Pixar’s short films have increasingly become as noteworthy as the feature-length films they have been accompanying. Everytime you go to see the newest Pixar creation, you are all but guaranteed a brief animated masterpiece beforehand, having nothing to do with the film you are there to see. These short films are works of art in their own right; full narratives with humor and emotion, compressed to just a few moments. What’s particularly exciting about this trend is that you never know what you are going to get. These films aren’t advertised, and could be absolutely anything. Pixar allows the unproven artists and storytellers in their ranks to make names for themselves through these films, and the passion is evident in just about every short they release.
Having already released a set of Pixar short films, Volume 2 is now available featuring not only the newer shorts completed since the last collection, but also the student films of famed Pixar directors John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Pete Doctor. Lasseter fares the best of the bunch with some truly inspired animation and storytelling, often recalling the best of the early Disney shorts. Stanton’s and Doctor’s films are more of an interesting time capsule than solid works in their own right, but they are all still worth watching.
As for the actual shorts, there are 12 films in this set, in order from My Friend the Rat, featuring the cast of Ratatouille, on up to La Luna, the short attached to their newest release, Brave. My only real complaint with this set is the direction Pixar seems to be taking their shorts. While the shorts always used to be guarantees of something new, in a style unlike anything they had done before, they are starting to make mini-sequels to their own films. They are still strong films, but the artistry seems to be fading with these efforts. In fact, the only short I didn’t like in the whole set is a spinoff of Cars called Air Mater. The other spinoff, Time Travel Mater is better, but still a weaker effort.
Every one of the shorts also has a commentary track, and they are almost all extremely entertaining. The type of people who work at Pixar are the type of people who know how to make an interesting commentary track. If not completely informative, they find a way to make it entertaining. My favorite is for “George & A.J.,” a spinoff of Up in a completely different art style than anything Pixar has done before. The commentary track features an over-the-top narrator getting in a fight with the creator of the short over just how truthful the commentary should be, and the results are hilarious.
While that is my favorite commentary, my favorite short is Presto, the story of a magician, his rabbit, and magic hats. A tour-de-force of comic timing and visual storytelling, Presto is one of the very best short films Pixar has ever released. While they can’t all be as strong as Presto, this is still an amazing set. Watching them all together is like getting an all-new, albeit disjointed, Pixar film. I’m thrilled they had the idea to release these films together, and hope that this gives more people the opportunity to see that there is more to Pixar than just feature-length films.