Pixar Short Films Collection, Vol. 1 (2007)

Pixar Short Films Collection Vol. 1Pixar has been on the forefront of animated movie for over two decades and has brought us hits such as A Bug’s Life, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Ratatoullie.

Anyone who has seen a Pixar movie has also seen some or most of the shorts in this collection at some point. Finally having them all on one disc, chronologically with commentaries is a real treat for me and for all fans of animation and of Pixar in particular.

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Walt Disney Treasures: On The Front Lines (2004)

Walt Disney Treasures: On The Front LinesWalt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines” stands out from the rest of the Walt Disney Treasure releases simply because of its historical context. It contains 32 shorts and a full-length feature film “Victory through Air Power” originally released between 1941 and 1945. This makes “On the Front Lines” the most anticipated release of the Treasures series, and rightly so. Shorts like “Education for Death” or “Der Fuehrer’s Face” have lost nothing of their potency, and putting them into context really shows you the power of the media machine. Most of the material was made for propaganda purposes, supporting the war effort at home and some are educational hence the entertainment factor may not always be given, but the historical context of these makes them fascinating for generations to come.

Read on for a brief synopsis of the most prominent shorts, or click here for the full DVD review over at eyecravedvd.com.

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Madagascar (2005)

madagascarI heard a lot of good things about “Madagascar” but I had my doubts though and rightly so. It’s all well made and such. The animation is cartoon like with enough details to make it look good. The characters are not too interesting and the two monkeys are the funniest of the bunch but they have next to no screen time. The penguins are the key element and the driving force that kicks the whole “break out” story in motion. Again they have next to no screen time. Instead we get the thumb sucking lion Alex (voice: Ben Stiller), the neurotic giraffe Melman, the manic-depressive zebra Marty (voice: Chris Rock) and the motherly hippo Gloria.
There are a few jokes and amusing scenes but not enough to make this a hilarious fun ride. Once you meet the lemurs and the lemurs meet the pansies the movie is practically over, were it not for the returning penguins.

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Corpse Bride (2005)

51pnlqbHNkLTim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” is loosely based on a Russian folktale where a soon to be groom unknowingly cites his marital vows to what seems to him like a wooden stick that looks like a hand reaching out of the ground. The wooden hand comes to life and a terrified Victor (Johnny Depp) finds himself in the clutches of a cursed corpse bride.

At the very beginning of the movie you already realize that you are in for a meticulously composed piece of art. From the sweeping of the broom to the wagging of the tail to the cutting of the fish everything moves in the rhythm of the clockwork opening theme composed by Danny Elfman. The musical score is not quite as memorable as in “Nightmare before Christmas” and more generic, yet it does have its grand moments, e.g. the “Corpse Bride” song.

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Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

wg_curse_of_the_wererabbitI had a “hunch” that this movie would be fun and indeed it was. From the “HOP 2 IT” license plate to “24 carrot gold bullets” to the fact that this movie “may contain nuts”, “Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” is fun for the whole family without limitations (it is rated PG in some countries).
There are just too many carefully planted details and references to previous works to miss on first view that this alone is well worth a second and even third watch. It’s a “must have” on DVD, that is for sure.

The claymation is simply fantastic as we can expect from an Aardman production. It’s not all clay though and there is a fair amount of CGI but it integrates very well and is nicely done, in a fluffy way. Those of you who have seen previous Wallace and Gromit adventures will also recognize many of the tunes and cracking contraptions. New this time around is Wallace’s latest untested contraption, the “Mind-O-Matic”, which is going to be switched to “full suckage” for a little bit of “harmless” mind altering: “Veg bad … Veg baaaad … Veg baaaaaad …” should give you a rough idea of possible applications.

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Stewie Griffin: the untold story! (2005)

I wonder if it is any good seeing Stewie Griffin: the untold story! without having seen one episode of the family guy. Since this movie has been rated 9.5 on imdb at the time I write this, I cannot but wonder if the majority of viewers are flatulent… or wait… maybe one just needs to see the series before watching the movie in order to fully appreciate it! I do not have that luxury so my frame of reference will be limited. Nevertheless, I saw the pilot of Season 4 (the series) and I found it “mildly” entertaining most of the time, weird or even queer at times and occasionally simple and flat (as 2d strips are).

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Ghost in the ShellI have seen the Ghost in the Shell (Kôkaku kidôtai) and the shell was naked. What if not a naked shell is all we leave behind in the end. Besides all the fast-paced action and nudity, this movie has the dystopian quality of “Blade Runner” only more centered on the desert of the real – the net. Somehow I got reminded of David Brin’s short story “Piecework”, esp. when it culminates in a new breed planted inside the synthetic body of a child.
So what defines being human? The ghost in the shell?