Tuesday , February 27 2024
Endless extras and in-depth featurettes in a special four-disc edition bolster this highly recommended 2001 G-rated classic.

Blu-ray Review: Monsters, Inc.

Billy Crystal and John Goodman provide the voices for Mike Wazowski and James P. "Sully" Sullivan respectively, two monsters who work together at Monsters, Inc. and live together in Monstropolis, a unique world parallel to the human world where a little girl named Boo changes Mike and Sully forever.

Pixar/Disney filmmakers have re-released this G-rated 2001 animated masterpiece in very special four-disc edition which includes a standard DVD, a digital copy, and two Blu-ray discs packed with powerful extras, features, and bonus content in 1080p high definition (1.78:1) and DTS-HD Master audio, which really showcases the effective realism.

The texture and realistic three-dimensional movements in the computer-generated images allow filmmakers to go beyond two-dimensional emotions of heartfelt classics like Bambi and reach audiences on a very personal level. The film’s tense moments are peppered with humor and complemented with love and caring emotions, so little ones will probably not be scared most of the time.

Steve Buscemi provides the voice for the antagonist monster, Randall, who has chameleon-like characteristics, and the young Mary Gibbs voices Boo, the main human character in the story. Bonnie Hunt, Frank Oz, and John Ratzenberger also provide voice talent for the colorful monster characters. Wooster, Ohio native Bob Peterson gets a nice showcase as the memorable manager Roz in the interactive “100 Door Challenge” trivia extra.

This film evokes such strong emotions it will be hard to forget and will probably leave you a bit emotional by the end. The story doesn’t venture much beyond Sully and Mike’s apartment and the workplace, though there are amazing streetscapes, a brief walk by the “grossery” street markets, and an extended scene at a restaurant which features an octopus-like cook.

The initial scene of the monster workplace resembles the 1997 film Men in Black, where the audience sees a diverse roll call of strange, interesting-looking creatures going about their daily business. It would’ve been nice to get a good look at “Ted,” but there are plenty of opportunities for laughs that range from locker room antics to clever workplace mottoes.

The beginning monster functions, mainly scaring kids, quickly melt into laughter that balances the scares throughout most of the film. Everything depends on this “scare” energy, so the stakes are high, especially for the antagonistic monsters. Sully and Mike represents one of the best working teams harnessing this energy under the direction of their boss, Henry Waterbridge, voiced well by James Coburn. Besides facing societal pressures due to an energy shortage, Sully and Mike must retain their lead in the employee quota contest.

Mike has a love interest, Celia, voiced by Jennifer Tilly, who gives Crystal additional opportunities to flex his comedic muscles as the story places him in various situations while Sully has a different subplot which involves a little girl named Boo.

The workplace represents something the adult audience can normally relate to, but when Mike and Sully must care for Boo, the level of audience involvement gets much more personal because anyone can understand the responsibility and work it takes to care for a young one.

Boo also transforms the story into a more action-oriented mode that includes some tense scenes which may scare small children and an action-filled climax in the monster workplace, the only sequence that didn’t focus on stress-relieving laughs as much as the rest of the film.

Sully looks after Boo with genuine love and care even with an existing fear that humans are harmful to monsters, which is continuously perpetuated by the monster contamination crew (CDA). The CDA also provides several laughs as they react overzealously to possible human sightings in the monster world. They inject a fun, chaotic element into the story because they enter so suddenly, produce some great humor, then leave just as quickly, ready to pounce again.

It’s amazing how the film gradually explains the concept behind the monster world to the audience then connects their world with the real world and finally transforms that concept into a plausible ending that’s full of emotion and meaning. The inventive ending provides hope for a possible sequel, but also keeps the story open-ended so the audience can imagine a particular outcome.

Directors Peter Docter, Lee Unkrich, and David Silverman provide great audio commentary and filmmaking analysis with executive producer John Lasseter. Docter even gives viewers a nice overview of the immense content, which really helps. The Blu-ray exclusive “Filmmakers Round Table” has over 20 minutes of more in-depth filmmaking commentary and is filmed at the Hidden City Café, a Pixar favorite. The “Designing Monstropolis” featurette provides some insight thanks to Silverman’s scooter tour while Unkrich introduces a set of five abandoned scenes titled “Banished Concepts”.

All the animation crew members get high commendations for a flawless picture, inventive environments, and realistic characters that effortlessly combine with the direction, voice talent and writing in the film. The “Animation” featurette has six segments which describe this process well, ranging from the blue hairs of Sully’s fur to the realistic wooden door texture.

This set includes a special “Storyboard to Film Comparison” featuring an individual scene plus two great Pixar short films, “Mike’s New Car” and the Academy Award-winning “For the Birds.” The “Story Featurettes” show why Pixar films reach high qualities without giving away any big process secrets. The “Story is King” and “Original Treatment” segments represent an inclusive process, which continually refines the beginning film material.


Related featurettes include the Monsters, Inc. attraction at the Disneyland Theme Park in Tokyo, a Pixar Fun Factory Tour, the "If I Didn't Have You" music video and the film’s initial premiere footage. Other features include hilarious outtakes, BD-Live functionality, a special “Monsters Only” featurette and an art gallery featuring several hundred concept art pieces.

The technical and visual qualities in the presentation are outstanding. The shadows, rich textures, and lighting details make it hard to believe this feature was made almost ten years ago. The vivid sound effects matches the visual realism, especially on the characters, both human and monster. The darker blue-toned colors add amazing appeal in a high quality presentation.

It would have been great to see all the behind-the-scenes footage in HD. Even with all this complementary content, the film itself provides high replay value due to several hidden jokes and Easter eggs within the film. For instance, look closely at Boo’s room near the end of the film — you’ll see the doll of cowgirl Jesse from Toy Story 2. Highly recommended.

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