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Pixar Embraces Blu-Ray

The high-def Blu-ray camp gets a big boost today (Nov. 6, 2007) with the release of Pixar's RATATOUILLE, CARS and THE PIXAR SHORT FILMS COLLECTION VOL. 1 (from Walt Disney Studios Home Ent., $34.99).

And no one is prouder than John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. "Blu-ray is really exciting because I feel for the first time that you can truly see a Pixar film because there are so many details that get lost on the DVD," he told AWN. "Also because of the amazing amount of data available on the Blu-ray, it makes it so you can do special features that you can't do in any other technology. We have the 'Cine-Explore,' which is like having a commentary with visuals. So it's like watching the movie, hearing the commentary and seeing a documentary at the same time. It's for real cinephiles, and, for me, as a filmmaker, it's great because this becomes the ultimate document on the making of the film. It's so important to put these ideas down when they're fresh in your head.

"And also the Blu-ray technology gives you the opportunity to have fun. The number of characters in the backgrounds of CARS was so gigantic. And we [enjoyed] developing them all but you just drive by in the movie. But the Blu-ray technology gave us the opportunity to explore those characters a little more. So that was the evolution of the CAR FINDER game, which is like a moving scavenger hunt, where you're looking for these cars as the movie's playing. Even as you find them and select them, you can learn about their names, their backstories and more details about them.

"And then there are the shorts with the COLLECTION. I was really excited to finally have the ultimate collection in Pixar shorts, which we've wanted to do for a while, and a lot of people have been asking for this. And there's a great little documentary on the early days of the shorts and commentaries on each one, and it's just great to have them all together [in Blu-ray]."

In addition to such RATATOUILLE DVD bonus features as deleted scenes with intros by Brad Bird, the Fine Food and Film featurette and two shorts -- LIFTED and YOUR FRIEND THE RAT -- there are the following Blu-ray exclusive bonus features:

* GUSTEAU'S GOURMET Game: In this inventive new Java-based game, the orders are stacking up in Chez Gusteau's kitchen. You must help Linguini by moving quickly from station to station in the kitchen to prepare the right meal. If the guests are happy, there just might be time for a delicious bowl of ratatouille.

* Cine-Explore: An innovative, in-movie Java feature allows viewers to customize their own behind-the-scenes experience, which includes animation briefings, documentary shorts, deleted shots: R.I.P, deleted scenes.

Speaking of YOUR FRIEND THE RAT, Jim Capobianco, a story supervisor on RATATOUILLE, discussed the all-new DVD-exclusive short that he directed, in which Remy and his brother Emile lead us on a historical overview of the rat. "It's an 'educational film', the longest short in Pixar history at 11 minutes and the first 2D animation we've done for a short," he explained. "We went back to the roots of animation."

The idea was to compile all of the rat research into an informative and entertaining short. Influences include UPA, ROCKY & BULLWINKLE and Ward Kimble. The crew included eight 2D animators from the CG animation group and they used After Effects and Photoshop for Ink & Paint, including a new software program that allowed them to scan in real brush strokes to paint in Photoshop, which you can see on the Blu-ray disc. In addition, there was stop motion animation for an Alberta map shot, and special textures, dust and erasures for a chalkboard shot.

Meanwhile, Sharon Calahan, DP, lighting, on RATATOUILLE, has been responsible for color timing in both film and digital formats. She said that Blu-ray provides twice the brightness level than DVD and offers "a lusher look." There are naturally different color temperatures for home theater and she likes to switch the contrast and massage the color space. In addition to the extra brightness, Blu-ray offers neon reds.

CARS Blu-ray Disc features all-new bonus materials created in high-definition exclusively for this release using the latest BD-Java enhanced technology. When users arrive at the title menu they have the option of touring "Radiator Springs" or "Emeryville." Radiator Springs allows users to go deeper into the world of CARS through the interactive "Car Finder Game," while Emeryville gives users the opportunity to pull back the curtains at Pixar for an exhaustive look at their unique creative process in "Cine-Explore."

The PIXAR SHORT FILMS COLLECTION offers the following:

* THE ADVENTURES OF ANDRE & WALLY B. -- From the legendary Lucas Films, a delightful look at the lightning-fast in-flight antics of a mischievous bumble bee (Wally B.) and his even faster-moving target (Andre).

* LUXO JR. -- A baby lamp finds a ball to play with and it's all fun and games until the ball bursts. Just when the elder Luxo thinks his kid will settle down for a bit, Luxo Jr. finds another ball -- 10 times larger.

* TIN TOY -- Babies are hardly monster-like, unless you're a toy. After escaping a drooling baby, Tinny realizes that he wants to be played with after all. But in the amount of time it takes him to discover this, the baby's attention moves on to other things only an infant could find interesting. (1988 Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Short Film.)

* RED'S DREAM -- Life as the sole sale item in the clearance corner of Eben's Bikes can get lonely. So Red, a unicycle, dreams up a clown owner and his own juggling act that steals the show. But all too soon, the applause turns into the sound of rainfall, as reality rushes back. Red must resign himself to sitting in the corner and await his fate.

* KNICK KNACK -- Life on a shelf as a snowman trapped in a snow-globe blizzard can become wearing, especially when you're surrounded by knickknacks from sunnier locales. When the jaded snowman finally breaks free of his glass home, his vacation plans are cut short. (Music by Bobby McFerrin.)

* GERI'S GAME -- An aging codger named Geri plays a daylong game of chess in the park against himself. Somehow, he begins losing to his livelier opponent. But just when the game's nearly over, Geri manages to turn the tables. (1997 Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Short Film.)

* FOR THE BIRDS -- One by one, a flock of small birds perches on a telephone wire. Sitting close together has problems enough, and then comes along a large dopey bird who tries to join them. The birds of a feather can't help but make fun of him -- and the clique mentality proves embarrassing in the end. (2001 Academy Award Winner for Best Animated Short Film.)

* MIKE'S NEW CAR -- When Mike shows off his new car to his MONSTERS, INC. co-star Sulley, everything that can go wrong does, and they are left with only their own two feet for transportation. (2002 Academy Award Nominee for Best Animated Short Film.)

* BOUNDIN' -- On a high mountain plain lives a lamb with a wool coat of such remarkable sheen that he breaks into high-steppin' dance. But there comes a day when he loses his lustrous coat and, along with it, his pride. It takes a wise jackalope -- a horn-adorned rabbit -- to teach the moping lamb that woolly or not, it's what's inside that'll help him rebound from life's troubles. (2003 Academy Award Nominee for Best Animated Short Film.)

* JACK-JACK ATTACK -- When babysitter Kari McKean tries to entertain Jack-Jack Parr (of THE INCREDIBLES) with some "brainy baby" music, she triggers an unusual reaction.

* MATER AND THE GHOSTLIGHT -- CARS favorite Mater is "haunted" by a mysterious blue light that teaches him not to play pranks on the other cars in Radiator Springs.

* ONE MAN BAND -- ONE MAN BAND tells the humorously captivating tale of a peasant girl who, with one coin to make a wish at a piazza fountain, encounters two competing street musicians who'd prefer the coin find its way into their tip jars. As the rivalry crescendos, the two overly eager performers vie to win the little girl's attention. (2005 Academy Award Nominee for Best Animated Short Film.)

* LIFTED -- A young alien student bungles his first lesson in elementary abduction as an increasingly weary instructor looks on. (2006 Academy Award Nominee for Best Animated Short Film.)