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A human child ends up in the monster world with two goofball monsters who are struggling to return her and end up unearthing an evil plot in the process.

In the city of Monstropolis, the monsters get their power from human children’s screams. The main supplier of power is a company called Monsters Incorporated. At Monster’s Inc., the monsters go through doors to the human world and scare kids to absorb the power from their screams. The scare power is then supplied to the city to power all the electronics and such. The top monster that scares kids is James P. Sullivan or Sully. Sully is a giant bear-like monster who is blue with purple spots, and his green, one-eyed helper is Mike Wazowski. Mike manages the technical aspects of the scaring that Sully does. When Sully nears breaking the all-time scare record, another monster, Randall, sneaks in some extra scare time. Sully notices and goes through the closet door to see what Randall is up to, and accidentally lets a kid into the power plant. Kids are thought to be toxic in the world of monsters; so much so, an agency was formed for the protection of monsters from children. After Sully accidentally lets the kid into Monstropolis, he informs Mike of his problem, and all hell breaks loose to try and get the kid back where it came from in the human world.

Monsters, Inc. is one of the most lovable of all the PIXAR films; perhaps that would be the best way to describe it. Besides actually having a giant, cuddly main character, it has the most lovable story with its very childish antics and heartfelt lessons. The imagination is a limitless element when it comes to the human mind, and the folks at PIXAR know how to tap into bottomless wells of it. Everything in this film was from the depths of imagination. Even the concept of monsters needing to scare children as their source of power, and having a factory floor full of doors that open to a parallel universe was an incredible reach into the creative psyche. There is no better word than amazing for the look of this film. Everything was specifically designed to work together. The people at PIXAR even plotted out the look of Monstropolis so it could accommodate the monsters of different shapes and sizes. They also created a special program to handle fur/hair, its movements and shadows, called FIZT. When you look closely at the door control panel in the film, you will see a button with “FIZT” on it as a PIXAR Easter egg. Even in Sully’s design, they paid homage to the monster Maurice from Little Monsters by using the blue with purple spots and the small horns.

​However, the look of the main monsters brought forth some issues. Stanley Miller, accomplished artist for the Grateful Dead, filed suit against PIXAR because the main characters looked eerily similar to the monsters he had been most famous for drawing. The lawsuit was mostly over the design of Mike Wazowski, and it was found that one-eyed creatures had been in existence in numerous places throughout history. This was just one of the lawsuits PIXAR had to face while creating Monsters, Inc. Lori Madrid was a children’s song writer and she also wrote a story called “There’s a Boy in My Closet,” which had its share of similarities to Monsters, Inc.  She found out about the film and filed suit against PIXAR, and they were on trial the day before its release. They decided not to postpone the release. However, they continued with the lawsuit and eventually found it coincidental. The story had not been conceived from some woman’s story that hadn’t even been published and distributed yet.

​While the film may have faced legality issues, it really brought forth a new level of innovation with animated films. Thinking completely out of the box and still making it appealing and funny really helped Monster’s, Inc. shine. Making plot devices like laughter stronger than screams so that joy comes across stronger than fear is a great message. Also, the sequences with doors that lead to every possible place on the globe made for a million possibilities. If ever there were to be a sequel to Monster’s Inc., PIXAR would have limitless choices of direction just from the simplicity of the doors in this film. Besides being great with the technology and the plot, PIXAR yet again had an all-star cast. Putting Billy Crystal (Mike Wazowski) and John Goodman (Sully), both amazing comedians, together into a buddy picture, is a recipe for brilliant magic. The charisma of the characters’ dynamic really helped the film move scene to scene and keeps the viewer’s interest. The friendship of Sully and Mike is undeniably great because of the voices behind them, and it truly enhanced the emotion of the story. The film takes the two through the bumps that great friendships face on a regular basis between the best and the worst of times. Both “cute and cuddly” and “ugly and scary” find a home in this film. Another cool side note is that famous children’s book illustrator, Lane Smith, had a hand in the design of the monsters in the opening sequence of the film. Lane is known for his work on The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales as well as The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. That being said, he was a great artistic addition to the mix that PIXAR brought to the table for Monster’s Inc.

​In truth, the story was beyond expectation. As a child, almost everyone fears monsters in their closet but has never thought about it the other way around. With that, PIXAR took it even further with screams powering the city, and having an energy crisis and then figuring out that laughter was ten times as powerful as screams. This brings a lot of heart to the story because it is a ridiculously happy ending. Although the general animation may not have been the focal point in this film, it sure had a lot to offer. It was visually attractive because of the variety of monsters, it was conceptually appealing because of the doors and energy, and it had an edge-of-your-seat story because of the importance to get Boo, the human child, back home. Monsters, Inc. may not be the absolute best PIXAR film, but it holds one heck of a high ranking.

 

Directed by: Pete Docter, David Silverman (co-director), Lee Unkrich (co-director)

Written by: Pete Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon, and Ralph Eggleston

Starring:  John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, Mary Gibbs, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, Bob Peterson, John Ratzenberger, and Frank Oz

Distributed By: Disney/PIXAR

Release Date: November 2, 2001

Run Time: 92 Minutes

Rating: G

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