I opined when it came to Up that it’s hard to judge the Pixar canon because there are so few missteps, but when it comes to favorites, everyone’s got to have one. You have to at some point think of which one you love the most. It’s not like they’re your children. Though a case can be made for almost every single one of their films, the one that gets me the hardest, and the one that always works me over like a sap is Monsters Inc. My review of it after the jump.
In the city of Monstropolis, their power supply comes from the screams of children, and no one is better at getting young children to freak out than James P. Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman). His best friend is Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), who he lives with and also handles his prep. The boss Henry J. Watermoose (James Coburn) is concerned that they keep losing kids younger and younger, and that there will soon be a scream shortage. They have access to children’s bedrooms through their warehouse of bedroom doors, but when a kid goes cold, the door is destroyed. But for the monsters, children and their world are considered toxic.
Sullivan is the lead power earner, but he’s got competition in Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi), and when James discovers that Randall’s working after hours, he accidentally brings a human back to his world. This bugs mike while he’s on his date with Celia (Jennifer Tilly). Mike freaks out, and they don’t know how to deal with humans, but then James names the kid Boo and falls for her. He then gets protective and tries to get her back home, but he then finds out a conspiracy of how his business plans to deal with the power shortage.
Besides being one of the most inventive of the Pixar films in terms of the narrative and the world, the film is about the terror of becoming a parent. It’s easy to feel like a big threat to a small thing, and when parents reveal their tempers, it’s a terrifying thing to a child, but this is a leitmotif to the film. It’s also interesting how the film suggests that terrorism is seen as a limited tool, and that working together is ultimately more beneficial (though the film was done pre-9/11)., and with energy seen at the root cause of the terrorism, the film does have some strange political commentary that must have been partly accidental. But it’s also about the bond between a child and a monster, and as someone who’s always had a great affection for the Universal monster films, this also hits home.
This was a big breakthrough technologically speaking, as the film does hair (which used to be problematic) brilliantly for Goodman’s Sullivan, and while the humans in the film still aren’t as perfect as they got with Up, they look solid if not perfect. And one of the great things about the movie is how quickly it does so much, there’s an entire world here in 92 minutes, and the sequence with Mike and Sullivan jumps through doors is still one of the high points of computer animation. Also, who would think that Billy Crystal could be so funny and charming again? It’s another one of the film’s small miracles.
The Blu ray edition comes with a standard def copy and Digital copy. The film comes in widescreen (1.78:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD. Extras on disc one includes an introductory by director Pete Doctor (2 min.), along with the DVD commentary track with directors Pete Docter and Lee Unkrich, co-writer Andrew Stanton, and producer John Lasseter. The film comes with the short film that accompanied it in theaters “For the Birds” (3 min.) with optional commentary by director Ralph Eggleston, and the short film for the DVD “Mike’s New Car” (4 min.). New to the film is a filmmaker’s roundtable (22 min.) with Peter Doctor, Lee Unkrich, producer Darla Anderson and story editor Bob Peterson, and a preview of the Monsters Inc. ride in Japan (12 min.). There are also bonus trailers, including one for Toy Story 3.
Disc two features the rest of the supplements, the majority of which come straight from the previous DVD edition. There’s four Easter egg still galleries accessible by going left, and a game where you have to answer 100 questions correctly called “Roz’s 100 Door Challenge.” There’s a tour of the Pixar facility (4 min.) that features a monkey and does give a good presentation of much of the facility. In the section “Story,” there’s featurettes “Story is King” (2 min.) “Monsters are Real,” “Original Treatment” (14 min.), and “Story Pitch: Back to Work” (5 min.) which covers how the film is first conceived, and how it mutates through development. This is complimented by “Banished Concepts” with intro by co-director Lee Unkrich (1 min.) and five deleted sequences (10 min.) presented in storyboards, which means they were deleted early on, and never meant to reach the final cut – except the last, which is fully animated.
There’s also a storyboard to film comparison for the “Boo’s Bedtime” scene (5 min.) available in storyreel version, final version or a split screen comparison. There’s an still art gallery for the characters, the color script, concept art and posters, a featurette on designing the world (5 min.), and then a set Dressing piece (3 min.), which is complimented by a location flyaround (7 min.) “Monster File” covers the evolution of the characters (1 min.) and the performers (6 min.) “Animation” goes through the process (3 min.) early tests (8 min.) the title sequence design (2 min.), the artistic challenges (5 min.), and how “simulation” came into play (2 min.) Then there’s a production demonstration with Lee Unkrich introducing (1 min.), which covers the storyreel, layout, animation, and final color (8 min.) In Music and Sound” there’s a music video for “If I didn’t Have You,” and a piece on Gary Rydstrom and how he created the sounds for the film (3 min.) “Release” covers the premiere (1 min.) and has two trailers, four TV spots, an appreciation of the changes made for international releases (1 min.) along with a foreign language demonstration (4 min.), a showcase of the movie’s toys (2 min.), and the outtakes and company play from the original credits (7 min.). Then there’s a filmmakers wrap up (1 min.)
That’s all in the “Humans Only” section, in “Monsters Only” There are TV vignettes (1 min.) A game designed for Japanese audiences, and another “If I Didn’t Have You” (1 min.) song piece. There’s an interview with Mike and Sully (3 min.), a “Welcome to Monsters Inc.” primer (1 min.) overview of the company (4 min.) and history of the divide between man and monster (2 min.) These supplements were well crafted, and everyone does a good job at showing the process of making a film like this, so it’s a good course on how they go about making these movies so special. This is a keeper.