Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bright Ideas! A Colorful Collection of Animation Blu-Ray Gifts

From Akira to Wall-E, here are some Blu-rays it's okay to get animated about.

Monsters, Inc.

Definitely the broadest comedy in the Pixar oeuvre, Monsters, Inc. was one of the first films to succesfully nail CGI hair. Doesn't seem like a big deal now, but the film still looks great on Blu-ray. The multi-disc set has the ubiquitous Pixar Filmmakers Roundtable, as well as a look behind the scenes at building a Monsters, Inc. themed attraction in Tokyo.
Despicable Me

One of the two twists on the superhero genre released this past summer, this particular film benefits from some ridiculous antics from the Minions, tiny little yellow creatures who speak in gibberish... Except when you use the included iPhone app, which translates their speech to you while you watch the movie.
Kung Fu Panda

Can an obese panda become a kung fu master? Given the title, what do you think? Jack Black anchors a fun cast in this earnest, enjoyable feature. Charming humor, and an actually terrifying villain elevate this over the rest of Dreamworks usual smirkfests.

Presented in beautiful HD on the Diamond Edition Blu-ray restoration, the picture's so good, you can see an entirely new generation of children's hearts break as Bambi's mother dies. Spoiler?

One of the coolest new features Disney intros with this disc is "second screen," which allows you to get related content and info about the movie on your iPad as you watch the film.
The Secret of Kells

A surprise nominee for last year's Best Animated Film Oscar, this beautifully illustrated Irish fable looks like an illuminated manuscript come to life. Hand-drawn and unique, this gorgeous feature needs to be seen in perfect HD.
The Simpsons Movie

Approximately twenty years in the making, this movie could be a huge disappointment. Instead, it turned out to be... a really good episode of The Simpsons. Which is never a bad thing. The Blu-ray has a bunch of deleted scenes, openings, and endings. Plus: Spider-Pig.
Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection

Though not quite complete (it's missing the superb Wallace & Gromit feature film), it's still a must have for Aardman's quirky duo. The Blu-ray set includes all the shorts, as well as looks at the animation process - all in 1080p HD.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Complete Season One

Here's the reaction everyone who actually sits down to watch this show has: "Hey, that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be!" In fact, Clone Wars is probably the best new bit of Star Wars media since Empire Strikes Back. Get in on the ground floor with the season one Blu-ray set, and you'll be hooked on these adventures of young Darth Vader and company.
Pixar Short Films Collection: Volume 1

It's not like you can actually say that Pixar's short films are better than the features - but they're definitely pretty amazing on their own. From the original "Luxo Jr". (which features the first appearance of the Pixar lamp), to the laugh out loud "Lifted," this is a great addition to one of the best animated film libraries, ever.
Meet the Robinsons

Another one of those "secretly re-edited by Pixar's John Lasseter," Disney movies, this SciFi comedy has huge amounts of heart, as a young whiz kid finally finds his home in the future with a family of fellow eccentric geniuses.
How to Train Your Dragon

The second best animated feature of 2010 gets a deluxe Blu-ray treatment. Besides the hilarious and creative main feature, there's a dragon's load of interactive games, including a racing game, and a chance to design your own 3D Dragons.

Inarguably the worst movie Pixar has ever made, Cars is like a solid B+. Yeah, it's that bad. Seriously, though, the stunning American vistas throughout the film pop in HD, and even if this is no Toy Story, it's still a fun, enjoyable movie with a ton of in-jokes that repay repeat viewings.

Clearly inspired by Kanye West's video for "Stronger," Akira is... Okay, just kidding. Akira is probably the most influential anime movie of all time, and with this crisp, gorgeous 1080p HD transfer to Blu-ray, Western audiences can finally see what all the fuss is about.

The Blu-ray comes with sparse extras, but the movie is good enough on it's own - particularly if you're interested in projecting it on the wall at your club with the sound off while you DJ some sweet house music.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Taking a relatively plotless children's book, expanding it to feature length, and adding a plot: a recipe for disaster, right? Not so with this movie, which gets it's flavors just right, and other food metaphors. And the film is laugh out loud funny, thanks to a voice cast that includes Bill Hader, Anna Faris, and Bruce Campbell.
The Incredibles

The best superhero movie ever made? Probably, as Brad Bird's take on animated super heroics has all the emotion, action, and derring do you'd expect from a great superhero film, and stands among the best animated movies ever made, too. The Blu-ray release looks great, and comes with a filmmakers roundtable looking back at the film, an essential companion to the movie for any fan.

A quirky and frequently hilarious deconstruction of the superhero genre that asks, "What does the villain do once he wins?" Turns out, he gets so bored, he tries to make a new hero to battle. The Blu-ray includes a new animated short, an interactive comic creator, and more.

