"Monsters, Inc." is the beloved 2001 feature from Pixar animation, the studio that created both "Toy Story" features and "A Bug's Life". "Monsters" is a film that's as visually impressive and inventive as any of the studio's prior efforts. However, the film veers from the Pixar efforts that came before it in the way that it is geared more towards children than the "Toy Story" films, which contained a good mix of gags for both young and old audiences.
In a world beyond your bedroom closet is Monsters, Inc., a company that sends all kinds of monsters through the closet to scare kids and collect their screams. The thing that drives the monsters (at least the majority) isn’t the love of frightening children, but the need for the screams that power their city, Monstropolis. Without the screams, their power and livelihood would dwindle. In fact, some of the monsters discuss how children are less scared and effected by monsters these days and are therefore harder to frighten. Working at Monsters, Inc. are several odd looking and memorable characters, but the main focus is on Sulley (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal). Sulley is a large, soft, kindhearted monster and Mike is a one-eyed green thing who’s slightly less endearing, but humorous and focused on helping Sulley succeed.
One day, a little girl from the human world wanders into Monstropolis. When Sulley and Mike find out, they're terrified at first by the new visitor, but soon find themselves growing more fond of their new role as temp parents. Still, they realize that their new visitor (who they call Boo) has to go back to her own world - however, getting her back won't be that easy. Boo (Mary Gibbs) is one of the characters that Pixar is so fantastic at creating: while she says about three words in the entire film, she’s developed, believable and lovable.
Sulley and Mike try to get Boo back home to her bedroom, but they encounter several obstacles including villainous monster, Randall (Steve Buscemi) who happens the be the monster Boo fears most. Of course, “Monsters, Inc.” isn’t all action and obstacles, there’s a lot of heart, as there always is from Pixar's features. Sulley’s relationship with Boo is another fine example of Pixar’s ability to create memorable and heartwarming connections, especially between an unlikely duo.
The voice work is quite solid, with Goodman's voice work nicely portraying Sulley’s moving turn towards recognizing his new responsibility. Crystal is his usual funny and chaotic self, while Buscemi pulls off the evil Randall quite well. However, where the film truly succeeds is in attention to detail in creating the world of the film. The inner workings of the world of the monsters is imaginative and inspired, with a great deal of care obviously having gone into the construction of sets and scenes.
“Monsters, Inc.” may not be the best of the studio's efforts, but it's still a satisfying effort with a lot of elements that work well. The ultimate resolution of the film is very sweet and touching, and remains creative and humorous as well.
VIDEO: "Monsters, Inc." is offered in 1.85:1 (1080p/AVC) and the result is an absolute delight. As with the prior direct-from-digital transfers for Pixar films on Blu-Ray, "Monsters, Inc." is once again a reference quality presentation sure to please fans of the film. Sharpness and detail are astonishing, as the smallest details of characters and sets pop with impressive clarity. No edge enhancement, pixelation or other faults were noticed with the image, which remained smooth and clean throughout the show. Colors looked wonderful, appearing bright and bold, with excellent saturation and no smearing. Overall, this was a fantastic effort from the studio.
SOUND: "Monsters, Inc." is presented by Disney in DTS-HD 5.1. The film's sound designer is Gary Rydstrom, who also worked on both of Pixar's "Toy Story" films. Obviously, in an animated feature, the sounds of the universe have to be created from the ground up. While most animated features are satisfied to distribute a few sound effects around the room, Rydstrom lets his imagination run wild, crafting his animated sound works down to the finest detail (the sound designer has been featured on documentaries included on this and other DVDs, such as the one for Disney's special edition of "Atlantis").
"Monsters" is another example of Rydstrom at his finest: surrounds are aggressively and often cleverly engaged to provide a wealth of sound effects that often have great personality. Audio quality is also marvelous: considerably low bass is heard and felt in a handful of scenes, while sound effects come through with exceptional clarity and detail. Randy Newman's fun score also sounds warm and has nice presence in the soundtrack. Last, but not least, dialogue is well-recorded, sounding crisp and natural. The DTS-HD presentation offered a bit more low-end punch and offered a somewhat more precise, detailed audio experience.
“Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek (all-new extra): Building Monstropolis in Japan” a look at a ride in Tokyo Disneyland. The ride allows visitors to enter Monsters, Inc. by riding through at night with flashlights, exploring all the characters and areas of Monstropolis. Some of this feels like a promotion to visit Disneyland, Tokyo. The focus on Monsters, Inc. wanders at times, but the look at Monster’s Inc. ride is interesting and it’s amazing how well they brought the film to life for everyone to visit and experience.
“Filmmakers’ Round Table” (all-new extra): Director Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich, Darla Anderson, and Bob Peterson gather together for a 22 minute roundtable to discuss everything from the creative process (including sitting around with crayons, pens and pencils drawing ideas and laughing as their minds wandered), to developing the final project/idea, and even how the café where they gathered made a cameo in the film. What makes this so great are drawings and footage of characters in different stages before the final characters were realized. There’s discussion of the voice work, with footage of the actors performing, as well as the difficult stages in making the film. This feature is definitely worth a look, as the pace is quick and the discussions are interesting and informative.
