Pixar Blu-ray Pix
Ratatouille, Cars, and Pixar Short Films Collection
These three Blu-ray discs, but Ratatouille in particular, show what HD is all about.
Yes, I know that animation usually looks sharp and clear, even on standard definition DVD. But in high definition great computer animation is the very essence of video eye-candy. On Cars you can almost count the number of peop—er—cars in the racetrack stands. Or catch each reflection from the shiny paint and chrome on every vehicle. The picture quality on the Pixar Short Films Collection is a little more variable, with a couple of the company's earliest efforts looking a little soft. But once you get to the most recent ones, awesome. (My personal favorite: "One Man Band.")
Then there's Ratatouille. The film is a visual feast from beginning to end. The textures and details in every scene make those early Pixar short film efforts, and even its first full length releases like Toy Story and A Bug's Life, look like kindergarten stuff. If you watch it on a good big screen display, just be sure to bring cushions to catch your jaw as it drops to the floor. It's that good.
The old canard that animation looks good on anything really doesn't tell the whole story here. It may look good on most anything, but for it to look truly great the "anything," had better be a good, big screen display and the source resolution had better be HD.
The sound is also superb on all the discs (limited only in some of the earliest Pixar shorts), particularly the uncompressed PCM tracks recorded at 48kHz/24bits. Kudos to Disney for publishing this information rather than just calling it "uncompressed PCM" with no additional details. (Are you listening, Sony?)
Cars has the most consistently dynamic sound mix of these three discs, but Ratatouille deserves a share of the glory. It excels not only in its biggest action sequence (the rats escaping a country cottage) but in the small details as well (check out Remy the rat's nearly inaudible footsteps as he walks across the cottage's kitchen countertop earlier in the film).
But there's much more to these releases than their stunning technical chops. Pixar films have been consistently successful because they haven't forgotten that all the great visuals in the world won't satisfy in the long run if the story isn't there. Cars has a great story, and so does Ratatouille. I won't spoil them for you with details, but Cars' log line is basically, " Egotistical, rooky racing car is dumped off in nowhereVille and gets to know quirky local residents. Humility and a change of heart ensues." In Ratatouille, "Rat with a culinary passion gets his big break with the help of new friend/restaurant gofer/sock puppet Linguini. Good eating/bad vibes follow" Or, if you prefer, "Rat gets spatula, Rat loses spatula, Rat gets spatula."
Of course, there's a lot more to both feature-length films than this—more than enough, in fact, to thoroughly entertain everyone from the smallest child to any adult who can get past the "animation is for kids" barrier.
As originally posted, this review commented on slow loading times for these discs. Indeed, I was initially unable to skip quickly over the discs' many front-loaded trailers and go directly to the main menus. In a later check, however, this cleared up. Why the discrepancy? I dunno—possibly gremlins in the HDMI. Whatever it was, both discs now load relatively fast on the Panasonic DMP-BD30 and Samsung BD-P1200 players (for an HD disc, that is)—as long as you use the Top Menu button on the remote to skip over all the promotional material at the front of the discs (Samsung calls this button this Disc Menu).
I won't go into the special features on these discs, but for me the real highlight of the bunch is the special animated feature, "Your friend, the Rat" on Ratatouille. It's in HD, and hilarious. Don't miss it.
I do wish that Disney would stop front-loading its Blu-ray discs with interminable trailers. That's an ongoing complaint around here. On Ratatouille it took over 14 minutes, without skipping, to get from the first on-screen promo to the actual film menu (about 90 seconds less with the Panasonic player). Disney is the main industry offender here. It's carried over from Disney DVDs, but as used here, in a new format struggling to compete, the practice is a major annoyance.
End of bitching. I wouldn't want to be without any of these discs. You won't either.
Ratatouille Picture: 10.0 (out of 10.0) Sound: 10.0 Film: 10.0
Cars Picture: 9.5 Sound: 10.0 Film: 9.0
Pixar Short Films Collection Picture: 7.0 (early shorts)…10.0 (later shorts) Sound: 7.0 (early shorts)…10.0 (later shorts) Film: 9.0-10.0
Reviewed on a JVC DLA-RS1 1080p projector and Stewart Studiotek 130, 78" wide, 16:9 screen, with Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1, BDP-94HD, Samsung BD-P1200, and Panasonic DMP-BD30 Blu-ray players, an Onkyo TX-SR875 Surround Sound Receiver (used as a pre-pro), an Anthem Statement P5 power amplifier, and an APC S15 power conditioner/UPS. Also B&W 683 (L/R front) and 685 (surround), Revel C12 (center) speakers and a Revel B15 subwoofer.