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Disney In Depth: Blu-ray Review: Monsters, Inc.
Brett Nachman   |  

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Monsters, Inc. Blu-ray cover

Monsters, Inc.
5-Disc Blu-ray/3D/DVD/Digital |
3-Disc Blu-ray/DVD
Directed by Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich, David Silverman
Starring John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Mary Gibbs, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, Frank Oz
Disney•Pixar
Release Date: February 19, 2013

Open the door to an exciting new way to experience Monsters, Inc. Pixar’s fantastic fourth film arrives on a new “Ultimate Collector’s Edition,” among Disney-Pixar’s finest releases.

Enter the monster world and forever be enraptured by the fun and heart of one of Pixar’s finest features. By chance you have never watched a frame of this buddy comedy, let me set up the story. Mike Wazowski and his best friend James P. “Sulley” Sullivan reside in Monstropolis, what seems to be your average city – with the exception that both of these beasts are charismatic monsters living in Monstropolis, the monster society. They are employed at Monsters, Inc., the energy factory where scarers like Sulley produce screams. How so? They generate this energy through frightening human children, accessing their worlds through opening doors. More screams equates to more energy. Simple, right? But when one child, which Sulley affectionately names “Boo” creeps into Monstropolis, chaos erupts. Humans are seen as toxic. They cannot exist here, so it seems. But what happens when you form a bond with a child? Tricky.

Pixar’s unparalleled canon of films are primarily set in the human world – the Cars films serve as the main exception – and this one mainly focuses on a fictional environment. The creators’ inventive style seeps into the smallest details, such as the shape of Sulley’s chair, to entire structures and settings. It is these little details that make a Pixar film a Pixar film. Everything works seamlessly because everything is thoughtfully considered and developed. I watched Monsters, Inc. in the theaters on five occasions because I was so entranced, and even as a young adult I am enveloped by every heart string that is tugged, every piece of animation that strikes my eye.

How Monsters manages to strike each aspect of a near-perfect film experience cannot be articulated. I think of excellent movies as those that have a compelling plot, relatable and deep characters, brilliant music, powerful visuals, great emotion, and consideration into all of the minor facets (lighting, setting, sound, etc.) Monsters meets these criteria.

Mike and Sulley, best buddies

The ingenuity of the storyline in its simple movement but effective structure in showing an individual from one world who does not belong in another works wonders. I love each of the characters, as they contain multiple layers and hold values. Sulley and Mike each wants to do the right thing for Boo, but approach their plans differently. Even Roz, the gruff-voiced, slug-like figure, shows she is not just a thankless, minor character. She holds an essential role in the story. Randy Newman’s big band score transcends wonderful in “The Scare Floor” scene, whereas those touching moments feature his trademark heart-wrenching melodies. The door vault scene, one of many visually-stunning scenes, demonstrate the power of the animation medium – even over 10 years ago. Monsters also manages to stimulate laughs and tears without feeling forced. And all of this takes place in the most original, well thought-out environment Pixar has developed to date. Yes, to date. Absolutely, Monsters screams success on all cylinder-shaped canisters.

Bonus Features

Disc 2 offers several shorts, a great reflection on the film and the film’s original audio commentary.

For the Birds, the Oscar-winning short film where the clan of malicious little birds meet their retribution, is as laugh-out-loud the tenth time around.

Partysaurus Rex, the recently-released Toy Story Toons, allows Rex to embrace his wild side – in a bathtub, no less. Rex’s rave-like experience is among the funniest shorts Pixar has produced, and that’s hard to say when almost each one contains hilarious moments.

Mike’s New Car, the Monsters, Inc.-specific short, shows what can go wrong when you purchase an expensive vehicle. Poor Sulley.

“Audio Commentary” includes Pixar crew Pete Docter (Director), Lee Unkrich (Co-director), Andrew Stanton (Writer) and John Lasseter (Executive Producer) sharing their insight into all aspects of the production, from the story creation to specifics about various characters. This team is hard to beat and their enthusiastic, persuasive narration makes watching Monsters, Inc. again in a different light quite essential.

“Filmmakers’ Round Table” allows Docter, Unkrich, Darla Anderson and Bob Peterson to reflect on Pixar’s fourth film, starting with the inclusion of the ape originally featured in the 2002 DVD’s bonus features. Wondering what they are discussing? Check out many of the old Disc 2 featurettes. Docter describes the “taxing” directing process, but the rewarding journey he experienced. In the span of 20 minutes I gained so much information about all of the tidbits, from determining how to develop the door vault sequence to evolving many key scenes. The most interesting part: how the filmmakers reacted to 9/11 just months before the film’s release and even altered a few details – such as the moment when Mike, Sulley and Boo escape Harryhausen’s – to show respect and consideration. These round table discussions, found on many of Pixar’s Blu-rays, are among the best featurettes Pixar has created, chiefly due to peeking into the creative process via cohesive, engaging structure.

Randall can certainly intimidate Mike Wazowski

Disc 3 carries over many of the features from the previous Blu-ray and DVD versions, divided up into “Humans Only” and “Monsters Only” sections, much like the prior releases, too.

