with the feature film in regards to details and fluidity. Nice. 8.25
11. One Man Band (2005): I really enjoyed this one. It takes place in a courtyard and it’s about a busker who is trying to impress a child enough to get a much-needed coin in exchange for his musical performance. Unfortunately, another busker shows up and challenges him to a musical duel. It’s nothing new, but it’s amusing and well-conceived; the animation is top-notch, the character designs are appealing, and they even look somewhat real instead of blocky or glossy. This is a very nice looking piece of animation and, while it’s fluff, it’s fun fluff. 8.25
12. Mater and the Ghostlight (2006): Hmmm… I liked the idea behind this one, which is a series of pranks being played on and ghost stories being told to a group of friends – which happen to be vehicles from Pixar’s feature-length motion picture ‘Cars’. But it’s not very convincing and it looks geared towards younger audience. Furthermore, while the backgrounds are nice, the characters look rubbery and unconvincing. 7.0
13. Lifted (2006): While this one starts off like a spin on ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind‘, it quickly turns into slapstick as we watch an alien abductor-in-training mess up as he plays around with a large, complex console – much to the frustration of its supervisor. This is simple-minded stuff and it wasn’t all that inspired; it could have been much better. What didn’t help was that the inside of the flying saucer has sparse detail and the characters are simplistic. So, from an animation standpoint, it’s not that interesting. It has a few moments, and I did laugh a couple of times, but it’s too vacuous to be entirely pleasing. 7.25
The disc also includes a few snippets featuring Luxo, jr that were made for Sesame Street. They are rudimentary, their only purpose being to explain simple concept like “up” and “down” to children. Those are alright. The key bonus feature is a 30-minute documentary on Pixar’s beginnings and on a few of their shorts. This small doc features interviews with some of the key players at Pixar; it’s worth it for fans of the studio.
All in all, the ‘Pixar Short Films Collection, vol. 1’ is an excellent compendium for fans of Pixar and for animation fans of all stripes: it does a good job of showcasing the development of computer animation over the course of two decades, and it also highlights the technical landmarks of an animation studio that are leaders in their field. But, beyond that, it’s an hour’s worth of delightful fare that the whole family can enjoy.
Date of viewing: February 10 + 26, 2013