Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 2 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. La Luna and BURN-E opt for 2.39:1, but they’re the sole exceptions.
Collection 1 showed slightly erratic visuals due to the age of some of its shorts. With nothing made before 2007, however, that’s not an issue with Collection 2.
This meant consistently strong visuals. Sharpness was always solid, as the shorts looked accurate and concise. Virtually no instances of softness marred these tight cartoons. Jagged edges and shimmering failed to appear, and no signs of edge haloes materialized. Of course, the computer-generated shorts lacked any source flaws.
Given the wide range of topics featured here, colors varied quite a lot. These ranged from natural to heavily stylized. Within the parameters at work, the hues looked great, though, as they always showed accurate tones. Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows seemed smooth and well-rendered. I expected quality visuals here and I got them.
Rather than pick one audio format and stick with it, Collection 2 opts for a changing roster. Why? I have not the slightest clue, but we get four formats for the main English tracks:
Dolby Digital 5.1 EX for Your Friend the Rat, Presto, BURN-E, Partly Cloudy, Dug’s Secret Mission, and George and AJ;
DTS-HD HR for Day & Night;
DTS-HD MA for Hawaiian Vacation;
Dolby TrueHD 5.1 for Air Mater, Small Fry, Time Travel Mater, and La Luna.
Even with the bizarre melange of formats, I felt happy with the audio. Soundfields varied but usually added to the shorts in a satisfying manner. More action-oriented pieces like BURN-E or Dug’s Secret Mission used the spectrum in the most active manner, but all of them featured wide, engaging material. The tracks flesh out the room and create a nice feeling of location and atmosphere.
Audio quality always worked fine. Of course, the various lossless tracks showed the most accurate sound, but even the lossy mixes remained more than acceptable. Speech was natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music appeared bright and full, while effects appeared accurate and dynamic. The mixes suited the cartoons well.
Each short comes with its own audio commentary. Here’s who shows up:
Your Friend the Rat: Director Jim Capabianco and Production Designer Nate Wragg.
Presto: Director Doug Sweetland.
BURN-E: Director Angus MacLane.
Partly Cloudy: Director Peter Sohn.
Dug’s Special Mission: Director Ronnie Del Carmen and Supervising Technical Director Brad Winemiller.
George and AJ: Director Josh Cooley.
Day & Night: Director Teddy Newton and Layour Artist Sandra Karpman.
Hawaiian Vacation: Director Gary Rydstrom, Story Supervisor Jason Katz and Supervising Animator Angus MacLane.
Air Mater: Director Rob Gibbs, Producer Kim Adams and Production Designer Rob Pauley.
Small Fry: Director Angus MacLane.
Time Travel Mater: Director Rob Gibbs, Editor Torbin Xan Bullock and Production Designer Anthony Christov.
La Luna: Director Enrico Casarosa and Producer Kevin Reher.
With little time available per short, the commentaries need to move quickly, and they do. The various participants usually cover the basics and give us tight, concise examinations of their work.
Of all 12, two commentaries stand out from the crowd. George & AJ goes the comedic route; it pairs Cooley with an over the top narrator who blatantly lies about the film. We don’t learn a ton, but it’s a fun little ride.
Sohn’s chat for Cloudy proves to be the most personal of the bunch. He tells us how his relationship with his Korean mother influenced the short. Rarely do audio commentaries become touching, but this one delivers in that way and gives us probably the most compelling of the 12 tracks.
Under Directors’ Student Films, we find an additional seven shorts. These include John Lasseter’s Nitemare (7:14) and Lady and the Lamp (6:02), Andrew Stanton’s Somewhere in the Arctic (5:37) and A Story (6:52), and Pete Docter’s Winter (3:30), Palm Springs (3:21) and Next Door (6:26). (Note that all these running times include director introductions; you can also watch the shorts without the intros.)
The quality of the shorts varies but they’re reasonably enjoyable. Remember that they’re student films, so they’re unpolished and rough. Still, you can see glimmers of talent there – and some foreshadowing of later Pixar products.
Of the bunch, A Story is probably the most interesting, if just due to its raw cynicism. Stanton mentions his aversion to phony magic ‘n’ whimsy, and that comes through via the dark short. It’s not great but it’s certainly a change of pace.
The introductions add good notes to the package. Indeed, for Pixar fans, the directors’ chats might be more enjoyable than the shorts themselves. Lasseter, Stanton and Docter give us some useful info and lead into their cartoons in a satisfying manner.
Disc One opens with ads for Monsters University, Planes and Peter Pan. These also show up under Sneak Peeks along with clips for Disney Parks, Sofia the First, and Finding Nemo.
A second disc provides a DVD Copy of Collection 2. This includes the same extras as the Blu-ray, so it’s a quality addition.
As was the case with its predecessor, Pixar Short Films Collection Volume 2 comes with its ups and downs. Nonetheless, we get a reasonable amount of entertainment and variety across the 12 cartoons, so they mostly fare well. The Blu-ray delivers excellent visuals, good audio and a small but valuable set of supplements. This becomes a must-own set for Pixar fans.