“Roz’s 100 Door Challenge” serves as a most strange placement exam to see where the viewer would best fit into Monsters, Inc. Select one of the mentors (Sulley, Mike, Celia or Boo) and start. The queries range from determining the next number in a sequence to answering personality quiz questions. Though this game is meant to be fun, the confusing and long format comes off as more frustrating than anything.

“Pixar Fun Factory Tour” offers a sentimental flashback into the studio’s “new” home in Emeryville, complete with clips of much younger Pixar staple figures, as well as a few much beloved, late individuals like Joe Ranft.

“Story Is King” explains the storyboard sequence process, which starts off with a rollicking chimpanzee in the background of the shot. Why? No clue, but that’s Pixar.

“Monsters Are Real” allows cast and crew to discuss monsters in a brief, insignificant bit.

“Original Treatment” features how Monsters, Inc. was pitched, resembling the current plot in some ways. This well-executed featurette showcases some amusing drawings and an engaging storyline.

“Story Pitch: Back To Work” shares how Peterson, the film’s story supervisor, proposed the scene where Mike and Sulley take Boo to Monsters, Inc, albeit with some alternate punch lines and sequences.

Banished Concepts, introduced by Unkrich, include a series of five deleted scenes (most in storyboard form). They serve a purpose and give perspective into what might have been, but at the end of the day, proved unessential to the finished product.

“Storyboard To Film Comparison” exhibits the progression of the Boo bedtime scene. Cool little feature.

Monsters Inc. 3D Header

“Art Gallery” highlights the wide assortment of drawings, ranging from the characters to concept art and posters. For any animator connoisseur, this is a real treat, as the visuals come in the hundreds.

“Designing Monstropolis” exposes the details and thoughts going into constructing an imaginary environment with elements of the human world, but also uniquely monster. Neat and thoughtful.

“Set Dressing” details the steps animators must take to fill a shot with objects.

Location Flyaround contains a mix of virtual flying camera shots into the monster environments. As much as I enjoy this piece, I find it hard to clearly see the minutia. This could have been improved with audio commentary to detail what we should be focusing our eyes on.

“Cast of Characters,” found under the Monster File category, explores the cast members who voiced many of the memorable faces of Monstropolis. I love how John Goodman describes the Mike Wazowski character, a “beach ball with horns.” Though dated, much like most of these bonus features, the humor feels just as fresh as it did a decade ago. “What Makes a Great Monster?” shows character designs.

Animation holds six little features, ranging from making shots to developing the film’s iconic title sequence. These are all worthwhile in their brevity.

Music & Sound includes the music video of “If I Didn’t Have You,” Randy Newman’s Oscar-winning song, and also a piece on sound design.

Release features a handful of trailers, TV spots and other media pieces distributed during the film’s initial 2001 release. It is always fun to travel back in time and these spots help in that effort. I most enjoyed seeing all of the toys. The one disappointment here is that the “Outtakes & Company Play” comes in standard definition, as opposed to its placement at the end of the film in the proper HD format.

“Wrap-Up” serves as an unwarranted conclusion to the studio tour portion.

New Monsters Adventures, found in the Monsters Only section, features television and international vignettes, as well as a snippet of the Newman music video with clips of the movie. Again, unnecessary, but devoted Monsters fans may enjoy these little finds.

Behind the Screams carries “On the Job with Mike & Sulley,” an entertaining piece of animation where the buddies are interviewed by a monster newscaster. A clever spoof with some good one-liners.

Orientation holds: “Welcome to Monsters, Inc.,” a point of reference for new employees and utilized in the actual movie; “Your First Day,” parodying classic training videos; and “History of the Monster World,” a mythical, silly look at the evolution of the terrifying threats.

Additional note. When on the menu screen, press the left button. This will reveal four additional features. “Employee Handbook” surveys a self-explanatory monster handbook. “Guide to In Jokes” reveals the witty references found in the movie. “Monster of the Month” displays the chart evident in the lobby of the film. “Scarer Cards” give more insight into the personalities behind the frightfully-funny monsters. All of these little extras come from the previous DVD version.

Presentation

Awesome. That is the word that comes to mind when I think of the near-flawless visual and aural presentation. Monsters, Inc. has never looked more crisp and inviting, the details on the Monstropolis streets sharp and Sulley’s fur as vivid as you could imagine. Similarly, the audio boasts clarity and range in even the most chaotic of scenes, from the frenzied halls of the factory to the snowstorm in the Himalayas. On the other hand the audio conveys softness during warm moments involving Boo and Sulley. This is one movie to be watched in a home theatre with all of the bells and whistles. I must also add that the menu screens, full of animated flying doors, work well.

As indicated, this “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” features one disc that contains the 3D version, a second disc with the 2D Blu-ray presentation, a third Blu-ray with bonus features, a fourth (DVD) and also a fifth (the digital copy). For all of the content found across these discs, this edition is a worthy investment

Film: A
Bonus Features: A
Presentation: A+

Grade: A

Monsters, Inc. is one gem in the Pixar library, a film I consider one notch below my favorites (the Toy Story trilogy). This well-rounded and fully-loaded combo pack suggests why Disney-Pixar features are among the best Blu-rays released in the home video market. While the fate of Monsters University remains in question, prepare yourself for the prequel by purchasing and revisiting this terrific title.

This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of upcoming editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom. Have a good week!

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