In the golden age of cinema, audiences weren’t bombarded with commercials for Coca-Cola and wireless phone companies. They used to get a little more for their money. Newsreels, previews of coming attractions and even animated short films.

Modern audiences have become familiar with animation staples like Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry from constant reruns on televisions. But since the 1960’s, there have been few animated shorts to make it in front of a feature presentation.

Thank goodness for Pixar who keep the tradition alive with a delightful short before each of their theatrical releases. Finally, each of these shorts (along with some additional material) has been collected on DVD for the first time – The Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 1.

The DVD collects 13 shorts from the company’s history. Films like “Gerri’s Game” and the Academy Award-winning “Tin Toy” audiences might already be familiar with. However more obscure films like “Red’s Dream” and “Knick Knack” may amuse. In a historical context, Pixar’s first effort “The Adventures of André & Wally B.” is fascinating if for no other reason than to demonstrate how far Pixar has come in it’s 20 year history.

It’s hard to say exactly who the audience for this collection is supposed to be. Animation enthusiasts will find plenty to examine in this collection, but casual fans may feel cheated by what’s included. Several of these films (having appeared in front of Pixar’s theatrical releases) have already been made available on those films corresponding DVD releases. I suppose the advantage is to have them all in one place, but that doesn’t exactly offset the price tag.

Each of the short films includes an audio commentary, which is valuable for further historical context or to highlight the small artistic touches that may have gone by unnoticed the first time around. However, some of the commentary is repetitive when compared to the collections lone extra feature, the documentary “Pixar Shorts: A Short History.”

The documentary itself is very interesting as it traces the steps of Pixar’s evolution as an offshoot of LucasArts in the 80’s, snapped up by Steve Jobs shortly thereafter and even their short stint as a computer processor and 3D software vendor. All of their early history is laid bare as a precursor to the world’s first fully computer animated movie, 1995’s Toy Story. People pretty much know the rest of the story from there out.

In the documentary, the original Pixar founders categorize themselves largely as nerds that got lucky. The goal was always to produce a completely computer animated feature. But it wasn’t feasible without experimentation. These guys were literally making it up as they went along – writing the programming and the software as they created. It was with benefactors like LucasFilm and Jobs that made that experimentation possible.

The Pixar crew is also quick to recognize that they weren’t the only team of effects men working toward this goal. They just got their first. A lot of credit is given to director John Lasseter for his creative vision in those early works that kept them one step ahead of the competition.

But the documentary isn’t the main attraction. In this case it’s the features. It’s hard to discuss all of them individually for their merits. Highlighting and specific shorts over others would be wholly subjective and pointless. But once you get beyond the initial experimental shorts and more into the professional grade stuff, there is lots of entertainment to be had. Even if you aren’t interested in the history of Pixar as a company, you’ll find enough here to laugh at and enjoy. It may not be worth the full price of admission if you aren’t Pixar nut like myself, but competitions will find it hard to resist.

7 out of 10