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|Kevin Krock, editor|
Over the last several years, Pixar has wonderfully presented us with the lives of toys, ants, monsters, and fish, and now it has provided us with a fabulous glimpse at the lives of superheroes. As my MousePlanet colleagues concurred in their reviews back in November at the theatrical release of The Incredibles, this movie pushes the Pixar envelope a bit and features a different feel and far more action than its past films, yet it maintains an unrivaled balance of charm, wit, and stunning visuals. While it is not a movie for toddlers, it does make for great family entertainment, and there is something in it for everyone to connect with.
Because Alex and Lisa did a great job reviewing the movie a few months ago, I will not belabor the plot. If you are unfamiliar with the movie, be sure to read their review (link). Suffice it to say that this movie has a great plot and flow, eye-popping animation and visuals, a great soundtrack, and an awesome voice cast. I find it a great way to spend 115 minutes. Now, for the rest of you just waiting to see what else is on the set, I will delay you no further.
True to Pixar tradition, this two-disc DVD is brilliant. Disc 1 primarily contains the movie and a couple of commentaries, which is pretty standard, and Disc 2 contains all the other cool stuff.
The first of the two commentaries on Disc 1 features Writer/Director Brad Bird and Producer John Walker. Given that these two were the pulse of the movie, they provide a fairly loose, humorous and interesting running dialogue. They trade all sorts of stories about their thoughts on developing a scene, changing a character, or how difficult a particular scene was to animate, and it comes across as pretty entertaining. They also do a good job of mentioning all the contributions that their staff made to bring this movie to life.
The second commentary features a whole bunch of animators, including the three lead animators and about 10 other animators. It has a bit more technical feel to it, and while it lacks a little bit of the charisma of the other commentary, it does a great job of describing the hard, tedious work that the animators endured to put the movie together. It also provides a lot more detail about how the characters or a set were designed and digitally constructed, and it gives you a better appreciation for how a director's vision gets converted into reality through the animator's artwork.
Put together, the two commentaries provide a comprehensive, interesting, and generally entertaining behind-the-scenes look at The Incredibles. I know some of you are not all that crazy about commentaries, but give these a try. At the very least, find a scene or two that catches your eye, and alternately listen to the commentaries to get the two different perspectives. Even if you do not listen to both commentaries in their entirety, do not neglect or miss out on this wonderful resource.
Disc 2 is just about the ideal complementary disc to the movie and commentaries. There is a ton of stuff on this disc, and all of it is well worth watching. Some of the highlights include the following:
The all-new Jack-Jack Attack animated short is a fun and odd look at what happened to baby Jack-Jack and Kari the babysitter while Helen, Violet, and Dash are traveling to the island to find Bob. It is funny and quirky, but it nicely explains how the end of the movie comes about.
The collection of deleted scenes totals over 30 minutes, and each of the scenes features an introduction by Brad Bird. What is particularly cool about these scenes is that they are computer animaticspartially animated storyboardsthat show the action and camera positions, but the characters are pencil sketches from storyboards. Even though they are very rough compared to a final scene, they clearly show the intent of the piece. One of the more interesting cut scenes is the alternate movie opening, which more directly introduces you to Syndrome and the Parrs.
The very shortonly about 2 minutes longIncredi-Blunders featurette includes a lot of the computer rendering errors that were encountered during production. Like many similar featurettes, some of the goofs are funnier than others, but they are interesting to watch nonetheless.
The two gems on the disc are The Making Of The Incredibles and the More Making of The Incredibles featurettes. Totaling over an hour, you get a bunch of interviews, personal video, behind-the-scenes video, studio antics, artwork, and in-process animation. These two together enhance all of the verbal stories told on the commentaries, but here you get to see the visuals that go along with them. I have seen an untold number of making-of featurettes, and it never ceases to amaze me how much work these folks pour into these films. For me, it is one thing to appreciate the movie for what it is, but seeing and hearing from the people that put it together adds to the appreciation for their work.
There is also a very quirky Mr. Incredible and Pals short that is produced in retro-style lip-o-vision, where human lips are superimposed on still drawings (a method similar to what Conan O'Brien uses in his show, for you late-nighters). Starring Mr. Incredible, Frozone and their rabbit sidekick, Mr. Skipperdoo, it is pretty darn corny and tongue-in-cheek, but the commentary with Mr. Incredible and Frozone kind of makes up for it.
The one featurette that surprised me the most was Vowellet An Essay by Sarah Vowell. Vowell is the voice of Violet Parr, but she is also a writer and staple of National Public Radio's weekly program This American Life. Recruited by Brad Birdwho heard her distinctive voice one Saturday on the radioher dry, odd sense of humor comes across wonderfully as she describes herself and her on-screen alter ego. Both my wife and I found it pretty entertaining, but I do not think that younger children will catch on to the eccentricity of it.
Then, there is Pixar's latest Academy Award-nominated short film Boundin', which just has a great charm to it. If you have not watched this short, do yourself a favor and give it a viewing. Written, designed, directed, and sung by Pixar's Bud Luckey, this short features some great animation and characters, and it will leave you smiling in the end. The short also has an optional commentary by Luckey, and there is a short biographical featurette on this Pixar legend. These are great additions to the set.
Finally, be patient be very patient with most of the menus on Disc 2, as you do not want to miss any of the easter eggs. I won't divulge the secret here if you want to find them yourself. But for those of you that want to find out where to look for them, just go to the end of the review and highlight the text.
The Video, Audio, and Interface
The video and audio transfer for the movie is quite simply one of the best I have ever seen, and in fact, I see more details and hear more audio surround effects at home on the DVD than I remember experiencing on the big screen. Maybe it was the theater, but even on my rather modest home theater setup, I thoroughly enjoy watching this movie at home. The beautiful and subtle textures on fabrics, hair, water, skin, and other objects just shine on this transfer taken from the original digital files, and the colors, shading, and shadows are amazingly dimensional. Likewise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio envelopes you in the sound field, and it feels much more intimate, alive, and fun than I remember at the theater. This is a gorgeous presentation of the movie, and it will look and sound fantastic on any home theater or PC.
As for the interface, it is perfect for the content. The interface on Disc 1 features cool, angular, and simple character and background animation and clips of the great jazzy film music throughout the entire interface. It really gets you into the mood as soon as the menu fires up, and that is what I look and hope for when I pop a disc in the player. Disc 2 is less stylized and adopts a more technical look and feel to it, but it works well for the material. They are all well laid out and easy to navigate, and just about everyone in the family should be able to find their way around to their favorite scene or goodie.
The Final Evaluation
Oh, just go get it. It simply doesn't get better than this.
Well, what are you waiting for?
Easter egg hint
An easter egg is a secret message or screen buried in a program. Easter eggs are created by the developers, usually to display a humorous message or credit to the development team. To see an easter egg, you need to know a special procedure or sequence of keystrokes.
To read how to get to the easter eggs in The Incredibles DVD, click and hold down your mouse button over this black box:
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Kevin here.
Kevin Doc Krock is been a long-time animation buff and home theater fan. He's been following the rise of the DVD format in the home market since its introduction, and he hopes to help you make the most of your family's home theater viewing time and video collections.
You can contact Kevin here.
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