One Lovable 'WALLE,' Four Fantastic DVD Sets

By Jen Chaney Staff Writer
Friday, November 21, 2008

The people at Pixar never underestimate their audience. That may explain why they released a movie such as "WALL E," which contains relatively little dialogue and depicts striking images of a dystopian American society in which a tiny, binocular-eyed robot tidies up humanity's trash. Uh, dystopian society? In a kids' movie? Yup. Even with its artsy approach and sophisticated themes, "WALL E" has brought in almost $225 million at the U.S. box office since its release this summer, a testament to the faith moviegoers place in the team that both set and continues to raise the bar for computer animation. (It also might be a sign that audiences are smarter than Hollywood often gives them credit for, but that's a topic for another day.)

Expect more expressions of Pixar faith (and more revenue for the studio and its parent company, Walt Disney) after "WALL E" arrives this week on DVD, where it's poised to become one of this holiday season's popular stocking stuffers. The movie comes in four formats: single- and triple-disc standard DVD sets and two- and three-disc Blu-ray versions, each with its own list price and a slightly varied mix of extras. I have to wonder whether a studio might be offering consumers too many options when it issues a new release that requires a chart to detail which features appear on which version.

In the interest of helping parents avoid a decision-making breakdown, allow me to simplify. The single disc ($29.99) comes with a couple of animated shorts (the magic-trick charmer "Presto," which screened with "WALL E" in theaters, and the DVD-exclusive "Burn E"), a couple of deleted scenes, audio commentary by writer-director Andrew Stanton and a solid featurette on the film's sound design. For families seeking animated fare on a budget, that may be plenty. For those craving more, the three-disc DVD ($39.99) includes all of that plus two additional deleted scenes; an array of other featurettes about the making of the film; the full-length documentary "The Pixar Story," which aired this year on Starz; and, on the third disc, a digital copy of the movie that can be uploaded to mobile devices.

Then there is Door No. 3: the Blu-ray editions ($35.99 and $40.99), which deliver all of the aforementioned material plus a few Blu-ray-specific features that turned out to be my favorites in the bunch. For example, that reasonably interesting commentary by Stanton morphs into something thoroughly engaging on Blu-ray, where sketches, images of animators Stanton mentions and even a few moments from a Peter Gabriel concert appear onscreen to flesh out the filmmaker's observations. The Blu-ray also boasts four arcade games that, unlike the lame diversions that often appear on standard DVDs, are actually fun. It took a concerted effort on my part to stop playing "Burn E's Break Through," which borrows blatantly and happily from '80s favorite Donkey Kong. (By the way, the only difference between the two- and three-disc Blu-ray sets is that the latter comes with the digital copy of the film.)

Of course, not every family has Blu-ray yet. If you have a Blu-ray player or plan to get one in the coming weeks, the Blu-ray "Wall E" definitely provides the most complete and interactive way to experience Pixar's story about a machine who learns to follow its heart. But here's the good news. Those who opt for the least expensive, single-disc DVD will still wind up with something worthwhile: a lovely movie and enough quality extras to make the kids feel anything but cheated.

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