The Pixar Short Films Collection 2 consists of 12 shorts that chronologically pick up where the first collection left off. Oftentimes, the shorts are a missing scene from a full-length movie, such as Burn-E is for Wall-E or Dug’s Special Mission is for Up. Others are originals unconnected to any of the Pixar movies, such as Partly Cloudy. However, all of them carry Pixar’s signature animation style and storytelling approach.
Pixar’s strengths as an animation studio lie in how well its movies are able to bring together humor and emotion all while creating visually compelling and groundbreaking stories. Their shorts offer the same level of commitment to the art form as their films do, just in a smaller package. Oftentimes, the shorter length makes for a more challenging premise, as a story has to stand on its own, and feel complete, all in 11 minutes or less.
In addition to the constraints of limited time, many of the shorts are also largely silent – save for some background music or words-free voice acting. The shorts that rely heavily on the animation are often some of the most inventive. Day & Night juxtaposes the perspective of daytime and nighttime in two figures. As they compare and contrast their own points of view into the world, their emotions run the gamut from jealousy to joy, ending in a moment of commonality and friendship. It’s a stunning portrait of differences and harmony, told in the cleverest of ways.
Within this collection of animated shorts, Your Friend the Rat seems almost feature-length by comparison. At 11 minutes, it’s the longest short Pixar has produced and it’s almost twice as long as most of the other shorts. Telling the history of the rat – using both traditional 2D animation and Pixar’s standard computer animation – Your Friend the Rat attempts to cast rats in a favorable light, going so far to make a case for the oppression of rats throughout history. It’s an amusing take and Patton Oswalt shines in voicing Remy’s outrage and disbelief.
The shorts featuring characters from existing Pixar movies make up the bulk of the collection. In fact, Cars and Toy Story both boast two shorts each. The two Cars-related shorts, Air Mater and Time Travel Mater, are part of the Cars Toons: Mater’s Tall Tales Disney Channel series. They focus on outrageous stories told by Mater, the dim-witted sidekick to Lightning McQueen, and while obviously very popular as a character, Mater tends to be somewhat one note. Nevertheless, the short is perhaps the best format for him and they’re certainly an entertaining couple of stories.
While all of the shorts are well executed and engaging, there are definitely some standouts among the group. Presto is an excellent example of Pixar’s terrific grasp of humor. Hawaiian Vacation, a spinoff of the Toy Story series, is sweet and funny, and a great use of established characters. The aforementioned Day & Night, and the most recent, La Luna, are also some of the more charming and gorgeous shorts Pixar has produced.
Though they may be only a few minutes long, these shorts often say more in those minutes than some movies say in a couple of hours. For instance, Pixar’s latest short, La Luna, is a beautifully told story of three generations of a family. Grandfather, father, and son are some strange sort of moon caretakers who each approach life in a different way. In essence, La Luna is a story about family and individuality, and of creativity and ingenuity. To communicate so much in just over six minutes is no easy feat and the short achieves it wonderfully. It’s one of the best shorts Pixar has released and bodes well for their continued originality and commitment to the form.
Pixar has always excelled at combining beautiful animation with believable and identifiable emotion, and humor. The shorts included in this second collection offer real examples of Pixar’s ability to merge the two so seamlessly. The set includes a varied group of shorts that deal in straightforward humor, as well as with weightier topics. Regardless of theme, the shorts never feel boring or overwrought rather they connect quickly and entertainingly.
The DVD set comes with some very nice extras, including audio commentaries on all of the shorts; as well as student shorts by John Lasseter (Nitemare and Lady and the Lamp), Andrew Stanton (Somewhere in the Arctic and A Story), and Pete Doctor (Winter, Palm Springs, and Next Door). The shorts offer a wonderful glimpse into the early creative minds behind some of Pixar’s greatest films and they also include introductions by their respective directors.