The Films of Pixar: “Monsters, Inc.” (2001)

The monster in the closet is a perpetual tormenter of the sleep of little children. What if the monsters were actually real? Pixar’s third film, Monsters, Inc., gives us a world inhabited entirely by monsters who walk through doors to scare human children that are the source of power and fear for the monsters.

Mike Wazowski (Billy Chrystal) and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) live together in Monstropolis, a city entirely populated by monsters, where they both work at Monsters, Inc.. Sulley works for the company as scarer, a monster who goes through a door into the bedroom of a human child to scare them. The screams of the children are then harvested into a canister and used to power the city. At the company, Sulley’s rival is a chameleon-like monster named Randall (Steve Buscemi) another top scarer, no doubt because he can blend in with his surroundings. But the company, run by Henry J. Waternoose III (James Coburn) has fallen on hard times and is struggling to power the city because children aren’t as easy to scare. One evening, Sulley has to go back to the screamfloor to pick up Mike’s paper work when he discovers that there’s an activated door on the floor after work is over. He opens the door, checks for a scarer, closes the door, and hears his tail being dropped. A child has been let into the monster’s world, a problem since monsters are taught that children are toxic and “one touch could kill you.” Sulley does everything possible to put the girl back into her room, including putting her in a bag to toss her into the room, only to find Randall coming out of the door, which is sent up. Sulley then crashes Mike’s date with a co-worker, the child is set loose in a restaurant causing panic throughout Monstropolis. But is it possible that the child, who is named “Boo” by Sulley, not as awful as they’ve been led to believe?

Somehow, Monsters, Inc. manages to have the perfect mix of humor and emotion that makes it such a good film. The film features lots of slapstick humor, mostly provided by Mike, and other amusing moments such as the dialogue between Sulley and Mike. But there’s still a deep emotional connection we feel for Mike, Sulley and Boo throughout the film because of how complex they seem. Yes, they’re monsters to different worlds but their emotions defy the concept. Boo can be a cuddly and sweet human while also being upset or amused. Sulley is a top scarer for Monsters, Inc. but is the most compassionate character in the film. Both of the monsters feel betrayed at various points in the film. One of the wonderful things about Monsters, Inc., as well as Toy Story and Finding Nemo, is that characters that aren’t humans feel very realistic because of how they feel and act throughout the movie. They panic, scheme, lie, protect those they care about and do what it takes to overcome the bad guys.

Oddly, Monsters, Inc. is the first of Pixar’s films prior to The Incredibles that has a plot that moves along quickly, never slowing down. The film never feels rushed but rather seems to go at exactly the right pace that makes a climactic door chase scene more thrilling. The film also shows even more of a progress with the detail of characters because of how detailed Boo’s shirt is as she moves and every movement of the hairs on Sulley, a turquoise and purple furry monster. The other monsters have horns, numerous eyes moving, scales and even snakes as hair that all move flawlessly and in an utterly realistic manner. And while this film still used famous actors for voiceovers that sound like the actors normally sound, the voices seem to fit the characters, giving a sense that John Goodman’s voice was perfect for the character of Sulley, whose demeanor does not match his profession.

While Toy Story is the crown jewel for Pixar at this particular point in their filmography, Monsters, Inc. is an utterly charming film that showcases the advancements made in CGI animation in the years between Toy Story 2 and this film. The joy and creativity that resonates throughout Monsters, Inc. is what makes it a thoroughly enjoyable film on multiple viewings.

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