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Monsters Inc. (2001)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/19/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/25/2013
As we all know, when Toy Story was released in 1995, it changed the face of animated films and made Pixar king of the hill. Since 2006, Pixar has released a new movie every year, and looking at their slate of future films, that trend will continue for quite some time. As we've gotten used to this yearly offering from the company, we may have forgotten just how special a new Pixar release was following the introduction of Toy Story. Those first few years, with A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2, marked a time of wonder, as we waited to see what they were going to do next. 2001's Monsters Inc. showed the company taking their first steps outside of our known world and opening a new door...literally.
Monsters Inc. is set in the wonderful city of Monstropolis, a place inhabited by monsters. The city's power comes from the screams of children, and Monsters Inc. is the company which provides this power. The company has a group of monsters whose sole job is to enter the bedrooms of children, scare them, and harness the screams for energy. The bedrooms are reached through magical doorways. (The Monsters Inc. facility houses a door to the bedroom of every child in the world.) The star of Monsters Inc. is James P. Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman), who is known to his friends as "Sulley", a monster who holds the record for most screams. Sulley's teammate is Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal), a cycloptic green blob who always tries to remain upbeat. Sulley's main competition is Randall (voiced by Steve Buscemi) and Sulley gets curious when he see Randall working late one night. Randall's illegal entry into a bedroom allows a child to enter the factory -- the worst crime which can be committed in Monstropolis. Sulley finds the little girl, who he calls Boo (voiced by Mary Gibbs), and takes her back to the apartment he shares with Mike. Of course, Mike is furious when he sees the child and insists that Sulley put her back. So, they take Boo to work the next day, but quickly learn that Randall's after-hour shenanigans aren't the only odd thing taking place at Monsters Inc. and that getting Boo home will be a great challenge.
I've often thought that the best ideas are the simplest ones, and Monsters Inc. has a great one. For decades, children have been convinced that monsters lived in their closets. This movie takes that idea and runs with it, creating an entire world of monsters who live behind our closets. The idea then becomes even more creative and kid-friendly when it goes to the next level where the monsters are there to scare us...but it's only business. In their own world, the monsters aren't scary (save for Randall), and most of them are quite goofy. This simple, ingenious premise serves as a jumping off point of several subplots and many great jokes.
I noted that the story is kid-friendly, but that doesn't mean that it's for kids only. Monsters Inc. marked a new milestone in the Pixar creative team finding a nice balance between material for the children in the audience and material for the adults. Again, any kid can relate to the central idea, and although she only speaks in simple words and gibberish, Boo's mannerisms and behaviors make her instantly relatable for any child in the audience. (The part where she sings while sitting on the toilet really hit home for our family.) However, the movie contains many jokes which will sail over the kid's heads. For example, when Mike and Sulley are walking down the street, just scour the background for the pun-laden names of the stores. Billy Crystal's voice acting brings a sarcastically sweet edge to the film, meaning that Mike has many quotable lines. While Pixar's previous three films had certainly had funny moments, Monsters Inc. was the first one to be genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, something which they haven't achieved since. (Although,Toy Story 3 had its share of laughs.)
However, Monsters Inc. also marked the point where Pixar began to get a little too big for their britches. Due to the cost and time involved in making a CG animated film, their running times were often relatively short. But, playing off its success, Pixar began to buck that trend. A longer movie isn't necessarily a bad thing, but Monsters Inc. was the first example of the Pixar folks not knowing how and when to end a film. While the first two acts are brilliant, the third act goes on a bit too long, especially the scene in the door storage area. Pixar would soon become known for films where you thought it was over, only to hae the action continue and another apparent ending appear.
Monsters Inc. may not be perfect, but over a decade later, it still stands as an example of what can happen when imagination and artistry come together. The animation still looks great and Mike Wazowski is still hilarious. Be warned, some scenes may scare the little ones, but they will soon learn that it's all in good fun. Seeing Monsters Inc. really got me in the mood for the upcoming Monsters University and I can't wait to see Mike and Sulley doing what they do best.
Monsters Inc. gives a shout out to Ray Harryhausen on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. This new Blu-ray Disc set contains two different versions of the film. The 2D version has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. I have to assume that this was a digital-to-digital transfer. The colors look fantastic, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is great (just look at Sulley's individual pieces of fur!) and the depth is excellent. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are excellent, most notably when the audio moves from one side of the screen to the other. The surround sound effects are good likewise, enveloping us in the action during the chase sequences. There are also good subwoofer effects, especially from the roars.
The set also includes a Blu-ray 3D. For this, the film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a MVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 26/6 Mbps. As this is a 3D redo of a film which was originally 2D, we get more depth here, as opposed to things leaping off of the screen. In most scenes, that depth is very good. Effort has clearly been made to create a sense of space between the characters in the foreground and the backgrounds. Given that, some shots still have the same depth as the 2D version. The colors look good and the image never has a dark or muddy look. The Disc offers a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 640 kbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. I guess with the size of the 3D film, it was a challenge to get an HD audio track on here, but it feels very odd to have 3D visuals and a relatively puny audio track. It sounds fine, but it pales in comparison to the 7.1 track found on the other disc.
The Monsters Inc. Blu-ray Disc set has many extras spread across two Discs. Disc 1 kicks off with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich, Andrew Stanton, and John Lasseter. "Filmmakers Roundtable" (22 minutes) has Peter Docter, Lee Unkrich, Producer Darla Anderson, and Story Supervisor Bob Peterson in a modern-day discussion in which they reminisce about the making of the film. The remaining extras on Disc 1 are the short films "Toy Story Toons: Partysaurus Rex" (7 minutes), "For the Birds" (3 minutes) (which originally accompanied Monsters Inc. in theaters) and "Mike's New Car" (4 minutes). Disc 2 opens with the set-top game "Roz's 100 Door Challenge". The "Humans Only" section contains an assortment of featurettes which focus on the making of the film. This offers 13 sub-headings which include multiple selections. These focus on the story, the initial concepts, production design, character design, animation process, music, sound, and trailers. (Despite the exhaustive content offered here, it still doesn't have the first teaser trailer for the film which included the great "Outer Magnolia" line.) The "Monsters Only" section offers fake training videos for "Monsters Inc.", some TV interstitials, a set-top game called Ponkickies 21, and the MUSIC VIDEO for "If I Didn't Have You" by John Goodman and Billy Crystal. "Guide to In Jokes" is a still gallery which explains some gags from the movie. "Scarer Cards" provides "trading cards" for the characters which offer a brief bio.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.