This past weekend, I was invited to participate in a collegiate experience for Disney/Pixar’s Monsters University, the prequel to 2001′s Monsters, Inc. Directed by Dan Scanlon (Tracy), Monsters University features the returning vocal talent of John Goodman as Sulley, Billy Crystal as Mike Wazowski and Steve Buscemi as Randall Boggs and takes place when the monsters were cutting their teeth in college. To get into the school spirit, we were invited to USC’s campus to attend a tailgate and the game against #1 ranked Notre Dame. But the real highlight of the day was getting to see not only a post-converted scene from the upcoming re-release of Monsters, Inc. in 3D, but the first footage from Monsters University itself!
Monsters, Inc. 3D screams into theaters starting December 19th, which will have to tide you over until the release of Monsters University on June 21st, 2013. Hit the jump for my review of the sneak peek footage.
When we arrived on campus, the first place we visited was the Eileen Norris Cinema Theater Complex where we would be treated to sneak peek footage. Our host for the afternoon was Ricky Nierva, the production designer for Monsters University. In an interesting bit of history for Nierva, he worked previously with Pixar as a character designer on Monsters, Inc. and has seen his work come full circle with the prequel. After a brief introduction by Nierva, who talked about seeing the 3D post-converted Monsters, Inc. for the first time, we got to see a finished scene from the upcoming re-release. For fans of the original film, I’m sure you remember the roller coaster-type sequence where Sulley and Mike are clinging to doors as they rocket along the rails and attempt to keep Boo safe from Randall. It’s a great scene to begin with, but it looks even better with the 3D post-conversion. Used less for gimmicks and more for depth, the 3D adds a sharpness to the scene that really shows off the character design and the level of detail in the sequence. If the clip was any indication of the rest of the film, then the 3D re-release is definitely a film to see in theaters starting December 19th, especially if you have little ones who didn’t see it on the big screen the first time around.
As for Monsters University, we were shown a pre-recorded sizzle presentation narrated by director Dan Scanlon. He spoke a bit about the redesigns of Sulley and Wazowski. Since the duo are supposed to be in their college years, Sulley has been slimmed down a bit from his older version while Wazowski now sports a retainer. Both of the digital characters actually appeared like more youthful versions of themselves, so the changes were well done. Scanlon also briefly introduced a number of new monsters who will appear on campus, including your requisite jocks, nerds, stuffy English professors, eccentric theater teachers and even a school mascot! It definitely looks like the designers had fun dreaming up all new monsters, but don’t be surprised if some of your old favorites pop up in the prequel.
To wrap up the screening, we got to see a clip from Monsters University. Nierva mentioned that the scene wasn’t finished (whether he just meant because it wasn’t in 3D or wasn’t fully polished, I don’t know), but it looked great. Without getting into too many details, the clip finds Sulley and Wazowski (who are far from friends at this point, by the way) joining a fraternity in order to get a leg up on a scaring competition.
Remember those new characters I mentioned? Some new favorites will definitely be among these fraternity members. Equal parts Revenge of the Nerds and Old School, these guys need all the help they can get and look to Sulley to be their ringer. The fraternity includes an older monster who is “continuing his education,” a Siamese twin with a strong case of sibling rivalry and a very enlightened New Age monster. There’s a hilarious initiation scene that will be particularly funny for anyone who happens to be a member of Greek organization, as well as a bit that will remind you of your first college roommate and your unexpectedly tiny dorm room. While some people are worried that Monsters University will fall victim to the prequel/sequel curse, everything I’ve seen so far leads me to believe that it will be every bit as enjoyable as the original and a worthy addition to the franchise.
Be sure to check out the Monsters, Inc. 3D re-release starting December 19th and keep up with all of our continuing coverage on Monsters University right here, before it debuts on June 21st, 2013.
Here are all the images and posters from Monsters Inc 3D and Monsters University: