Monsters, Inc.
"I'll be bold enough to claim that Monsters Inc. is evidence that an entirely new way of thinking of entertainment has taken root in our culture, and is now being extended into children's entertainment. Let me explain...
Review by Greg Wright

This page was created on November 01, 2001
This page was last updated on
May 22, 2005

Monsters, Inc. Main page
About the Amazing Technology -pg 2
About the Origins -pg 3
About the Directors -pg 4
About Animating Memorial Monsters -pg 5


Directed by Peter Docter David Silverman
Co-director: David Silverman
Writing credits: Dan Gerson and Andrew Stanton

Billy Crystal .... Mike Wazowski (voice)
John Goodman .... James P. 'Sulley' Sullivan (voice)
James Coburn .... Henry J. Waternoose (voice)
Jennifer Tilly .... Celia (voice)
Bonnie Hunt .... Flint (voice)
Mary Gibbs .... Boo (voice)
Steve Buscemi .... Randall Boggs
Sam 'Penguin' Black .... George Sanderson (voice)
Daniel R. Gerson .... Needleman & Smitty (voice)
Frank Oz .... Fungus (voice)
Bob Peterson .... Roz (voice)
Jeff Pidgeon .... Bile (voice)
John Ratzenberger .... The Abominable Snowman (voice)
Steve Susskind .... Floor Manager (voice)

Produced by Darla K. Anderson (producer), John Lasseter (executive producer), Andrew Stanton (executive producer)
Original music by Randy Newman
Film Editing by Ken Schretzmann and Jim Stewart

Rated G

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Monsters, Inc.
Soundtrack by Randy Newman

You won't believe your eye

The Academy Award®-winning creators of "Toy Story" open the door to a frightfully funny world of monsters and mayhem and scare up lots of laughs in their new movie, "Monsters, Inc." This witty and imaginative new computer animated adventure is the latest film from Disney/Pixar (following "Toy Story," "A Bug's Life," and "Toy Story 2") and is the second feature in the current five-picture association between the two studios. Featuring the inspired vocal talents of John Goodman, Billy Crystal, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, Steve Buscemi, Mary Gibbs, John Ratzenberger, Bob Peterson, Frank Oz, and Bonnie Hunt, "Monsters, Inc." is a Wait Disney Pictures presentation of a Pixar Animation Studios Film.

Pixar, which celebrates its 15"' anniversary this year, makes its boldest leap forward yet with "Monsters, Inc." The film represents the studio's most advanced and sophisticated use of computer animation technology to date, as it required 2.5 million rendermarks (a measure of computing power) compared to the nearly 1.1 million used on "Toy Story 2." Among its many impressive technical achievements is the breakthrough depiction of fur and hair, which has the shadowing, density, lighting, and movement consistent with the real thing. This is seen to best advantage with Sulley's feathery blue-green and purple spotted coat that includes nearly 3 million individual hairs, and with Boo's hair and pigtails. Another simulation program allowed Boo's T-shirt to move independently of her body. This approach represented a major advance over Pixar's previous experimentation with clothing on the short film "Geri's Game" (the 1998 Oscar'-winning animated short film that played in theaters with "A Bug's Life").

Set in Monstropolis, a thriving company town where monsters of all shapes and sizes reside, the film follows the hilarious misadventures of James P. Sullivan (known to all as "Sulley") and his best friend, roommate, and coworker, Mike Wazowski. Both work at Monsters, Inc., the largest scream-processing factory in the monster world, where Sulley is the top kid Scarer and Mike is his enthusiastic Scare Assistant. The main power source in the monster world is the collected screams of human children. At Monsters, Inc., an elite team of Scarers is responsible for gathering those precious natural resources. Complicating matters is the fact that monsters believe human children to be toxic and direct contact with them is forbidden. When a little girl (named Boo) accidentally follows Sulley back into his world, he finds his career in jeopardy and his life in utter chaos. Assisted by Mike, he schemes to rectify his mistake but the trio becomes caught up in a series of complications and unexpected intrigue beyond their wildest dreams.

