Disney // 2001 // 92 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // November 25th, 2009
I love it when a film not only holds up, but improves with age. Pixar is on a pace to eclipse Walt's nine old men, with tales that will entertain and inspire generations to come.
It's just another day in Monstropolis -- Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) is about to clinch another employee of the month award, Mike (Billy Crystal) has big plans for his lady love's (Jennifer Tilly) birthday, CEO Henry J. Waternoose (James Coburn) is strategizing ways to corner the scare market, and Roz (Bob Peterson, now known for his performance as Doug in Up) is watching...always watching -- but those are the days when something extraordinary will inevitably blindside you. When a child's door is left unattended on the Scare Floor after hours, Sulley investigates, only to unknowingly allow a human child entrance to Monsters, Inc. Tantamount to an act of global catastrophe, everyone's favorite monster must convince his friend and roommate to harbor this fugitive, until they can find a way to get her home...all under the nose of the ever-vigilant Child Detection Agency (CDA). Yeah, good luck with that. The whole plan goes to heck in a hand basket quicker than you can say "Schmoopsie-Poo," leaving our heroes not only facing impossible odds, but working around their arch-nemesis, Randal (Steve Buscemi), who has a nefarious plan of his own underway.
Coming off the success of their first sequel, Toy Story 2 (1999), the Pixar dream team surprised and delighted critics and audiences with a raucous, inventive, screwball-buddy-comedy whose heart was as big as its laughs. When you're batting-a-thousand, people are just waiting for you to strike out. Not so here. Pete Docter, one of John Lasseters go-to-guys, was partnered with The Simpsons' producer/director David Silverman to deliver what was then the crown jewel in Pixar's short filmography. Monsters, Inc. is a well-tuned story of an exceptional cast of characters living in a vibrantly colorful world, given life by pitch perfect performances and what may be Randy Newman's finest score to date (yes, I am putting it ahead of The Natural). Little known fact: The core idea of this story sprung forth from a Lasseter student film called Nitemare (1979) in which a boy is confronted by a monster in his closet.
From a strictly technical standpoint, it's fascinating to see how far the company evolved in two short years. Sure, they were still struggling with human representation (Boo is a bit more fluid than Andy's family), but the achievements in hair/fur and visual/environmental effects (the door vault, the snowstorm sled run) are mind-blowing! Pay special attention to the credits for all of the incredibly talented below-the-line folks who made this film happen. They deserve just as much praise -- if not more -- than the headliners.
Retired Judge Kevin Lee provides a wonderful review of the original DVD release, so I won't belabor the praise-worth analysis. But what I will add is the deeper we get into the Pixar canon, the more impressive the body of work becomes. There are no cheap installments. This isn't a company that makes one good movie and milks that formula for the next 20 years. Each film carries its own unique signature, originality, and charm...with Monsters, Inc. setting the bar extremely high for the films to follow. Lucky for us, the magic continues to dazzle nearly 10 years later -- and Blu-ray provides a whole new level of appreciation.
Presented in 1.85 AVC-encoded 1080p, the visuals are breathtaking -- the sheer size and scope of the sets, indoor/outdoor lighting, the character designs, even the blood vessels in Mike's eye. Running side-by-side with the original DVD, this sucker pops, squeezing more color and detail out of every frame than I ever thought possible. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio soundscape is just as impressive, throwing us smack dab in the middle of all the insanity. Seriously, the ambient environmentals are coming at you from every direction, lending an entirely new emotional depth to the experience. If there is one company making the most of the Blu-ray format, its Disney. Hands down. And given that this is a DVD / Blu-ray combo pack, do not hesitate to upgrade, even if you don't currently own a BD player. You'll be very glad you made the investment.
Moving onto the bonus features and a slick new menu design, this is one place where the release stumbles. Porting over the existing content from the original DVD release, its obvious how ham-fisted and hokey that presentation was. I mean, a chimp? Seriously? Well, we all have youthful pictures of ourselves we'd prefer to have burned, I'm sure the Pixar gang feels the same way about their past, on-camera selves. We're also missing the "play all" feature of the DVD, which makes the studio tour elements a bit more disconnected than they were originally intended. The other hitch is found in attempting to pop in and out of some of these features. Don't be surprised when it kicks you back to the top menu or, if you're unlucky enough to hit the "stop" button by mistake (as I did), you'll be frustrated to find the disc reloading everything from the very beginning. A bit more work needs to be done on the Quality Assurance front.
All told, these are small complaints for an extremely robust 4-disc package...
NEW! Introduction (2 min)
Director Pete Docter expresses his pride for the film and tells us what we can expect from this Blu-ray release.