Audio Commentary: This is a commentary from director Pete Docter, co-director Lee Unkrich and executive producers John Lasseter (director of Pixar's other films) and Andrew Stanton (co-director on Pixar's prior films). As with all of the other commentary tracks that Stanton, Unkrich and Lasseter have provided, this is a fun track that provides a wealth of technical and production information while having fun with the proceedings and keeping it light. The commentary has no gaps of silence and really does provide an insightful discussion of the production, development and story details.
On Blu-Ray Disc, “Santa Buddies”, “Ponyo”, Disney Parks, “Toy Story 3”, “Up”, “Dumbo: Special Edition”
Bonus features that are carried over from the original DVD release are: “For the Birds” short film and “Mikes New Car" short film.
Bonus Features Disc Includes:
“Roz’s 100 Door Challenge” (new extra) -an interactive game to see where you’d best fit in if you worked at Monsters, Inc. You play the game and then are offered a position. The game is definitely geared towards children but the whole family may enjoy playing. There is a save game option as well.
There are two sections to the bonus disc: "Humans Only" and "Monsters Only": "Humans" is geared more towards the production and technical aspects, while "Monsters" offers more along the lines of fun and games.
“Humans Only” opens the door to several features including:
“Pixar Fun Factory Tour” This is a short featurette where Pixar head John Lasseter, "Monsters, Inc." director Pete Docter and other members of the Pixar crew lead the audience through the Pixar facilities. For those who have seen some of the other featurettes on Pixar from the other DVDs of Pixar films, you'll know what to expect: while work is important, time is made for things like Paper airplane contests that the entire company gathers to view.
“Story is King” This featurette leads off the "Story" section and introduces Pixar's story department. We learn more about the storyboarding process, and how the animators must pitch ideas to the rest of the staff.
In “Monsters are Real” A very short featurette that includes interviews with Crystal and Goodman. The simple piece mainly talks about the film's plot.
“Original Treatment” is the original pitch for the film, which is fun to see some changes that were made. The images and storytelling here are well worth a viewing.
“Story Pitch: Back to Work” As viewers saw on the "Story is King" featurette (and with many of the other Pixar SE DVDs), animators have to pitch their ideas via storyboards to the rest of the crew. In this scene, one of the film's story supervisors must try to act out a scene in the film while leading the audience visually through the scene via the storyboards put up in sequence on the wall.
Within “Banished Concepts” Co-Director Lee Unkrich talks about five scenes that didn’t make it in the final film. The four deleted clips are presented in a mixture of storyboard and other elements.
There’s also a “Storyboard to Film Comparison” where you can watch a scene from the film in the story reel stage, as the final version, and finally side by side to compare.
Also included on the Bonus DVD in the “Humans Only” section are:
“Designing Monstropolis” (a look at the design for Monstropolis. 4:48)
“Set Dressing Intro” (the design and staging of the sets. 3:24)
“Location Flyarounds” a 360 look at several sets from the film.
“Cast of Characters” (A look at the cast who voice the characters. 5:51)
“What Makes a Great Monster?” (Character designs for Monsters, Inc. 1:24)
“Animation Process” (look at the animation for Monsters, Inc.. 3:11)
“Early Tests” (early animation test for Mike and Sulley. 8:02)
“Opening Title Animation” (Title sequence design. 2:06)
“Hard Parts” (A look at some challenges in making the film. 4:58)
“Shots Department” (How simulations were added to Pixar production. 2:16)
Co-Director Lee Unkrich introduces stages of Animation in “Production Demonstration” and then you can move on to the story reel, layout, animation, and final color version of a scene in the film (scene “23-19”) to watch and see the progress.
Billy Crystal and John Goodman sing “If I Didn’t Have You.” (4:13)
“Sound Design” (Gary Rydstrom talks about sound design in the film. 3:15)
“The Premiere” (Footage of the premiere screening of the film. 0:56)
Also included are: two trailers, four TV spots, International Inserts, Multi-Language Clip Reel, a look at the toys created for the film, the outtakes that were featured during the theatrical credits, and a quick wrap up of the production tour at the Pixar studio.
In the “Monsters Only” section:
“Monster TV treats” (short ads featuring the movie's stars. 1:09)
“Ponkickies 21” (a version of Rock, Paper, Scissors from Japan.)
Music video of “If I Didn’t Have You”
“On The Job with Mike and Sulley” (interview with the characters and their life at Monsters Inc. 2:31)
“Welcome to Monsters, Inc.” (a welcome video for new employees at Monsters, Inc. 0:58)
“Your First Day” (Overview of Monsters, Inc., the company. 3:34)
“History of the Monster World” (Bud Luckey draws and narrates a look at the relationship between man and monster throughout time. 1:36)
An “Employee Handbook”, “Guide to Jokes” shares the inside jokes throughout the film (21 are shared here), “Monster of the Month”, and “Scarer Cards” also included.
On the DVD version of the film the audio commentary with Director Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich, John Lasseter, writer Andrew Stanton is also included. Sneak Peeks featured on the DVD version are: “Finding Nemo”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Lilo and Stitch”, “Inspector Gadget 2”, and “Treasure Planet”.
Finally, a digital copy of the film is also included.
Final Thoughts: While it may not stand out as my favorite of Pixar's efforts, "Monsters, INC." is still a highly entertaining offering from the studio. The film looks phenomenal on this new Blu-Ray edition, which also boasts a ton of extras and excellent audio quality. Highly recommended.
The Film B+