Technically they're spectacular, but entertainment-wise they could be stronger.
I think of myself as someone who really likes animation, so I'm a bit baffled as to why I'm not more charmed by Pixar's offerings. Apart from Toy Story 2, which made me cry, I've never taken to their movies, and I found the short films even less satisfying. Technically they're spectacular, but entertainment-wise they could be stronger.
In my first attempt to watch the collection, I made it through about half of the shorts before I was overcome with boredom and had to throw in the towel. There were those famous lamps hopping around, a little unicycle who just wanted a clown to call his own, and that weird old man who plays chess with himself—all iconic little shorts without much to say. A week later I gave the disc another go with the commentary on, and had a completely different experience. My recommendation is this—check out the disc if you're interested in animation history or technology. Skip it if you're looking for strong narratives that will leave the whole family slack-jawed with fascination.
Through the commentary and the bonus feature "The Pixar Shorts: A Short History", we learn that this collection actually chronicles the rise of a studio. Many of the films were made for the purposes of research and development, or simply to show what the animators could do. "The Adventures of Andre & Wally B." dates back to 1984, when Pixar was still a division of Lucasfilm, and development on "Luxo Jr." began back in 1986 when the studio was purchased by Steve Jobs. Who knew computer animation looked so good back then?! And who knew making it required so much math from a bunch of right-brained creative types?!
It's an interesting history in light of the mega-success of everything from Toy Story to Ratatouille, and there are certainly a few winners in this collection. "Mike's New Car" and "Mater and the Gaslight" are precursors to Monster's Inc. and Cars, and "Jack-Jack Attack" earns major points for its hilarious flaming baby. Other highlights include commentary on "Mike's New Car" done by the directors' children—"Hope you enjoyed our talking! Thanks for listening!"—and a series of Luxo shorts done for Sesame Street. I'd give the extras a solid six slices of Moviepie, and the shorts themselves a lackluster four. My own liberal arts math education tells me this evens out to a respectable five.