NEW! Filmmaker Round Table (22 min)
Pete, Lee Unkrich, Darla Anderson, and Bob Peterson convene at the Hidden City Cafe to look back on the joys and challenges of Monsters, Inc. Pete was the first of the original team to go off on his own to brainstorm upcoming films and pick one to direct. Having no clue what he was doing, it was five years of uncertainty and anxiety. There were 25 different versions of the Yeti cave before settling on the one in the film. Originally Monsters, Inc. was to have two competitors handling under-the-bed and basement scares. Sulley went through a myriad of designs. Billy Crystal turned down the Buzz Lightyear role in Toy Story. The first Pixar film to have the actors record their dialogue together. They were in the middle of their final sound mix on 9/11; the film was scheduled for release 60 days later; and the destruction of Harryhausen's restaurant for decontamination was scrapped and a plasma bubble inserted in its place.
NEW! Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek: Building Monstropolis in Japan
In addition to Disneyland's Monsters, Inc. dark ride and Walt Disney World's Laugh Floor Comedy Club, the Disney Imagineering team has recently introduced Ride and Go Seek to Tokyo Disneyland. The concept takes BuzzLightyear's Astro Blasters and gives guests flashlights to illuminate hidden monsters which animate when found. Once again, when a company other than Disney is footing the bill, the Imagineers have the opportunity to go hog wild and create attractions the likes of which we don't get to experience at DL or WDW. It would have been nice to see video from the other two attractions, but that's just a Disney-parks fanatic talking.
NEW! Roz's 100 Door Challenge
A new applicant placement exam, featuring a mix of movie trivia, reading comprehension, personal preferences, cognitive thinking, spacial relationships, and everything you ever hated about standardized placement tests. This is one interactive game not designed for the kids. I stalled out at Level 14 and bailed. Have at it!
Audio Commentary with co-directors Pete Docter and Lee Unkrich,
screenwriter Andrew Stanton, and executive producer John Lasseter (91
A wealth of information for Pixar junkies and animation fans alike. It sounds like Pete and Lee recorded their thoughts together, while John and Andrew's contributions were edited into the final mix. Interesting trivia learned: Bonnie Hunt's character had a much larger role in an earlier version of the story. Ted the big monster's voice was supposed to be Godzilla's roar, but they couldn't clear the rights. Most of the screams were done by children of the Pixar staff. Fur was a huge technical achievement for the film, as was the landmark appearance of toilets -- the first in any animated film.
For the Birds (4 min)
The short film that ran with the theatrical release of Monsters, Inc. This picture started as an unfinished student film at Cal Arts. Two years in development, the feather animation was the one big technical achievement. Last film made in the original Richmond studios. Can be played with or without commentary from director Ralph Eggleston.
Mike's New Car (4 min)
Short film created specifically for the DVD release. Can be played with or without commentary from the sons of Pete Docter and Roger Gould. If you've ever listened to Connor and Emily's reviews on View from the Couch, it has the same endearing vibe. It's almost more entertaining than the film itself.
Under the "Humans Only" banner...
Pixar Fun Factory Tour (4 min)
John Lasseter gives us a quick look at the then new Emeryville facility
Story is King (2 min)
Co-director David Silverman interviews members of the Monsters, Inc. story team to explain the development process.
Monsters are Real (2 min)
Cast and crew talk about their experiences with monsters.
Original Treatment (14 min)
A look back at the original storyboard pitch for the film -- a very different Sulley (called Johnson), no Mike, and a much older Boo (called Mary) who teaches Johnson how to scare so effectively he usurps Randall (called Ned) as Monster of the Month. When Ned learns Mary is a human child, he sets out to expose Johnson's secret and destroy his promising career. Meanwhile, Mary is on her own, lost and frightened, only to have Johnson show up to save her, admit his machinations to keep her in Monster World, and help her return home.
Story Pitch: Back to Work (5 min)
Story supervisor Bob Peterson (Roz) pitches a new scene to the production team, in which Mike and Sulley smuggle a disguised Boo back into the factory. At this point in the development, Sulley was Randall's put-upon assistant.
Banished Concept: Assistant Sulley (3 min)
Workman Sulley dreams of becoming a successful scare monster. Mike is Randall's assistant.
Banished Concept: End of Day (3 min)
Randall asks for one final door at the end of shift, only to have workman Sulley try his hand at scaring.
Banished Concept: Bad Scare (3 min)
Continuing the "End of Day" sequence, workman Sulley encounters young Boo with disastrous results, elements of which did end up in the final film.
Banished Concept: Scream Refinery (2 min)
A look at workman Sulley processing the filled scream cannisters and how depressing his life has become.
Banished Concept: Original Sulley Intro (1 min)
Last minute change to the film's first few minutes.
Storyboard to Film Comparison (6 min)
Boo at Mike and Sulley's apartment in the aftermath of Harryhausen's, featuring the voices of Billy and John. You can watch the Storyreel or the Final Animation as standalone sequences or in split screen.
Character designs, Color script, Environmental concept art, and Movie Posters, all of which can be viewed individually or through one gianormous slide show. A huge amount of great art work. There are 205 images of Mike and Sulley development alone.
Designing Monstropolis (5 min)
David Silverman returns for a look at creating a fantasy world from scratch.
Set Dressing (4 min)
Pete, Lee, and the ubiquitous chimp introduce us to the brand new Set Dressing department.
