Robots appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the visuals of Robots consistently seemed strong, they were a little less dynamic than I expected from a computer animated film.
Softness was one minor issue. The majority of the film depicted very concise and accurate images, but not always. At times the shots looked just a smidgen soft. I also noticed occasional examples of shimmering and jagged edges. Again, these remained quite modest, but they appeared more prominent than I’d anticipate. No source flaws came with the transfer, as the movie lacked any form of defect.
To match the film’s metallic world, colors were somewhat subdued much of the time. Occasionally they became more dynamic and vivid, but a lot of the movie used a metallic blue tint. Within that palette, the hues were quite good, and when the picture demanded more from them, they appeared lively and vivacious. Blacks also seemed dark and firm, while low-light shots offered good delineation. As I considered a grade, I flip-flopped between an “A-“ and a “B+”. I went with the lower mark simply because I thought the transfer should have been virtually perfect, so the minor issues made it a little less positive than expected.
On the other hand, the soundtracks of Robots fared nicely. The DVD came with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. Except for a slight difference in volume that made the DTS one louder, I thought the pair sounded identical.
And that was fine with me, since both presented lively audio. The soundfield broadened the material in a positive way. With all the droids and silly scenarios on display, the movie offered many opportunities for vivid elements, and it took advantage of most. The big scenes like the dominoes, the Robot City transport, and the climactic battle worked best. Others added spark as well, however, and the movie left us with a rich, involving impression.
Audio quality was stellar. Bass response seemed especially positive, as the film consistently presented deep, firm low-end. Effects used that dimensionality well and created a good impact along with fine clarity and precision. Speech was warm and natural, and music appeared distinctive and dynamic. No problems caused concerns in this very strong soundtrack.
When we head to the DVD’s extras, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first presents director Chris Wedge and production designer/producer William Joyce, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. They chat about the project’s origins and growth, characters and their development, working with the actors, visual elements, the score and instrumentation, references and inspirations, cut sequences and alterations, and story topics.
The commentary starts out very well, as Wedge and Joyce dig into many useful subjects with vigor. We get a good look at the production during those moments. Unfortunately, as the track progresses, the men devote more and more time to praise. They talk about what they love and heap plaudits on all involved. We still get some decent notes about the film through its end, but the dominance of the happy talk makes it turn tedious.
For the second commentary, we hear from lead technical director (effects) Tim Speltz, lead technical director (materials) Michael Eringis, lead technical director (layout) Kevin Thomason, layout supervisor Robert Cardone, animation supervisor James Bresnahan, animation technical lead Matthew D. Simmons, and lighting supervisor David Esneault. All those guys sit together for their own running, screen-specific chat. As one might expect, technical concerns dominate the discussion. They get into character and set rendering, lighting, movement and design, alterations and techniques, and a myriad of different challenges.
Although I’ve heard drier commentaries, I have to say this one becomes pretty yawn-inducing before too long. I don’t fault the participants for this – it’s simply the nature of the subject matter, as such technical issues don’t lend themselves to exciting discussions. Folks with a great interest in the nuts and bolts of CG animation may find this track worthwhile, but I didn’t get much from it.
When we examine Aunt Fanny’s Tour of Booty, we find a five-minute and 10-second short. In it, Aunt Fanny takes us on a comedic tour of the Robot City train station. It’s similar to material in the film, though the relentless parade of gags works better in a brief clip like this than it does in a feature-length flick.
The Robots Original Test lasts two minutes and three seconds. It shows the concept clip created to show how the film’s world would look. That makes it an interesting historical artifact. We can watch it with or without commentary from Wedge and co-director Carlos Saldanha. They fill us in on details connected to the short.
Called Discontinued Parts, we get a collection of three deleted scenes. We see “Tim from the TV Show”, “Rodney and the Rusties” and “Rodney’s Visitor”. The first is an extended version of an existing sequence and features finished animation. The other two offer incomplete scenes in which Rodney deals with his buddies; they use some crude animation and/or storyreels. None of these seem very exciting, though they’re fun to see.
We can inspect these with or without commentary from Wedge. He offers some nice notes about the abandoned storylines and other issues. He also lets us know why he cut the material in this useful discussion.
A featurette called You Can Shine, No Matter What You’re Made Of runs 18 minutes, 13 seconds. It offers an overview of the production with remarks from Wedge, Saldanha, Joyce, executive producer Chris Meledandri, art director Steve Martino, lead color key artist Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, designer Michael Knapp, lead character designer Greg Couch, and designer Peter de Seve. They discuss the project’s origins, inspirations and development, visual and character designs, robot specifics, and general thoughts about the processes.
“Shine” is what the commentaries should have been. It covers useful design issues in a brisk and informative manner. It moves us along well but still manages a reasonable amount of detail. This featurette stands out as one of the DVD’s better components.
Another piece entitled Blue Man Group lasts five minutes and 57 seconds. It looks at the contributions of that oddball organization via comments from Wedge, composer John Powell, and Blue Man Group founders Chris Wink and Phil Stanton. We learn about the movie’s general musical design, the origins of BMG, and their contributions to the soundtrack. I was afraid this would be a puffy glorification of BMG, but instead it offers a pretty tight little coverage of their work on the flick.
Next comes Meet the Bots, a section with plenty of information about the movie’s 11 main characters. Each one offers short, humorous biographies of the personalities and then breaks into three areas: “The Voice Behind the Bot”, “Design Gallery” and “3-D Turnaround”. The “Voice” featurettes present short clips in which each voice artist talks about his/her character and their work. Some are better than others; Jim Broadbent, Jennifer Coolidge, Ewan McGregor and Halle Berry offer nice notes, while Mel Brooks and Drew Carey don’t tell us much. They’re still cool additions. (Note that the section for “Diesel” simply includes a montage of his different voices since no single actor did his lines.)
Each “Gallery” includes stills from the characters’ development. We see concept sketches and final drawings. All in all, we get 95 frames. In a nice touch, the concert art displays the name of the person who drew it. Finally, the “Turnarounds” show CG renderings of all the characters to demonstrate their final design. These areas add up to a good view of the robots.
Attempts at fun pop up in the “Robot Arcade”. It features three elements. Robot Dance lets you choose any of eight different moves and then watch a droid perform them. The “Mega Moves” option selects dances at random. It’s silly but minor fun.
Fender Photo Shoot shows you stills of various movie characters and quizzes you on how well you remember them. It’s moderately challenging but not too stimulating. Finally, Invent-A-Bot sounds like it’ll let you create your own droids. Instead, it’s a tedious game that forces you to “find” components to use for a predetermined creation.
The DVD also presents a Robots Multi-Player XBox Video Game Demo. Is this fun? Since I don’t own an XBox, I have no clue.
The package ends with ads. A collection of Fox Promos touts the Robots soundtrack, Bratz: Rock Angelz, Ferngully, Strawberry Shortcake, Garfield, and Malcolm in the Middle. Inside Look features a trailer for Ice Age 2 and a “tour” of the flick with voice actor John Leguizamo. The latter is quick and not very informative, though Leguizamo adds some fun to it.
Too bad Robots itself provides so little spark of its own. The movie concentrates so heavily on visual minutiae that it forgets to develop memorable characters or an involving plot. It looks great but lacks any substance to make it worthwhile. The DVD offers good picture quality, though the image is a little disappointing when compared to other CG animation. The soundtrack is very positive, and despite a couple of lackluster audio commentaries, the extras round out the package well. I think this DVD is a generally good product, but the movie itself doesn’t merit a recommendation.