MONSTERS, INC. - 2001
USA Release: Nov. 2, 2001
Pixar / Disney
Ratings: USA: G
"We scare because we care"
mileage may vary, but for me, the best computer animated movie to come
out of 2001 - and the best to ever come out of Disney - is MONSTERS,
INC. I don't say this simply because this is a horror site.
I truly enjoyed Toy Story and Toy Story 2. They were from Disney and Pixar
as well and were inventive and funny. But those movies were steps leading
up to MONSTERS, INC., which as of this writing, is Pixar's crown jewel
in story and computer animation.
This is one of those rare videos that gets all 5 Shriek Girls as well.
It has THX sound and can handle a full home theater speaker system.
There is a complete documentary on the making of MONSTERS, INC., short subjects, trailers and TV commercials, and games.
What's more, there are hidden easter eggs (extra goodies not mentioned on the package - you get to discover them). This is the way a home video should be made for every major release.
On the story side you have a great tale of one eyed and excitable Michael
'Mike' Wazowski (Voice of Billy Crystal)
and the big and easy going James P. "Sully" Sullivan (Voice
of John Goodman: C.H.U.D., BRINGING
OUT THE DEAD), two monsters who live in Monstropolis (do
we even have a Humanopolis? Cities named after the species that live in
them seem to reside only in the realm of comics /cartoons). Sully
is the number one scare monster at Monsters, Inc. Using special doors
that, when activated, are passages to our world, Sully and monsters like
him pass through closet doors, sneak up on unsuspecting children in their
beds, and scare them into screaming. They do this because children's screams
are the number one source of energy in the realm of monsters. It's a different
kind of physics and it's a fantasy cartoon so don't bother trying to figure
It's a two monster job and that's where Mike comes in. Mike, as Sully's assistant,
has to activate and deactivate the doors as they come down the rails.
Every monster is assigned children that they are most likely to scare.
They have to work in twos because scaring is a very dangerous job. Monsters
think children are extremely toxic, and if one touches you, you could
die. So Mike not only has to quickly deactivate the door when Sully comes
back (before an adult opens it to show the child that "There are no monsters! It's just a closet."), but he is also Sully's coach and cheerleader, getting Sully "ready for the game" as it were.
The biggest problem facing Monster planet is the energy shortage. Children
aren't scared as easily these days.
So Mike and Sully, who are best friends off the job, are the best workers
on the job. This brings hero worship from many but seething jealousy from
a snaky character named Randall Boggs (Voice of Steve Buscemi: FINAL FANTASY). Randall
is the number 2 scarer and he never becomes employee of the month even
though he is always just-so-close. He's so close to the adoration he can
taste it and would love nothing more than to see Sullivan slip.
A posed promotional shot
For Mike, his life is the hydra receptionist Celia May (Jennifer
OF CHUCKY) who has snakes for hair. Sully's
life is his work until, one day, the most terrifying thing imaginable
to a monster, happens, a human child steps through the doorway, entering
Monstropolis. To see the scary giant monsters running away from a small
child, who wants to play, is a hoot, but MONSTERS,
INC. is no one joke film. Every aspect of how monsters live
is revealed in funny and above all, inventive ways. There are surprises
in every minute and you would want to see it at least twice
to catch the parts you missed the first time.
On the Technical side is the animation. In the last few years, the arduous
mathematical task of assigning 3D animation to fur and hair has been explored,
tentatively at first, as each and every strand must be accounted for in
the computers that crunch all the numbers that make up each hair, its
color, its change in light as it moves, shadow and more. Animating one
hair is a breeze. Animating millions of hairs blowing in the breeze is
another. Sully's fur isn't stiff, it's soft and billowy. So many dynamics
come into play including how the hairs all move, collide, and bounce off
of each other.
MIKE, SULLY, IN THE SHADOW OF BOO!
FINAL FANTASY had hair animation up to a point, but nowhere near as technical an achievement as the fully furry Sully in MONSTERS,
INC. Sully is covered in fur and even more, his fur has patches
of other colors running through it. Each strand must have a life of its
own when it moves in the breeze or stands on end, and at the same time
each strand must react to the other strands around it.
This is one of many technical aspects of MONSTERS,
INC. that were created and explored for this film, and the technical side, and how issues were overcome, is every bit as inventive as the story.
The great story was supplied by many folks. With so many jokes and inventive
visual cues, this is probably one of those rare times where a table full
of brainstorming creators would be a good thing. Chief among the writers
are Jill Culton, Peter Docter (also co-director), Ralph Eggleston, Dan Gerson, and Jeff Pidgeon. Direction comes from Peter
Doctor, David Silverman (directed and produced episodes of The Simpsons), and Lee Unkrich.
A brief but fun appearance by the Abominable Snowman (John
Ratzenberger: MOTEL HELL, HOUSE 2, THE INCREDIBLES) is just one of the cool surprises in this movie.
THERE ARE ALSO THE EXPECTED INSIDE JOKES
INC. is laugh out loud funny and has moments that are deeply
touching as well. For those of you with young children, MONSTERS, INC. makes the perfect October / Halloween movie and gets all 5 Shriek Girls from me.
This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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