Animation Blu-ray Review

'Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection' Blu-ray Review: A veritable feast for animation fans

August 18, 2015Ben MK

If you've ventured out to the local multiplex to watch a Disney movie recently, there's a good chance that the main feature you saw was preceded by an animated short. For this year's Cinderella, it was Frozen Fever. For last year's Big Hero 6, it was Feast. Now these and many more of Disney's most beloved shorts from the past decade and a half have been brought together in the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection, in which you'll find the following twelve shorts:

  • John Henry (2000) - The legend of John Henry, the former slave whose mighty twenty-pound hammer — and even mightier will — helped forge the C & O Railroad in West Virginia, comes to life through soulful song. Narrated by Alfre Woodard and featuring original music by The Sounds of Blackness.
  • Lorenzo (2004) - The story of a fat, self-indulgent, blue cat and the jinx that is put on him (or, more specifically, his big, bushy tail) by a wicked black cat.
  • The Little Matchgirl (2006) - An adaptation of the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, in which a lonely matchgirl finds much-needed warmth in her memories and in her imagination, despite the brutally cold Russian winter that surrounds her.
  • How To Hook Up Your Home Theater (2007) - Intent on enjoying the big football game in all its high definition glory, Goofy endeavors to go all out in upgrading his home theater setup — with expectedly comical results.
  • Tick Tock Tale (2010) - A story about what happens in a London clock shop after hours, where a kitschy, little timepiece earns the respect of his fellow clocks by single-handedly thwarting a would-be burglar.
  • Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa (2010) - The North Pole's finest, elves Lanny and Wayne, are recruited by Mrs. Clause for a top-secret mission: to infiltrate Santa's workshop and retrieve a wooden box containing a very special item. Featuring the voice of Betty White as Mrs. Clause.
  • The Ballad of Nessie (2011) - The tale of how the shy, kindhearted "Nessie" and her yellow rubber duckie, MacQuack, went from living in a small pond in the moors of Glenkeane to swimming in the vast waters of Loch Ness. Narrated by Billy Connolly.
  • Tangled Ever After (2012) - A follow-up to 2010's Tangled, in which Rapunzel and Flynn's wedding almost ends in disaster, when sidekicks and ring bearers Pascal and Maximus nearly lose — and must hastily retrieve — the wedding rings. Featuring the voices of Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi.
  • Paperman (2012) - A New York City office worker tries and fails to woo a woman he meets on a train platform with paper planes, only to have the paper planes bring them together in a most unexpected way.
  • Get A Horse! (2013) - What begins as a hand-drawn, black-and-white short in which Mickey must rescue Minnie from bad guy Pete soon spills over into the realm of full-color CG animation, as our heroic mouse enlists the help of a few friends to free his sweetheart from Pete's villainous clutches.
  • Feast (2014) - A story about the ups and downs of life as seen from the perspective of an adorable Boston Terrier named Winston, who is rescued from the streets as a puppy and subsequently returns the favor to his owner by helping to reunite him with his girlfriend.
  • Frozen Fever (2015) - A follow-up to the 2013 mega-hit Frozen, in which plans for Anna's big birthday bash nearly go awry, as the kingdom of Arendelle is all but overrun by an army of cute and cuddly snowmen spawned by Elsa's feverish sneezes. Featuring the voices of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad.
Sadly, it appears that a few shorts — such as Disney's most recent, Lava, which premiered at the 2014 Hiroshima International Animation Festival and was screened alongside Pixar's Inside Out — didn't make the cut. Nonetheless, this remains an excellent and extremely entertaining grouping of films, one that serves as the perfect showcase for the broad range of creative talent that call Disney's animation department home. And while some of these shorts can also be found among the supplemental material for Disney's feature-length Blu-ray home releases, it's still nice to be able to enjoy them all together in one convenient and well-put-together little package.

Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection covers a wide array of animation styles and techniques, from hand-drawn to computer animated. Yet this Blu-ray transfer never falters, not even once. Whether we're talking about the black-and-white simplicity of Paperman, the cinematic graininness of How To Hook Up Your Home Theater, or the clean, crisp and colorful CGI of Tangled Ever After and Frozen Fever, the picture quality here is consistently outstanding and undeniably impressive. And what of the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack? Well, it's top-notch across the board as well. From the metallic "Clang!" that resonates when John Henry's hammer strikes an iron nail, to the routine chimes of the clocks in Tick Tock Tale, to the classical music that wafts through The Little Matchgirl, it's safe to say that none of these shorts have ever sounded better.

Disney's two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes a DVD and an iTunes digital copy of all twelve shorts, as well as the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Play Shorts With Introductions By The Filmmakers (9:57) - No matter whether you choose to view the shorts in succession or individually, there is the option to watch each one with a quick 40-60 second filmmaker introduction that provides additional info about the film's conception, its music, art design, etc.
  • @DisneyAnimation: The Short Story About Shorts Hosted By T.J. Miller (7:18) - Actor T.J. Miller (also known as the voice of Fred in Big Hero 6) hosts this casual conversation with Mike Gabriel (director of Lorenzo), Lauren MacMullan (director of Get A Horse!), Kristina Reed (producer of Feast and Paperman), and Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton (directors/writers of How To Hook Up Your Home Theater, Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa and The Ballad of Nessie), in which they talk briefly about the history behind Disney's animated shorts, the Shorts Program at Walt Disney Studios, and some of the innovations in animation brought forward by these shorts.

Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection is available from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment as of August 18th, 2015. The Blu-ray features English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio (On Selected Shorts), Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0, and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French. The total runtime is 1 Hr. 19 Mins.

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