Forget the all singing, all dancing Little Mermaid. Hayao Miyazaki's film takes it back to the source, while adding his own unique vision. The Blu-ray includes a few looks behind the scenes, but its the quirky feature that's the main draw. Get it? Draw? Because it's animation? Anyway.

Tangled is reportedly the last animated "Princess" movie from Disney, at least for a while - and that's a shame, because it's a worthy successor to films like Snow White and Little Mermaid, even with the CGI animation. Brimming with romance, good jokes, and some great Disney songs, Tangled will hopefully become a classic in its own right. The Blu-ray set comes with extended scenes and songs.

The most experimental Pixar film stays almost entirely silent for almost forty-five minutes, only punctuated by some beeps, boops, and no human sounds other than a clip from "Hello Dolly." Then the second half becomes a rollicking adventure with a number of very harsh points about the future of the human race. Along the way, Wall-E is one of the most daring, different movies Hollywood has ever produced.
The Nightmare Before Christmas

What's this? What's this? There aren't too many differences between the Blu-ray and DVD versions of Henry Selick's classic holiday film? Other than an intro from Tim Burton, the two are exactly the same... Except for the fact that a recent digital restoration lets you see the movie almost better than it was in theaters. This is one you'll want to pop in the player on Halloween AND Christmas.

More than any other Pixar film, Ratatouille is an ode to the power of following your dreams, as one rat proves he has what it takes to rise to the top of the French cooking scene. Particularly for the beautiful French city and countryside shots, this is worth owning on Blu-ray.
Monster House

What if that old rickety "haunted" house in the neighborhood was actually haunted? An animated movie so scary, its writer Dan Harmon had to apologize to a seven-year-old girl - but for adults and slightly older kids, the humor shines right through.
Justice League: Season One

There are precious few of the excellent DC Animated Universe series on Blu-ray, so hooray for Warner Brothers releasing Justice League - one of the best - on a great looking set. There aren't a lot of extras to see here, but with 26 episodes to watch, it should keep you busier than Superman on a bad day.

It took Henry Selick long enough, but he finally delivered a feature as weird and exciting as Nightmare Before Christmas. Coraline teams the director up with writer Neil Gaiman for one of the most original - and darkest - children's stories ever committed to film. You'll never look at buttons the same way again.
Alice in Wonderland

For its 60th Anniversary, Disney's classic adaptation of Lewis Carroll's book gets a brand new Blu-ray transfer, and a ton of extras. Alice voice actress Kathryn Beaumont intros most of them, including some newly discovered animation tests, and the now familiar pop-up trivia mode. Thankfully, though, Disney has included one entirely with references to (and differences from) the novel, making the whole thing a richer viewing experience.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 Motion Comic

Sad that Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended her undead-stabbing run with Season 7? No interest in reading comic books? Then you're in luck, as FOX has released a motion comic (a.k.a., not quite full animation, not quite just still pictures) of the first nineteen issues of Joss Whedon's officially approved (and occasionally written) series. The better news? These are the good issues of the comic, before it started to meander and get awful.

Futurama: Volume 5

After some just okay Direct to DVD movies, Futurama came roaring back with quite possibly its strongest season ever. The Blu-ray has all the episodes, including the ridiculous holiday special. There's also a full length version of Fry's comic book, "The Adventures of Delivery-Boy Man," and a ton of deleted scenes. If you don't want this set, you can kiss my shiny metal ass!

Mary & Max

You've probably never heard of this brilliant, adult animated film that starred Toni Collete, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Eric Bana - but you can rectify that mistake by checking it out on Blu-ray. The stop-motion film deals maturely and hilariously with the increasingly heartbreaking relationship between two very damaged people: one, an eight year old girl, the other an adult male agoraphobic with aspbergers.

Quirky, without ever being annoying, Mary & Max is a film you shouldn't miss, and will never forget.


For his 70th Anniversary, Pinocchio gets his first HD transfer ever. With gorgeous sound, and picture, you can finally, finally tell that it's a whale that eats him, and not just a big blob. Seriously, though, the set comes with extras, including an entire missing song that hasn't been seen until now. A must own for collectors.

South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

The biggest surprise of the South Park movie isn't just that it's really funny, and really smart... It's that it's probably the best, catchiest film musical of the past two decades (at least). As shockingly, laugh out loud funny now as when it was first released, this film is a new classic. The Blu-ray comes with an entertaining commentary from creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Venture Brothers: The Complete Season 4

The Blu-ray is the only way of getting this season of Adult Swim's totally insane and hilarious series in one set - and it's worth it, even for new viewers. Despite the insane amounts of seeming continuity going on, each episode of Venture Brothers manages to both enhance - and contradict - the one that's come previously, making the show an experience unlike any other on TV.

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

A dark fable come to life, the movie looks excellent on Blu-ray (it's a pristine transfer), and is a perfect distillation of everything that makes Tim Burton movies great, from the color palette, to the off-kilter humor.

