Chief Justice Michael Stailey is watching...always watching.
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.
Facts of the Case
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)
NEW! Filmmaker Round Table (22 min)
NEW! Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek: Building Monstropolis in Japan
NEW! Roz's 100 Door Challenge
Audio Commentary with co-directors Pete Docter and Lee Unkrich,
screenwriter Andrew Stanton, and executive producer John Lasseter (91
For the Birds (4 min)
Mike's New Car (4 min)
Under the "Humans Only" banner…
Pixar Fun Factory Tour (4 min)
Story is King (2 min)
Monsters are Real (2 min)
Original Treatment (14 min)
Story Pitch: Back to Work (5 min)
Banished Concept: Assistant Sulley (3 min)
Banished Concept: End of Day (3 min)
Banished Concept: Bad Scare (3 min)
Banished Concept: Scream Refinery (2 min)
Banished Concept: Original Sulley Intro (1 min)
Storyboard to Film Comparison (6 min)
Designing Monstropolis (5 min)
Set Dressing (4 min)
Location Flyarounds (8 min)
Monster File: Cast of Characters (6 min)
What Makes a Great Monster? (2 min)
Animation Process (4 min)
Early Animation Tests (8 min)
Opening Title Sequence (2 min)
Hard Parts (5 min)
Shots Department (3 min)
Production Demonstration (2 min)
Monster Song (5 min)
Sound Design (4 min)
The Premiere (1 min)
Trailers and TV Spots (6 min)
International Distribution (5 min)
Toys (2 min)
Outtakes (7 min)
Wrap-up (1 min)
Monster TV Treats (1 min)
Ponkickies 21 (2 min)
Music Video: If I Didn't Have You (2 min)
On the Job with Mike and Sulley (3 min)
Welcome to Monsters, Inc. (6 min)
Easter Eggs (found on Disc 2 by pushing your cursor to the left of the main menu)…
Monsters, Inc. Employee Handbook
Guide to In-Jokes
Monster of the Month
An early Pixar gem and one of the finest format releases of the year.
Case dismissed. Stay classy, Monstropolis!
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Other Reviews You Might Enjoy
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2009 Michael Stailey; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.