by Dan Goldwasser
One of the best films last year, The Incredibles, gets the full special-edition DVD treatment from Pixar. This should come as no surprise. The two discs are packed with goodies, including three short films, two feature-length commentaries, and a lot of behind-the-scenes featurettes.
From a viewers standpoint, the first disc (which contains the feature film), is stunning. The menus are simple and effective, and feature select 5.1 mixes of Michael Giacchino's score. The film jumps right off the screen, with a vibrant color palette (when it's not a moody scene), pristine direct-digital transfer, and an ear-banging audio track. Keep your subwoofer turned up for this one, if the neighbors don't mind! As we're trying to review this DVD from a music-standpoint, it's my great pleasure to say that Giacchino's music sounds just great here. In fact, according to his assistant, they "fixed" the sound mix for the DVD, and allowed the music to really shine (theatrically, it was buried beneath the sound effects during a few sequences).
In the first of two audio commentaries, director Brad Bird (along with producer John Walker), discuss the film from almost every vantage point imaginable. They start right off by commenting on the music, since this is the first Pixar film since Toy Story that doesn't use Randy Newman's logo music. Bird is very enthusiastic about sharing every bit of information he can, and makes the track both fun and informative. The second commentary is by the animators, and takes a more technical approach to discussing the film. There is also an introduction by Brad Bird explaining the benefits of calibrating your screen for the optimal viewing experience, so take his advice!
The second disc is where the real meat of this Special Edition comes in. The menus are set up like the computer system on the island, which allows for easy navigation. Brad Bird hosts an "Intro" in which he gives you a sneak peak of what you can find on the disc. The first major extra is the new animated short, Jack-Jack Attack. Running only 4:40, this short film shows us what was happening with Jack-Jack and the babysitter while the rest of the family was on the island. It's a delightfully fun short, in the classic Pixar tradition, and has fully immersive sound mix. Music at the beginning is from Giacchino's film score, and the rest of the music is Mozart. (You'll see - it all makes sense!)
The next section is Deleted Scenes. Here we get to see almost 35-minutes worth of story reel ideas that were cut, including introductions that explain what they were, and why they were cut. This includes such things as the alternate opening sequence, action scenes, and some emotional moments.
Making the Incredibles is a 25-minute long featurette which goes through the process of making the film. It's detailed, but not bogged down in technical stuff. From the story stage, to animation, sound mixing, and recording the music, it's all explored here. For those who want more, though, in More Making of The Incredibles, there's 40 more minutes of behind the scenes information to get through. Broken up into different sections ("Story", "Set Design", "Sound", "Music", etc.), it provides a more in-depth look at what it takes to make an animated film.
Focusing for a minute on the "Music" segment, this was not just your average "composer scores the film" piece. Instead, they actually talk to the musicians about the music they're playing! So if you want to see not only the innards of a scoring session at work, but also who these people are, then this featurette is perfect for you. Unfortunately, there was something I felt was missing, and that was "Voices". While we get the occasional glimpse of the dialogue sessions on this DVD, I wish there was more shown about the voice actors on the film.
Interestingly enough, one of the extras is Vowellet - An Essay by Sarah Vowell. Vowell provided the voice of Violet on the film, and apparently she's more than just a voice actress! Running about 9.5 minutes long, this is an interesting glimpse at a rather unique person.
Incredi-Blunders is the blooper reel. Unlike the blooper reels shown at the end of such Pixar films as Toy Story 2 and A Bug's Life, this isn't "manufactured gags", but rather rendering errors. Not as funny as one would have hoped, but at least it's honest errors as opposed to fake ones. The Art Gallery is filled with tons of artwork, from character sketches, to color design. In the Publicity section we get the teaser and two trailers, as well as "Character Interviews", which were fake interviews at the press junket in which the characters are "real", but the film is "fake". Hard to explain, but it's an amusing segment that runs about 6.5-minutes.
In the Top Secret section, there's the "old archival film" Mr. Incredible & Pals. This fake 4-minute 2-D animated film is cheesy and amusing, but not as funny as the commentary by Mr. Incredible and Frozone (voiced by Craig T. Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson). In this section there's also the NSA Files, which allows you to explore the files of the National Supers Agency, and get detailed information about the various Supers referred to in the film.
Finally, there's the Academy Award nominated Pixar short film, Boundin'. Directed, written, narrated, and composed by Bud Luckey, one of the original Pixar animators and character designers, this short film is about a newly shorn sheep who learns to be proud of his talents, by a roaming jackalope. It definitely brings a smile to your face. There's a commentary here, as well as a small featurette explaining who Bud Luckey is.
Oh yeah - you want Easter Eggs? Well, there are a few on here... let's just say that patience is a virtue, and you'll get the key. One is a cute sequence of shots from the film cut to the "Anvil Chorus", using all the explosion shots from the film. Another is an additional deleted scene, involving Dash and his teacher. Yet another is Brad Bird talking about Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, classic Disney animators, who Brad was friendly with (and even showed them a rough story reel from the film), and paid tribute to them by putting them not only in The Incredibles, but also Iron Giant! There's an egg that talks about how the one of the animators took the cake-eating moment a bit too far. Speaking of Pixar animators, they get a little violent in one amusing egg! And finally, there's a little animation gag involving a henchman just before his demise, and another one with a moment between Dash and Mr. Incredible. They're easy to find, you just have to be patient! (Wow, that's a lot of eggs!)
Overall this 2-disc set is full of great features, and while it would have been wonderful to have an isolated score in 5.1 (don't we all wish), the two commentaries and documentaries and extras all culminate in a must-have package. The Incredibles was one of the best films of 2004, and I wouldn't be surprised if the DVD stands out as one of the best releases of 2005.
Images © Pixar and Walt Disney. Special thanks to Buena Vista Home Video, Chad Seiter and Chris Tilton