- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 29, 2015

A famed movie powerhouse built on its legendary cartoons offers some of its best abbreviated efforts in the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection (Walt Disney Home Entertainment, rated G, $39.99).

A compilation of a dozen shorts (averaging 5 to 8 minutes each) that barely touches upon the triumphs of the studio over the last decade arrives via a single Blu-ray disk to entertain families with a variety of animation styles.

Offering examples of cartoon techniques that go back to the hand-drawn early years of Disney as well as the latest breakthroughs in computer art mixed media, the compilation includes the shorts “Frozen Fever” (2015), “Feast” (2014), “Get A Horse!” (2013), “Paperman” (2012), “Tangled Ever After” (2012), “The Ballad of Nessie” (2011), “Tick Tock Tale” (2010), “Prep & Landing: Operation Secret Santa” (2010), “How to Hook Up Your Home Theater” (2007), “The Little Matchgirl” (2006), “Lorenzo” (2004) and “John Henry” (2000).

Here’s a quick look at some of my favorites:

“Paperman” – This stunning, mainly black-and-white, Academy Award winner is directed by John Kahrs with a distinct style slightly reminiscent of “101 Dalmatians.” The story of an accountant reconnecting with a lost love via paper airplanes was a mesmerizing 6 minutes and 33 seconds.

“Frozen Fever” — For the first time on Blu-ray, a musical, computer-animated short story tied to the famed blockbuster has Anna enjoying a birthday celebration mired with amusing snafus after the magical Queen Elsa comes down with a cold. Clocking in at almost 8 minutes long, the story by director Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee packs some stunning moments into the event with pesky snowmen, gorgeous costuming and one slick ice monster.

“Lorenzo” – This Academy Award-nominated short, by Mike Gabriel and Joe Grant, features a cat cursed with a tail that takes on a life of its own. The toon looks like a gorgeous hand-painted cartoon throughout.

“How to Hook Up Your Home Theater” – Directors Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton attempt to duplicate a 1940s hand-drawn cartoon using digital animation techniques and succeed handsomely. Set in the 1950s, the short stars our good buddy Goofy slapsticking his way through some technological challenges to watch a football game on his new television.

“Feast” — An Academy Award-winning romantic comedy directed by Patrick Osborne mixes hand-drawn and computer animation and stars a way-too-cute dog in love with table scraps. It’s an emotional roller coaster ride over 6 minutes long for the pooch when his master’s love life interferes with his culinary satisfaction.

The digital transfer brings the collection to stellar life often in a full screen, 1:78:1 presentation boasting vivid colors, detail down to viewing finely drawn animation lines or a near three-dimensional experience with the eye-popping computer-animated efforts especially on “Get a Horse!”

The smidgen of extras are led by the 7-minute roundtable “The Short Story about Shorts” hosted by “Big Hero 6” voice-over actor T. J. Miller. It offers a group of directors discussing the importance of the specific animation medium, touching on its history; the technology advances the short cartoon program at Disney.

Suffice to report, that tiny amount of time is not enough to cover this animation format and I could have easily watched a multi-hour documentary on the subject.

Additionally, creators and production staff offer a very brief introduction to the shorts, usually less than a minute for each. Once again, I would have loved much more information on the origin of each of these shorts.

The one hesitation for a purchase might be that many of these shorts are already extras in other Blu-ray releases. So families with an extensive Walt Disney Home Entertainment library may have already enjoyed most of the cartoons.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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