Since the dawn of time (or, at the very least, closets), children have been terrified of the monsters lurking in the dark recesses of their bedrooms at night. In 2001, Pixar Animation Studios looked at the flip side of that coin in the stunningly original Monsters, Inc., a tale of two monsters just trying to make it in the big, bad city of Monstropolis.
Sulley (John Goodman) and his best pal Mike (Billy Crystal) are a couple of workaday guys who punch the clock at Monsters, Inc., the city of Monstropolis’ power plant, where they burst through the closet doors of unsuspecting tots in order to collect screams, which are converted to power.
Sulley is at the top of his game, putting up record numbers in a time when kids aren’t so easily riled. When he breaks a company record, beating out office rival Randall (Steve Buscemi), he unwittingly makes an enemy. When Sulley unwittingly brings a human child over into Monstropolis, it becomes a race to get her safely back home before Randall can bring him down.
Though their friendship is tested and many beliefs they held sacred are turned upside down, Sulley and Mike find strength in each other and their need to do the right thing—even if it’s not the easy thing to do.
Though the animation is stunning (particularly for its time), it’s the story that makes Monsters, Inc. so endearing. The camaraderie of Goodman and Crystal is evident, and Sulley and Mike’s growing affection for the supposedly toxic Boo (Mary Gibbs) brings out the tender sides of both actors.
In the new 5-disc Blu-ray 3-D, Blu-ray, DVD + Digital Copy Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, MSRP: $49.99), viewers get to experience the world of Monstropolis in a whole new dimension. The main lobby of Monsters, Inc. feels expansive and deep; buildings seem to loom on either side of city streets; and the characters’ physical attributes seem oddly touchable (from Sulley’s fur to Randall’s scales). Perhaps the greatest achievement is the more subtle use of the technology in the backgrounds. Far from the obvious pop-out moves traditionally seen in 3-D (where a character might throw something toward the audience, for example), these effects are more organic (a character walking from the back of a room toward the screen, for instance) and therefore more believable.
There are a few new special features included with this collection, plus many from the original DVD release and the first Blu-ray set.
Disc one (Blu-ray) contains the feature film with optional audio commentary by director Pete Docter, co-director Lee Unkrich, writer Andrew Stanton and executive producer John Lasseter. Viewers definitely get a sense that this group is recording this track without notes or an outline, as during the remarks, they actually call writer Jonathan Roberts on speakerphone to get clarification on why they dropped an early storyline.
The Filmmakers’ Round Table, shot at Hidden City Café, features Docter, Unkrich, story supervisor Bob Peterson and producer Darla Anderson as they sip coffee and reminisce about the making of the film (including poignant recollections of Sept. 11 and that event’s effect on the final product). Also illuminating is the explanation for the many chimpanzee sightings throughout the special features package on the original DVD release.
Also included on disc one is “Toy Story Toons: Partysaurus Rex,” an animation short that showcases Toy Story’s loveable dinosaur and preceded the 3-D re-release of Finding Nemo in theaters; “For the Birds,” which preceded Monsters, Inc.’s initial release; “Mike's New Car,” which was packaged with the original DVD release of Monsters, Inc.; and an extended 3-minute sneak peek at the upcoming Monsters University.
Disc two (Blu-ray) contains a monstrous amount of bonus features, beginning with “Roz's 100 Door Challenge.” An interactive employment test, participants must go through 10 levels of 10 questions each in order to find their perfect job at Monsters, Inc. Featuring a mix of logic questions, basic math, trivia and just plain following directions, this harder-than-it-looks test is certainly entertaining.
Next is a “Humans Only” section with 11 categories of features (many with their own sub-sets). In the “Pixar Fun Factory Tour,” Chief Creative Officer at Pixar, John Lasseter, gives a tour of their then-new office space (first appearing on the DVD release). Highlights include random chimp appearances, a secret room-turned-hideaway and the stark minimalism that could only be Steve Jobs’ office.
Up next are four very short featurettes under the umbrella of “Story.” “Story is King” briefly introduces the story department and their role brainstorming new concepts; voice actors and crew members discuss the boogeymen under their respective beds in “Monsters are Real;” “Original Treatment” is an early storyboarded pitch which bears little resemblance to the final product; and, in “Back to Work,” Peterson pitches an early scene to the group.
“Banished Concepts” is made up of four abandoned scenes (introduced by Unkrich) that never made it out of the storyboard stage (“Assistant Sulley,” “End of Day,” “Bad Scare” and “Scream Refinery”) and “Original Sulley Intro,” which was retooled for the final film.
Animation fans should enjoy “Storyboard to Film Comparison,” in which a single scene is followed from initial sketches to final execution. A split-screen view is also available. More static views are available in the “Art Gallery” feature, with approximately 900 drawings from conception sketches to fine-art quality paintings.
Although it sits comfortably in the background, hours of thought and work went into creating Sulley and Mike’s hometown. “Designing Monstropolis” goes into detail about the details that made their environment come roaring to life, while “Set Dressing” goes deeper into the making of virtual props and background. To appreciate these efforts, “Location Flyaround” offers an extended look at the sets for Boo’s bedroom, Mike and Sulley’s apartment and a city street in Monstropolis without characters or storylines getting in the way.
In “Monster File,” employees of Monsters, Inc. are introduced, along with their voice actor alter-egos.
Six features make up “Animation,” including “Animation Process,” “Early Tests,” “Opening Title Animation” (spotlighting Geefwee Boedoe's jazzy pop-art title sequence), “Hard Parts,” “Shots Department” and “Production Demonstration” (another segment following a scene from story reel to layout to animation and final color).
“Music & Sound” offers “Monster Song” and “Sound Design,” which each explore aspects of the film’s score and distinctive sound.
“Release” gathers together film footage of the theatrical release; two trailers; four TV promos; “International Inserts,” documenting changes made for international audiences; a “Multi-language Clip Reel” showcasing the voice actors from other countries who made Mike and Sulley come to life; “Toys,” in which Pixar employees (and the ubiquitous chimp) play with the Monsters, Inc. merchandise; and “Outtakes and Company Play,” excerpted from the credits.
Finally, “Wrap-Up” offers a short farewell from the filmmakers.
“Monsters Only” offers featurettes geared toward the non-human viewer. “New Monster Adventures” offers “Monster TV Treats;” two clips produced for the Japanese television show “Ponkickies 21” (available both with and without subtitles); and an "If I Didn't Have You" music video.
“Behind the Screams” is an animated interview segment in which Sulley and Mike discuss their work for Monsters, Inc., with hilarious results.
Newly hired monsters will find all they need to know about the job under “Orientation,”
“Welcome to Monsters, Inc.,” “Your First Day” and “History of the Monster World” (narrated and drawn by Bud Luckey), plus an interactive “Employee Handbook,” a gallery of “Monster of the Month” photos and a list of fictional “Scarer Cards” which young monsters may collect like baseball cards.
The bonus disc wraps up with a guide to the in-jokes scattered throughout the movie (21 of them, to be exact).
The DVD disc’s pared-down offerings include the standard definition version of the film with optional audio commentary, while disc four contains the digital copy.
Finally, the Blu-ray 3-D disc offers the three-dimensional version of the movie, along with 3-D versions of “Partysaurus Rex,” “For the Birds” and “Outtakes and Company Play.”
Loaded with special features and new experiences, the Ultimate Collector’s Edition of Monsters, Inc. proves a worthy tribute to a movie that proves even monsters can have a heart.
Monsters, Inc. is now available on Blu-ray 3-D.