Review by KC Carlson
The Incredibles‘ recent upgrade to Blu-ray is a very welcome event. Not that the old two-disc DVD version wasn’t great — I always thought it was the perfect mix of wonderful movie and geeky background detail, but not SO much detail that it was actually painful to get through the set. (Raise your digital hand if you know of such evil DVD/Blu-ray sets!) So I was a little skeptical to hear that Pixar/Disney was adding a bunch of new special features to the Blu-ray as bait to get you to buy it all over again. That’s something that’s become a ongoing consumer choice these days, as older DVDs and Blu-rays are now seemingly upgraded every 20 or 30 minutes (or so).
Before we get to the special features, how about a few words about the movie itself? The Incredibles — still magical. Still imaginative, amazing, powerful, emotional, funny, and essential. Still incredible. Maybe even more so in Blu-ray, where the details are sharp and clear, the colors are vibrant, and even the color contrasts just grab your eyeballs and won’t let go.
(Although I do have one very teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy, teeny-weenie caveat that goes for pretty much all the Pixar movies. Since they are masters of improving the technology to make these animated films every 20 or 30 seconds (or so), every Pixar movie is seemingly a quantum leap forward (at least technically). So, when you go back for another look at one of the “old” ones after a few years of last seeing it, your brain doesn’t automatically adjust backwards to temporarily forget all the tech improvements since then. Some things look “off”, because they hadn’t (yet) mastered the technology. In The Incredibles‘ case, it’s hair — something that Pixar (and other computer generated filmmakers) have struggled with since day one. That was particularly pesky in The Incredibles anyway, where they were really pushing the bar (And director Brad Bird was asking for a lot of new things — like wet hair!) Because the Blu-ray technology is occasionally unforgiving, and makes even the tiniest obscure things more clear than the filmmakers originally intended, you may see a few split seconds of computer-generated “bad hair day”. Not enough to ruin the sheer enjoyment of the film; just enough to make you go “hmmm…” But then something explodes, and you’re sucked right back into the film!)
(For a more interesting now/then example of how far Pixar has come, if you decide to do an A/B comparison with the old DVD and the new Blu-ray, watch the pre-trailer for the then-“Coming Soon” first Cars movie on the DVD, then the pre-trailer for Cars 2 on the Blu-ray. The former blew me away when I first saw it in the theater years ago. But compared to the new Cars 2 trailer, the original is stunning in its lack of detail compared to the new one. It’s incredible how rapidly this technology is developing!)
Unlike parent company Disney, who’s taken some flack recently for not always carrying over old DVD Special Features onto their new Blu-ray releases (or relegating them to viewing through the Blu-ray internet connection, an unsatisfying situation leading to occasionally lengthy loading delays or being forced to watch the material through reduced-size windows), Pixar treats its fans right by including everything from the previous DVD versions on the new Blu-rays. Even the Easter Egg material is carried over (although no longer “hidden” — something I’ll miss from DVDs).
On Disc 1 (with the movie), there’s Jack-Jack Attack Exploded! — basically a cool visual commentary for the short. It’s a picture-in-picture sort of thing, so it’s kinda nifty watching the actress who plays Kari the babysitter (Bret Parker) performing her lines while the film is rolling! Meanwhile, the filmmakers are discussing all the gags they couldn’t have Jack-Jack do in the film, because they could not have him do anything that could be imitated by a real child. (Although spontaneously bursting into flame is okay, because real kids can’t do that!) Not for the faint of heart or those easily disturbed by babies (seemingly) in peril.
Also on Disc 1 is The Incredibles Revisited, a 22-minute, seven-man roundtable discussion, mostly about things they can talk about now that they couldn’t talk about then (including clueless former Disney execs) and about how ALL the characters are like writer/director Brad Bird. Favorite line to watch for, from Brad: “I know what you guys are doing.”
On Disc 2 (the Special Features disc) are a couple of recurring features that are being added to all the Pixar Blu-ray releases showing why Pixar is one of the best places on the planet to work, as well as offering tips and inspiration to artists on how to possibly get there. Studio Stories: Gary’s Birthday is a short (1:24) humorous look at a situation that everybody who’s ever worked in a large office has dealt with — how do you get any work done when there’s an office birthday party every other day? As you might guess, Pixar comes up with a unique solution. Path To Pixar: Story Artists is a six-minute rapid-fire look at storyboards and why they’re important, by some of Pixar’s best board artists. They also discuss their personal paths to a career at Pixar and provide encouragement to aspiring artists.
Ending With a Bang: Making the End Credits is a short (1:35) but sweet look at the unique and incredibly well-designed credit sequence of the film by Andy Jimenez and Teddy Newton. Finally, there is “The New Nomanisan” Island Redevelopment Plan, an interactive feature about what has become of the once evil island HQ of Syndrome. I found this feature very clever and funny, mostly because I giggle everytime I hear or see the words Nomanisan Island. You will believe that a Omnidroid can serve Mojitos!
Also possibly new to Blu-ray are a few short (8-10 seconds) “ABC Stunts” used as bumpers on ABC Saturday morning programming, plus a couple of commercials with the Incredibles actually shilling for Tide detergent and SBC/Yahoo DSL. I say “possibly” because at least a couple of the ABC things popped up as Easter Eggs on the original DVD, but I don’t know for sure if all of them did — mostly because of the DVD tendency to “randomize” play of the eggs. One annoying side-bar: my Blu-ray player takes longer to “boot up” the short clips than it does to actually play them. Am I alone in thinking that they may not have worked all of the bugs out of this Blu-ray technology thingie before putting it on the market?
Also, the original Deleted Scenes and Teaser Trailer are now presented in HD!
One last nitpick — the Art Galleries are needlessly complicated, with confusing icons and overwhelming directions. They present the artwork even smaller than on the original DVD, where the Galleries were simplicity itself to use. Sometimes hi-tech is not worth the added complications.
Worth the Purchase?
The Incredibles‘ new Blu-ray package is one of those big Disney combo packs with more discs than a goat could eat in a year! Besides the Blu-ray Feature disc and Special Features disc, there’s also a DVD that includes the feature film and the two shorts (Jack-Jack Attack and Boundin’), but no (new or old) Special Features. Finally, there’s a digital copy of the feature film (only) that works with either iTunes or Windows Media, so you can watch it on your computer or smartphone (if you have tiny eyes).
So, is the new Incredibles Blu-ray worth the upgrade? As always, that’s up to you as a consumer depending on your personal choices and finances. The Special Features are very good and fun, but not really essential (except for completists) to your enjoyment of the film itself. However, I can say, if you’re thinking about making the leap from DVD to Blu-ray and want a good example of the differences between the on-screen quality of the two formats, The Incredibles on Blu-ray would be a excellent choice for your personal testing. (The studio provided a copy for review.)