Ever since the folks at Pixar Studios first unleashed their groundbreaking animated feature film Toy Story in 1995, they have been viewed upon as a serious group of professionals to be reckoned with — especially by the people at Disney, who didn’t hesitate to buy Pixar outright for an astronomical sum more than a decade after the premiere of the aforementioned now-classic family flick. Since then (and even before then), moviegoers have been treated to the occasional Pixar short attached to the beginning of a feature-length Disney (or Pixar/Disney) item after packing themselves and their rugrats into crowded theaters. Sadly, some of these itty-bitty ditties — which were, let’s face it, often better than the movies that followed them — have been unavailable on home video.
That, of course, changed once Disney/Pixar started releasing assortments of their shorts on DVD and Blu-ray. Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 2 is the latest hodgepodge of computer-animated family-friendly goodies for all to enjoy. These twelve items were originally released between 2007 and 2012, and many of them feature familiar characters from popular Pixar peliculas. We begin with two of the characters from Ratatouille hosting an educational short, Your Friend the Rat (2007) — which features traditional hand-drawn animation as well as CGI. Next up is Presto (2008) — a harrowing tale of the perils magicians surely encounter every time they try to pull a rabbit out of their hat. This short originally premiered before WALL-E, and WALL-E is featured in the next short, BURN-E (2008) — which stars the cutesy post-apocalyptic robot’s titular companion.
Up is the constant factor tying the next three shorts (all from 2009) together. Partly Cloudy (which premiered before the theatrical release of Up) focuses on a lonely cloud in the sky; Dug’s Special Mission (shown before the home video of Up) finds a Golden Retriever guarding a rock on his birthday; and George & A.J. — the only short out of this trio to actually feature any characters from Up, as well as the only one to feature hand-drawn animation — relays the plight of the two retirement home nurses from the more-popular film after Carl said “Screw you guys — I’m outta here!” and took off into the air. The latter short is widely regarded to be the worst in the collection, and originally released online to keep kids with nothing else better to do busy while their mum’s undoubtedly tried to take a bathroom break.
Traditional animation is blended once again with CG in Day & Night (2010), a somewhat Fantasia-esque (in as much one might be inclined to feel like they’re on an acid trip, that is) tale of two anthropomorphic entities — Day and Night — who we see doin’ what we can assume is their daily (and nightly) routine. Hawaiian Vacation (2011) features the traditional Toy Story cast (Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, et al) getting together with Barbie and Ken for a little staycation. This short originally premiered before the dreaded Cars 2 — which takes us to the next short. But, since Air Mater (also 2011) is a solo vehicle for Larry the Cable Guy and his animated counterpart from that particular franchise, that’s all I’m going to say on the matter. Next!
The Toy Story gang returns in Small Fry, which preceded the theatrical run of The Muppets in 2011. Here, the animated playthings (heh) encounter the dangers of what lurks in a fast food restaurant’s ventilation shaft (oh, the horror!). Larry the Cable Guy’s Mater also comes back for more (oh, the horror — again!) in Time Travel Mater, which means I will once again be advancing to the next selection. The final entry in the Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 2 is La Luna (2011). As seen before both the theatrical and home video releases of Brave, La Luna presents us a more serious (and infinitely more delightful than anything with Larry the Cable Guy attached to it could ever be) yarn about a young lad who heads out to sea one night with his father and grandfather to watch the moon rise.
While the animation styles themselves vary from short to short, Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 2 nevertheless boasts an all-around solid 1080p/AVC transfer that brings out the absolute best even the positively worst short in this set has to offer: strong colors, fine detail, all that jazz — this is a fine presentation either way you slice it. Sound-wise, each short has something different to offer. The first half of titles have English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, while the latter six either have a DTR-HD HD 7.1 or DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix. Most shorts also feature a Spanish and/or French DD 5.1 option as well as optional English (SDH), French, and Spanish subtitles.
While you might not expect there to be bonus materials for a release of just shorts, Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 2 goes that extra mile for enthusiasts by including an audio commentary for every title (with one member of the short-in-question’s crew or another), as well as seven student films from Pixar directors (shown in HD). The special features conclude with trailers for four feature films: Monsters University, Planes, Peter Pan, and Finding Nemo 3D.