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With: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Bob Peterson, etc.
Written by: Enrico Casarosa, Doug Sweetland, etc.
Directed by: Enrico Casarosa, Teddy Newton, Doug Sweetland, etc.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 75
Date: 03/18/2013

Pixar Short Films Collection Volume 2 (2012)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Special Mission

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Pixar's previous collection of short films, released on DVD in 2007, is an overall stronger set than this follow-up collection, though this one contains three of the very best.

They are Presto (2008), which was done in the style of the old MGM and Warner Bros. cartoons, with wild, inventive slapstick humor. In it, a magician tries to get his hungry rabbit to perform, but the rabbit is holding out for a carrot. In 2010, Day & Night was the best short Pixar had yet produced, an imaginative, humorous little poem using outlines and backgrounds. Then, the next year, they topped it with the beautiful La Luna, a moving masterpiece of texture, rhythm, and wonder.

That accounts for three of the twelve. Four more are jokey follow-ups to feature films, such as the partly hand-drawn "industrial" film Your Friend the Rat (2007), and BURN-E (2008), which takes place in and around the events of WALL-E. The hilarious Dug's Special Mission (2009) nicely provides some perspective on Up, but the clunky-looking quickie George and A.J. -- also related to Up -- doesn't quite have the same magic.

Next, Partly Cloudy was a theatrical short, shown with Up, that was funny and adorable and well-made, but was starting to reveal the workings of a certain kind of short-film formula.

Additionally, we get two Toy Story shorts, Hawaiian Vacation (2011) and Small Fry (2011) that are quite wonderful, and sure to please fans. But the set ends on a down note with two "Mater" cartoons, both produced for television: Air Mater (2011) and Time Travel Mater (2012), easily -- along with Cars 2 -- the low point of the entire Pixar output (and also, sadly, its most lucrative).

Happily, the set also comes with some wonderful bonus features, seven student films created by Pixar veterans John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter. Lasseter's two films, Lady and the Lamp (1979) and Nitemare (1980), are pencil tests, with some amusing and/or sweet moments. Stanton's, A Story (1987) and Somewhere in the Arctic (1988), are simpler, darker, and funnier. But Docter's -- including Winter (1988), Next Door, and Palm Springs -- are the best, more elaborate and fluid, as well as funnier. Next Door in particular is easily the best of the student films.

List of Shorts:
Your Friend the Rat (2007)
Presto (2008) (Oscar nomination)
BURN-E (2008)
Partly Cloudy (2009)
Dug's Special Mission (2009)
George and A.J. (2009)
Day & Night (2010) (Oscar nomination)
Hawaiian Vacation (2011)
Air Mater (2011)
Small Fry (2011)
La Luna (2011) (Oscar nomination)
Time Travel Mater (2012)

Student Films:
Nitemare (John Lasseter)
Lady and the Lamp (John Lasseter)
Somewhere in the Arctic (Andrew Stanton)
A Story (Andrew Stanton)
Winter (Pete Docter)
Palm Springs (Pete Docter)
Next Door (Pete Docter)

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