Pixar can boast a number of firsts in their run of successful animated feature films, but until Dan Scanlon’s Monsters University came along, the studio had never developed a prequel. The decision to make a prequel comes with inherent risks, such as staying true to the spirit of the original film and delivering an honest story that isn’t a simple cash grab. Monsters University wildly succeeds on both counts, with a well-crafted story that dares to tell viewers that dreams are not necessarily in their grasp just because they want it badly enough. More importantly, Monsters University focuses on the all-important friendship between Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman), which was not always a rosy relationship. Hit the jump for my review of Monsters University on Blu-ray, and to find out why owning the movie on home video will make you appreciate the feature even more.
Our own Matt Goldberg does a fine job of reviewing the film here, and I’d only be repeating his accolades with another review of my own. I’ll simply say that I was a bit skeptical going into watching the film, especially since the original Monsters Inc. is quite possibly my favorite Pixar movie. I was pleasantly surprised by the story told in Monsters University, particularly by the direction the filmmakers chose to take. Rather than scripting the same old myth that “if you work hard enough, anything is possible”, Monsters University takes a much more honest and realistic approach to striving toward achieving your dreams and how you should move forward when things don’t work out.
Additionally, the extensive list of bonus features on the Monsters University Blu-ray made me appreciate the film even more. On just a technical level, it’s amazing to see how far the animation’s technological achievements have evolved since the 2001 original. Not only are the monsters themselves more diverse and numerous in the prequel, but the design of Monsters University’s campus is something else to behold. The featurettes are every bit as enjoyable as the feature itself and help to reinforce the filmmakers’ belief in telling a worthwhile story. Monsters University is certainly worth a watch, but the richness and quality of the bonus features make owning the Blu-ray well worth the price.
Monsters University Blu-ray Bonus Features
The Blue Umbrella – Pixar short directed by Saschka Unseld. Here’s my review of the short film.
Audio Commentary with Director Dan Scanlon, Producer Kori Rae, and Story Supervisor Kelsey Mann:
- Scanlon talks about Monsters U as the first prequel for Pixar. Andrew Stanton had the idea to go back to when Mike and Sulley met and why they became best friends.
- They address the fact that prior films and teasers mention Mike and Sulley knowing each other since the 4th grade, but they wanted to focus on the promise of their meeting in college. Multiple versions of them appearing and/or meeting at different ages.
- Character notes on: Randall, the Slug, Dean Hardscrabble, and more
- Some Easter egg: 80s homages, background characters, set decorations
- Scanlon notes the use of lighting to separate Mike and Sulley when they’re arguing, and to unite them when they’re cooperating
- Difficulties in animation: t-shirts and backpacks, reflections, tentacles, grass, etc
- Interesting for fans of Pixar to get some insight into the development process of the story
- Behind the scenes of Pixar Studios’ Emeryville location
- Dan Scanlon’s “A Day in the Life” of MU, Kori Rae, and every department filming a day in their life (including the cereal bar).
- After starting with animation dailies, to writers’ edits and daily work in animation and sound design, crew meeting where they talk about their first scoring session with Randy Newman, and much more.
Story School (~10 minutes)
- Featurette on the process of story, which includes much more than just writing.
- They comment on the difficulty of the prequel nature of the film and the goal to overcome predictability.
- An in-depth look at how Mike and Sulley developed as characters in the prequel.
- Nailing the dramatic beats and then upping the humor.
Scare Games (~5 minutes)
- “Team-building” competition for everyone participating on the movie.
- From dodgeball to stacking dice with chopsticks to “beer” pong
- Featurette on the number and diversity of monsters at the University
- Evolution of Dean Hardscrabble, including a live centipede they used for artistic inspiration.
Welcome to MU (~5 minutes)
- Scanlon gives a history of the University and how it was created.
- Art teams designed MU’s motifs based on existing universities and then added a monstrous touch.
- All of their designs reinforce the emotional arc of the story.
Music Appreciation (~5 minutes)
- Scoring session at Sony Studios at the Barbra Streisand Sound Stage with Randy Newman.
- Scanlon reacts to his first time sitting in on a scoring session as a director.
- Getting the collegiate vibe in the film with the Blue Devils drum corps from Concord, CA.
Scare Tactics (~5 minutes)
- Featurette on the parallel between scare students learning the principals of their craft versus the animators applying their craft to the characters.
Color and Light (~5 minutes)
- A script to screen process of using light and color to convey story.
- The filmmakers respond to the movie’s central character arcs with personal stories of their own, including a former student of Jaime Escalante of Stand and Deliver fame.
Furry Monsters: A Technical Retrospective (~5 minutes)
- Looking at the technical difficulties and technological achievements from Monsters, Inc. to Monsters University.
- The featurette takes a look back to the early animation tests of furry creatures, including the original iterations of Sulley.
- Engineers will find this featurette particularly interesting as it incorporates real-world physics and how animators overcome those limitations to make the scenes turn out the way they want them to.
- Director Intro – Scanlon reacts to watching the deleted scenes and gives a bit of background on each individual scene.
- Rivalry – An animatic featuring Mike and Sulley meeting in grade school.
- Recon – Animatic set in the human world showing how the monsters gather their intel on humans.
- Movie Night – The misfit Oozma Kappa brothers get humiliated in this alternate scene.
- Drama Class – Mike and Sulley get stuck in an acting class together.
- Monsters Mash Up – Monsters goofing around on campus in these promotional spots.
- College Campaign
- College Commercial
- March Madness
- Theatrical Campaign
- Teaser Trailer
- Back Then
- One Night
- Japan Trailer
- The Campus
- The Scare School
- Frat Row
- The OK House
- Characters (130 images)
- Color Keys (30)
- Development Art (61)
- Environments (77)
- Graphics (37)