Location Flyarounds (8 min)
Smitty and Needleman's 360-degree virtual tour of sets like Boo's bedroom; Mike and Sulley's neighborhood and apartment; Monsters Inc. lobby, corridors, locker room, scare floor, door vault, and scare simulator.
Monster File: Cast of Characters (6 min)
Pete, Lee, David, Darla, and the chimp introduce us to the voice cast and the characters they portray.
What Makes a Great Monster? (2 min)
A brief discussion with the character design team, setting up their work in the Art Gallery.
Animation Process (4 min)
Pete, David, and the chimp walk us through the development process from storyreel and layout, through rough animation, simulation, and shading/lighting effects.
Early Animation Tests (8 min)
The development of the Mike and Sulley characters from the very beginning. Mike had no arms. Sulley had short brown fur, tentacles, and glasses. The most impressive sequence is Sulley in the snow after crashing his sled.
Opening Title Sequence (2 min)
Pete and Geefwee Boedoe talk about lightening the mood of the picture with a slick, retro opening credits done with traditional animation.
Hard Parts (5 min)
Pushing the envelope and overcoming challenges inherent in the film -- fur, fur, fabric, and more fur, not to mention a vault of 23 Million doors.
Shots Department (3 min)
Another new department created to handle more than 1,000 complex simulated shots.
Production Demonstration (2 min)
Using the angle button on your remote, you are able to toggle through the various stages of development -- storyreel, layout, animation, effects -- as George is decontaminated following his incidental human child contact.
Monster Song (5 min)
Billy and John record their big musical number, Randy Newman's "If I Didn't Have You."
Sound Design (4 min)
Gary Rydstrom and Tom Meyers walk us through the secrets behind Monsters' soundscape, as created by the team at Skywalker Ranch.
The Premiere (1 min)
Cast and crew celebrate the film's grand unveiling at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.
Trailers and TV Spots (6 min)
Two 2-min theatrical trailers and four 30-sec television ads.
International Distribution (5 min)
Tweaking various English-speaking elements (signs, props, etc.) and vocal performances for a wealth of foreign countries in which the film will play. The goal is to make an audience feel as if the film was created specifically for them and not dubbed or ported over as an after-thought.
Toys (2 min)
It's all about the merchandise. John, Pete, Lee, and David meet with Ricky (the designer) check out some of the many toys the film gave birth to.
Outtakes (7 min)
Pixar's famous bloopers that ran during the closing credits of the film's theatrical release. These give the animators an opportunity to treat their characters as actors and blow off some much needed steam. We also get to see the premiere of Mike's play "Put That Thing Back Where it Came From."
Wrap-up (1 min)
Parting words from John, Pete, Lee, Darla, David, and the chimp.
Monster TV Treats (1 min)
Animated bumpers created for ABC television.
Ponkickies 21 (2 min)
Here's an odd one. Pixar created an animated version of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" (also known as Jaken) and a "Lucky Door Game" for the Japanese TV show Ponkickies 21. Can be viewed with or without subtitles.
Music Video: If I Didn't Have You (2 min)
A montage of clips cut together for the last chorus of the film's closing song, most likely for The Disney Channel.
On the Job with Mike and Sulley (3 min)
The dynamic duo are interviewed by Monstropolis' Channel 13 News. There's no context offered as to what this was created for.
Welcome to Monsters, Inc. (6 min)
Three segments which make up new employee orientation -- welcome, your first day, and history of the monster world. The first segment was used as the television commercial Mike was so excited about. The other two use concept art, film clips, flyarounds, and voice over narration to provide a deeper look into the business of Monsters, Inc. The final segment is a brief 2D sketch history of Man vs. Monster by animator Bud Luckey.
Easter Eggs (found on Disc 2 by pushing your cursor to the left of the main menu)...
Monsters, Inc. Employee Handbook
A cursor driven walk through of the official company guide. Includes employee badges, Monster Occupational Safety and Hazard poster, How to Avoid Repetitive Scare Injury, Child Detection Agency Situational Warnings, Contamination safety check and alery procedures, Today's Lunch Menu, Door Station Operation, Roz' Common Mistakes, Sample child door file, and employee resources (fur replacement, day care program, weight gain).
Guide to In-Jokes
Shining the spotlight on 21 specific references for fans in-the-know. For example, Harryhausen's menu, Disneyland attraction posters scattered throughout various kids rooms, and one of the rooms the monsters enter is evil Sid's from Toy Story.
Monster of the Month
Snapshot of the Monsters, Inc. wall of fame, with Mike as December's winner.
Monster trading cards, stale gum included.
An early Pixar gem and one of the finest format releases of the year.
Case dismissed. Stay classy, Monstropolis!
Review content copyright © 2009 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Top 100 Discs: #93
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Deleted Scenes
* Storyboard Comparisons
* Short Films
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy
* Video: The Trailer
* Video: Pixar Roundtable
* Video: Monsters Ride at Tokyo DL