Shrek: The Whole Story

The best series of four movies made about a flatulent ogre ever, Shrek gets the deluxe Blu-ray treatment. All the movies, plus seven hours of extras including the televised Christmas special, and a donkey-load of deleted scenes.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki's epic animation gets the Blu-ray treatment from Disney, including a new transfer, a look into the making of the film with the master himself, and the original Japanese storyboards.

The Last Unicorn

The Blu-ray version of Rankin/Bass' whimsical animated feature corrects a lot of the problems of previous releases. There's good picture and sound, of course, but most notably, the Blu-ray has an uncensored version of the film. Don't go expecting secret hot unicorn on unicorn action, though: it's just some mild swear-words that were cut out in the previous release, though fans did get all hot and bothered about it. Personally, I don't get what the big deal is, unicorns are just very "horny," right? Cough.

Fantasia/Fantasia 2000

Bringing together the original, classic feature, and the updated, still pretty good feature, the double Blu-ray also comes packed with extras. Particularly of note is the Academy-Award nominated short Destino - and the feature length documentary behind its creation, which delves deep into the complicated history between Disney and artist Salvador Dali.

Beauty and the Beast

The first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture gets a worthy Blu-ray edition packed with features. There's three versions of the film included on the disc, including an extended version. But the most interesting for animation buffs, at least, has to be the storyboard-only version, which shows you just how the magic came together.


One of the first of the new vanguard of 3D movies, you won't have the images popping out on this Director's Cut Blu-ray - but you'll still get all the insane, over the top violence, some fantastically designed monsters, and a naked, golden Angelina Jolie. Beowulf, what is best in life?

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Reportedly, twee Director Wes Anderson never showed up on the set of this nevertheless visually stunning stop motion feature. A superb cast brings the world of Roald Dahl's book to life - and honestly, it looks like nothing else you've ever seen. Maybe it looks like nothing Anderson has ever seen, too?

Laugh It Up Fuzball: The Family Guy Trilogy

This boxed collection of Family Guy's three Star Wars parody specials comes packed with extras, including uncensored footage and soundtracks, sock puppet outtakes, and even a conversation with George Lucas himself. Plus, Stewie as Darth Vader! That's hours and hours of hilarity right there.


A modern anime classic, Paprika posits, "What if you could experience someone else's dreams?" The trippy SciFi feature is original, edgy, and decidedly for adults.
Sleeping Beauty

The new Blu-ray transfer of the Disney film has a ton of extras, but one of the most surprising is an entirely new opening where Sleeping Beauty DIES. Okay, maybe she doesn't, but there is a new opening, as well as several deleted songs, which give a new vision of an animated classic.

Toy Story Trilogy

Not only are The Toy Story movies three of the best things ever committed to film, they somehow - bucking conventional wisdom - get better with each installment. The insanely comprehensive, 10-disc Blu-ray box set comes with all three films, plus in depth talks with the filmmakers and nostalgic looks back through animation history.


For a whimsical movie about talking dogs and houses flying through the air on balloons, Up has some surprisingly deep things to say about aging. But also there's funny talking dogs. The Blu-ray features a bunch of deleted scenes, most showing how the film's villain meets his untimely end.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The first full length animated film from Disney gets a remastered print, brightening the colors throughout. This is a piece of film history that holds up as well now as it did when it was first released, a classic from the moment the movie begins

Peanuts Holiday Collection

You'll need a heart of stone to resist buying this collection, which includes every single classic holiday special on Blu-ray. The Ultimate Collection also includes a snow globe... Though sadly, not a Great Pumpkin carving kit.

.Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'hoole

It may have been deservedly and mercilessly mocked on the Internet as "That owl movie," but one thing that got missed in all the hubbub: visually, Legend of the Guardians is awesome. If you have the moolah for a 3-D TV, and a Blu-ray player, you could do worse than turning off the sound and just watching as Zack Snyder's animated owls soar into your living room.

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children

Before you start wondering whether you missed five movies between Spirits Within, and this, a point of clarification: this movie is a feature length adaptation of the seventh - and arguably best - Final Fantasy video game, not a sequel to the kind of terrible theatrical film. The complete version upgrades the visuals to pristine HD, and adds nearly half an hour of footage that fleshes out the story.

It's surprising how heartfelt and hilarious this animated tale of a dog who thinks he's a superhero, and the animals who help him learn to be normal is - until you learn that Pixar's John Lasseter gently guided the film behind the scenes. You may have missed this one in theaters, as it looked like just another generic cash-in. Don't make that mistake at home.
A Bug's Life

Pixar's most underrated movie (though, let's be honest, can a studio who's track record includes pretty much all gigantic hits have something considered underrated?), A Bug's Life features a hilarious central performance by Dave Foley. The Blu-ray features some great extras, too, including a look at the first draft of the script (always a cool behind-the-scenes feature), and a roundtable with the filmmakers.

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