Slowly but surely the films of Pixar found their way into our hearts. Stemming all the way back to 1995’s Toy Story, Pixar established itself as a studio where art and inspiration combine to create stories that do entertain and seed themselves within their audience, growing within them as the audience themselves grow older. But it’s not just the features that families enjoy time and again, but the frequently delightful shorts that precede the features. The little narratives vary in style and approach, some having nothing to do with Pixar projects, others utilizing characters of old in new situations. Coming to home video on November 13, 2018, is the third volume of eleven such shorts, plus two mini-movies and two behind-the-scenes videos for audiences to enjoy again and again.
Of the films themselves, mileage may vary. Bao, Lou, Sanjay’s Super Team, Riley’s First Date, and Party Central are the clear standouts, while the others offer their own unique form of entertainment. What’s clearly present in all of them is Pixar’s devotion to animation. Each short possesses its own style, representing the view of the creators, honoring both its inspiration and the culture on which the story is based. For Piper, this means relying on beautiful imagery and music to convey a sequence between a baby bird and a baby hermit crab. Even if the story doesn’t grab you, the animation is a thing of beauty, channeling the innocent wonder of discovery. The Blue Umbrella imagines the world through the eyes of an anthropomorphized umbrella, which sees the joy in a rainy day where others see only inconvenience. As though derived from the hilarious Twitter account “Faces In Things,” Umbrella stars a cast of characters – to use the term loosely – envisioning a world far more alive than we humans recognize. Radiator Springs 500 ½ is an episode taken straight from the Tales from Radiator Springs series which exhausts its charm quickly. However, it’s not designed for the 2006 Cars crowd, but for their kids. Light on story, full on punny jokes – it’s really just one long Mater joke, which Lightning usually becomes the butt of. Then there’s Party Central which is all about wish fulfillment, giving the lovable misfits of Monster University frat Oozma Kappa what they desire most – a taste of that sweet college frat life. Placing the party antics of college films Animal House or PCU through the lens of the Monsters, Inc. universe is comedy gold. Physics be damned! No matter what you think of them all, make sure to watch through to the end of each. Some of them include some really amusing post-credit scenes.
While the shorts themselves are the star of the show, it’s the extras that make the collection really worth a watch. Sure, you can set Lava on reply to enjoy the beautiful song over and again or leave the kids to watch Sanjay’s Super Team without concern of content, but getting the chance to hear what the creators of each short have to say about the inspiration or creative process behind each short is what makes them meaningful. Listening to director Sanjay Patel discuss the personal meaning hidden within Super Team or director Josh Cooley joke about how the audience should really see the prequel – Pixar’s Inside Out – before watching his short elevates the cartoons beyond simply entertainment. Suddenly, they are stories presenting a personal aspect of an experience shared by all members of humanity. Even if some of the introductions are shorter than others, their resonance is felt in watching the short films.
Offering some insight into the culture of Pixar, Volume 3 offers two Bonus Features in the form of “Making Bao” and “Caricature: A Horrible Way of Saying ‘I Love You’”.
Making Bao is an extended exploration of writer/director Domee Shi’s lovely short film Bao. Digging into the making of Bao is more than just the meaning of the word, where pronunciation can shift the meaning, but also the personal touches from Shi’s life that served to create the balance of realism and style. More than that, it offers a chance for Shi to discuss the wonder of ascending beyond her animator position to director, the collaboration that makes it all possible by uplifting the material from just her perspective to make it as emotionally powerful as it exists in her mind.
Caricature: A Horrible Way of Saying “I Love You” sounds like the best-worst thing that anyone who loves Pixar, animation, or art could hear. Since animators and artists spend their days working to craft the characters that make it to the screen, to blow off steam, they develop caricatures of their co-workers. Thing is, once someone creates one, the others bounce on it, making more and more drawings, escalating the already-accentuated images into nightmares. So, as all normal people do, they created “Mean Caricature Night” to just poke, prod, and otherwise torment, in loving-fun, their coworkers.
Though the shorts aren’t going to be for everyone, there’s no denying the wealth of talent that resides within Pixar. Channeling their very personal experiences into short films is undoubtedly a challenge, yet time and again the animators, writers, and directors make it look so unbelievably easy. So whether Volume 3 offers you the first chance to see these films (much like this writer) or you’re returning to old favorites, this gathering of shorts is a wonderful addition to any animation fan’s collection.
List of Films:
- Bao (7:43) – Theatrical release of Incredibles 2 (2018).
- Lou (6:43) – Theatrical release of Cars 3 (2017).
- Piper (6:05) – Theatrical release of Finding Dory (2016).
- Sanjay’s Super Team (7:04) – Theatrical release of The Good Dinosaur (2015).
- Riley’s First Date? (4:37) – In-home release of Inside Out (2015).
- Lava (7:09) – Theatrical release of Inside Out (2015).
- Radiator Springs 500 ½ (6:11) – An episode from Tales from Radiator Springs series (2014).
- The Blue Umbrella (6:44) – Theatrical release of Monsters University (2013).
- Party Central (5:30) – Theatrical release of Muppets Most Wanted (2013).
- Partysaurus Rex (6:32) – Theatrical release of Finding Nemo 3D (2012).
- Legend of Mor’du (6:48) – In-home release of Brave (2012).
- Filmmaker Commentary – Each short’s filmmaker(s) will provide commentary on their film.
- Filmmaker Intros – Each short’s filmmaker(s) will provide an into to their film.
- Making Bao – Director Domee Shi shares her secret recipe for making an animated short – discussing how her rich cultural heritage, unique relationship with her mom and her love of food all informed the making of the food-fantasy Bao.
- Caricature: A Horrible Way of Saying ‘I Love You’ – At Pixar, the utmost sign of respect and admiration from your peers is to become a caricature. Take a look at some hilarious story artists’ representations of their colleagues.
- 2 Mini-Movies – Marine Life Interviews & Miss Fritter’s Racing Skoool.
Available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital November 13th, 2018.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.