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The Story
Click to enlargeSince the very first bedtime, children around the world have known that once their parents tuck them into bed and shut off the lights, monsters lie waiting behind closet doors, ready to emerge. But what they don't realize is that for these monsters, it's nothing personal. It's just their job.
Click to enlargeMonstropolis is home to a population of monsters of every shape and size. Their main source of power is processed human screams and the largest scream processing factory in town is Monsters, Inc. (or MI). Drawing from the factory's vast inventory of "'closet doors,"Click to enlarge a team of elite monsters enters the human world on a nightly basis to scare children and collect their screams. Making the task more difficult is the fact that monsters believe children are toxic and that direct contact with them would be catastrophic. The company's CEO, Henry J. Waternoose, is faced with an energy crisis due to the fact that kids don't scare as easily as they used to.
Click to enlargeThe most valuable player at Monsters, Inc. is James P. Sullivan, or Sulley, an eight foot tall, blue-green monster with purple spots and horns. His Scare Assistant is a one-eyed lime-green monster named Mike Wazowski, who also happens to be his roommate and best friend. Life is good for this scare pair. Sulley is at the top of his game without an enemy in the world - except creepy and competitive chameleon-like Randall Boggs, the number two Scarer at the factory. Meanwhile, Mike's courtship of the girl of his screams, Celia, the receptionist at MI, is starting to take shape.
Click to enlargeOne night, Sulley finds himself on the "Scare Floor" after hours and discovers that a closet door has not been returned to the "door vault."" Opening the door to investigate, he unwittingly admits a young human girl into his world. Believing children to be toxic, Click to enlargeSulley tries to overcome his own fear and put things right but finds his situation worsening at every turn. He and Mike take the child - whom Sulley names Boo - to their home until things cool down and they can think of a plan. The next day they disguise Boo as a monster and take her to the factory in the hopes of retrieving her door and sending her safely home.

Click to enlargeMike and Sulley risk their own safety and security as they race to get Boo back to the human world before someone discovers her presence. Unbeknownst to them, they have stumbled upon a dastardly plot to boost energy production and now inadvertently find that they stand in the way of "progress."

The Review:
Something New in Children's Movies
Review by Greg Wright
Monsters Inc. is outstandingly creative entertainment that works surprisingly well at both the adult and child's level. It's original, state of the art, clever, engaging and, as we are used to in Pixar entertainment, boldly executed by director John Lassiter and his staff. At the same time, there's something new at work in Monsters Inc. that takes the movie beyond the accomplishments of other animated successes like Toy Story. What makes Monsters Inc. so appealing, though, is not the technology employed, or even the vocal performances by John Goodman and Billy Crystal; it's something elemental to the conception of the movie. In fact, I'll be bold enough to claim that Monsters Inc. is evidence that an entirely new way of thinking of entertainment has taken root in our culture, and is now being extended into children's entertainment. Let me explain.
In our institutions of higher learning, literature students learn that it is harder to write a good children's story than a good adult's story. Why? Because at their heart, all successful children's stories are transformational. It might be useful to use the terms "instructive" or "moral" in describing children's literature; but these words may have pejorative connotations. In conceiving of transformation, however, it's easy to see that a good children's book affects the young reader in such a way as to bring the child a step closer to maturity. Very few successful children's books are pure entertainment; even the bulk of Dr. Seuss is transformational literature.   

Much of classical children's literature may be thought of as falling into the general "fairy tale" genre. In these stories, the central figure (usually orphaned or in some other way underprivileged) takes a journey or has a series of adventures in which he or she encounters a variety of hardships, trials and disappointments. The central figure must deal with a host of unsavory characters, sometimes even within his or her own family. Eventually, the hero or heroine emerges victorious over circumstances and foes, and learns some sort of valuable lesson in the process. Vicariously, so does the child reading the story. Taken as a body of literature, these classical tales instruct children in the "true nature" of the world: there's a ton of evil and sadness out there, and short of a magic cure, it's up to you and you alone to get past it, because you can't rely on anyone else. The basic theme is survival. Think of Hansel and Gretel (above right), or Jack and the Beanstalk; even Oliver Twist. These are stories designed to help children cope with a dark and broken world.
One obvious movement in twentieth-century children's entertainment might be called Modern Heroic. In this genre, the central figure is above-average to average, and usually not underprivileged; but if so, the character is secretly of high birth, or has some special gift or skill that is hidden. In accomplishing the requisite journey or adventure, however, the true "bad guys" are easily discernable; and the bulk of the character's world is filled with "good guys," equally easily discernable. In emerging victorious over circumstances and foes, the hero or heroine aids in helping bring about "rightness" to the world. The basic theme is justice; wrongs are redressed. Lessons are learned, both for the central character and the child audience. As a body, Modern Heroic entertainment instructs children that they are special, unique; and that is it their birthright to be a part of overcoming the bad guys of the world. The kid next door that you think may be your enemy really isn't; it's those guys "over there." Think of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves; think of Star Wars, or even The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter . These are stories designed to help children cope with the weight of responsibility that comes with being the guardians of freedom in a World War torn century.
Toward the end of the twentieth century, a new mode of entertainment introduced itself, first with adult audiences. It is easiest to call it Trekkian Idealist. In this genre, obviously popularized in adult entertainment through Star Trek and its spin-offs, the central character is either an average Everyman, or surrounded by a cast of supporting characters that's universal. There's no "secret powers" or high birth involved; just average people in extraordinary circumstances. The journey or adventure requires the heroic side to work as a team; and there's no class of "bad guys," per se. There are villains, certainly; but they tend to be individuals, not generally representative of a group. Through victory, the heroes affirm that diversity is good, that tolerance and good will are admirable, and that people must be dealt with as individuals. The basic theme of Trekkian Idealism is understanding. These are stories that help people deal with the problems of a pluralized, non-homogenous and increasingly global culture.

