THE Pixar label is far more than one of the world’s most assured entertainment brands. It is also a parent’s best friend. How many houses are laden with the films of Pixar, the Californian computer animation company behind Monsters Inc , Finding Nemo and The Incredibles ? Those films are the cheapest babysitter — er, educational entertainment — that a parent can find. Already, my household’s two- year- old auteur is enraptured by the DVD sleeve of ‘‘ Toy Storwee’’, and he’s only seen excerpts of the film, without the sound. The basic economic theory of supply and demand emphasises the strength of the label’s appeal to families: you can never find a discounted Pixar DVD anywhere.
Nor would you have been able to find any meaningful package of Pixar films beyond the eight- disc The Ultimate Pixar Collection in 2005. That set had two problems. First, it contained only four films from the Pixar canon, and the best of the canon, the Toy Story films, weren’t among them. Second, the box set was as difficult to find as Nemo. One thing Walt Disney Studios hasn’t done with its animated DVD releases is flood the market.
Relief is at hand with the upcoming release of two Pixar DVD collections. On December 5, the Disney Pixar Ultimate Collection will be launched. It includes all seven animated Pixar features: Toy Story , Monsters Inc , Toy Story 2 , A Bug’s Life , Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and Cars . There is only one mediocre film among them, which makes the appeal of Cars merchandise to children even more infuriating for parents. This collection is $ 149 worth of animated goodness that arguably will be of limited appeal to families because many of the films would have been purchased individually already. Of course, the collection will become sort of redundant in January with the release of Pixar’s latest film, Ratatouille , but what the hell.
The box set also includes some of the Pixar short films, which are available in the Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 1 that was released this week. Not only is it another sublime distraction for parents, it’s a terrific primer on Pixar’s progression for any film buff. The Pixar shorts have been just as progressive and entertaining as the features, one of their main attractions being their relative freedom. They have been experiments in storytelling and in research and development. And to jaded Pixar watchers, if there are such beasts, the shorts are free of the odyssean story template that fuels their features. You know the drill: lovable protagonist loses friend or family and ventures off into unknown surroundings to find them and learn about life.
They are a delightful bunch of short films to watch even if you have seen some of them before. Together, they display a wonderful continuum, one that is enhanced if you first watch the behind- the- scenes feature about the early days of exploration and frustration at Pixar in the late 1980s as it morphed from a high- end computer supply company into an entertainment entity. It will colour your viewing, particularly if watching the shorts with the director commentaries. Pixar films are so much more than technological achievements, though. Just ask your kids.
* * * DISC WATCH: The Comic Strip Presents ( ninedisc box set), Madman, MA15+, $ 69.95. The first television outing of Rik Mayall, Jennifer Saunders and pals is an erratic comic offering. Very, very funny TV parody from the ’ 80s.