Trekkian Idealism is largely irrelevant in war-torn places like the Middle East, central Africa and Malaysia. It is even difficult for Trekkian Idealism to be relevant in America in the wake of the World Trade Center attack.

And yet, perhaps for the first time, this idealism surfaces in children's entertainment. And, I might add, in a powerful realization of the potential of the genre. Monsters Inc. presents a Trekkian Idealist world from the other side of the mirror. The audience gets the proverbial chance to walk a mile in the other guys' shoes: we find out what "monsters" are afraid of, what "monsters" like, and even what "monsters" need. Most importantly, we find out that the "monsters" we are afraid of think that we are monsters, too. And that the "monsters'" fear of us is no better founded than our fear of them.

A key aspect to the story is that when Sulley first encounters Boo, she has no reason to fear him. Randall has contrived to have access to Boo's door so that he can kidnap her; and when Sulley enters her room, it is not with the flair that he later demonstrates in the training room. As a result, Boo, in her unsullied naïveté (pardon the pun), sees nothing threatening in Sulley at all; which is right, since we all know that John Goodman is nothing but a big pussycat, anyway (begging the pardon of Barton Fink).

Naturally, it's only a matter of time before Mike and Sulley learn that Boo is nothing to be afraid of. It's then also only a matter of time before a Human and a Vulcan (alien, monster) share the bridge of the Enterprise, if you get my drift. And indeed, the conclusion of the movie envisions a world in which individuals responsible for wrongdoing have been punished; but, more importantly, a world in which children have been reconciled with "monsters."
Is this really startlingly new? If so, what are the implications? Well, imagine the same approach being taken with Star Wars. First, the story would be told from the perspective of the Empire, not the rebellion. When the princess is taken captive, her behavior would be kind, gracious and engaging, not condescending, rude and, well, rebellious. Soon the Empire would find out that those serfs they are trying to dominate are really pretty fun people, and better to have as friends than enemies. Darth Vader, who discards the black cape and helmet, deposes the Emperor, gets some good plastic surgery, and goes on to host game shows. But is this good? Don't we need Darth Vader and the Evil Empire to help us understand the World Trade Center and Bin Laden? Is Monsters Inc. a useful worldview for our children?

I think those answers are yes, no, and yes. Children in Arab nations have been raised to hate and fear Americans for a number of reasons; and as long as the bombs keep falling, they will think they have been taught correctly. I am aware this is an insanely naïve thing to say. But it may also be profoundly spiritual. If our children are to live as adults free of the fear of terrorism, it will take a transformational change of renewed minds in the present. After all, Jesus said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you... What good is it if you only love those who love you? Doesn't everyone do that?" And this wasn't just theory for Jesus; he acted on it, and taught us to do the same.

Monsters Inc. is both realistic and morally responsible in saying, ?Hey, you know those guys we were raised to fear and hate? There?s a few bad eggs in there, all right, who need to be dealt with (and who doesn?t have a few of those?); but we were just flat wrong about the rest!?

The Photo Gallery
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Monsters, Inc. Main page
About the Amazing Technology -pg 2
About the Origins -pg 3
About the Directors -pg 4
About Animating Memorial Monsters -pg 5

Subject: update?
Date: Wed, 9 Jan 2002
From: "Colin and Diane Maxwell"

hi there, any chance of an update on this site? We use your site regularly for helping with relevant christian ideas and want to see what's been said about Monsters inc. Many thanks, Diane.

Response: It has been updated with an excellent review by Greg Wright -David

Monster, Inc ©2001 - Disney/Pixar Pictures - All Rights Reserved.