My opinion right after watching film
Just to give some insight, this is the first movie I remember watching in the theaters, so this film will forever hold a special place in my heart. My overall opinion right after watching the film is that it is a good time. I like the atmosphere, the two main characters are some of my favourite in Pixar, and the story was pretty fast-paced, though I think the story could have been handled a bit better. I will note that you get a new perspective watching this after watching Monsters University.
The idea for this film (as well as A Bug’s Life) was conceived at a lunch in 1994, since children often believed that monsters came out of their closet when they were little. While A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2 continued into production in 1996, Pete Docter started his focus on this film, and a pitch that was similar to the final film was given to Disney in February of 1997, where it was then decided to title the film Monsters, Inc.
The initial concept of the film involved a 30 year old man having a lot of fears, which was represented in the monsters that would come out of his closet, even after his childhood ended. That idea was obviously scrapped, and was changed to a budding friendship between a monster and a child. Up until 2000, the child and monster went through countless changes in appearance and purpose, which finally lead to the child being a little girl barely out of toddlerhood, and an 8-foot monster.
A monster buddy would eventually become Mike was idealized in April 6th, 1998 at a story summit. They soon wanted the buddy to be smaller in appearance, and made him a one-eyed monster. Apparently Bill Murray made some screen tests for Sullivan, but when there was no contact, the role was given to John Goodman. Billy Crystal was approached in the early 1990s to voice Buzz Lightyear, which he turned down, only to regret it soon after, so he accepted the role of Mike. There was a lot of trouble to animate fur in the film, which was an issue because the main character consisted of a lot of fur.
The film starts in an alternative world, which consists of monsters living in a society like ours. We soon learn that monsters have these doors that teleport to children’s bedrooms in the human world, and they scare them to gain power for Monstropolis; there is an entire business based on it. The new scarers are apparently crap, and we are taken to the main character, and the best scarer in Monstropolis; James “Sully” Sullivan (John Goodman), and his best friend/worker assistant Michael “Mike” Wazowski (Billy Crystal). As they are walking to work, we quickly learn that Sully gets all of the attention, and barely anyone recognizes Mike, but it seems like he does not mind. The one person that does give Mike attention is his receptionist girlfriend Celia (Jennifer Tilly), who he plans to take out to dinner for her birthday after their shift.
Their shift at work has ended, and it is time for Mike to go on a date with his girlfriend, though he has some leftover paperwork to do. Sully covers for him, and while trying to find the papers, he ends up going into a door (that Randall put there so he could get more screams while off the clock), and a child nicknamed Boo (Mary Gibbs) enters their world. He tries to put her back to her room, but she continuously escapes, and refuses to stay still. Sully runs to the diner where Mike and Celia are, and forces him to come with her to solve the predicament he ended up being put into. Boo escapes in the restaurant, causing everyone to panic and having the Child Detection Agency, as they are soon evacuated, leaving a very angry girlfriend.
The duo end up beginning the child to Sully’s apartment, and her laughter ends up blowing out all of the power circuits in the entire neighborhood. I forgot to mention that monsters treat humans like they are epidemics, and are even more scared of them than humans are of monsters. I wish that there was a bit more explanation as to how this monster universe came to be, or how it has this connection with the human world, which might not even be in the same universe. It is like some aspects of the world are explained, but a lot of others are not. It is the next morning, and the Monsters, Inc. company has become the new hell.
Everyone in the factory is looking for the girl, while the two try to bring her back to her door without being detected. Too bad for Mike, Randall sees him, and kidnaps Mike to get answers out of him. There are some filler scenes, which consists of Sully thinking she got crushed in the garbage shoot, and her joining a bunch of monster kids, who are on a field trip to the factory. That is the thing with this film; I do there there are quite a bit of scenes that are filler, and just drags the situation longer than needed. Boo and Sully see Mike attached to a machine called “The Scream Extractor” by Randall, which forces all the screams that can be mustered by someone. The two helps Mike escape, and the CEO of the company named Waternoose (James Coburn) forces Sully to help the crappy new workers to show them how to scare a human, and just so conveniently, Boo walks up to the prototype, and sees Sully become a scarer, which scares her. Apparently no one else noticed her running to the prototype, and when she is revealed, Waternoose reveals that he does not care about what Randall did, and banished Mike and Sully because they know too much.
Sully goes to the village, and I am assuming he finds a door to get back to the factory. Waternoose is bitter because he had to ban his best scarer so Randall can have his plan go through, and because Randall is sloppy with how he handled the plan. Randall and Sully ends up fighting, and Mike shows up (HOW IN THE HELL DID HE GET THERE? HE WAS LAST SEEN IN THE CAVE) to apologize for his actions.
After escaping from Randall, Celia pounces on that ass, demanding an explanation for his weird behavior, or else they are going to break up. He tells her everything, which causes her to help them slow down by Randall by telling the factory he broke the scare record, causing a bunch of fans to swarm him. There are of course a long chase scene, which involves them travelling through a bunch of doors, but they end up getting Randall thrown through a door, and knocking out its circuitry, meaning that he is trapped in the world forever. I also believe that the trailer he ends up in as the same one that was in A Bug’s Life. Waternoose chases after them, and is caught being recorded on saying that he will kidnap a thousand children to maintain their power. He gets arrested, and the head agent named Roz (Bob Peterson), who has been under disguise for two years (and whom Mike was supposed to hand his paperwork to) to investigate what was happening at the factory.
After saying goodbye to Boo, we see the factory completely revamped months later, and the monsters are trying to make the kids laugh, giving them a lot more power than a scream ever could. Sully is in charge, and Mike shows him a surprise, which is Boo’s door put back together, except for one piece. After Sully puts the last piece into the door, the film ends with him deciding to visit her.
For the characters we received in this film, they seem to be self-realized, at least somewhat.
The animation did not age as well as I thought it did, but it is by no means bad. I have to say that some of the textures on the monsters were a bit weird, but there was such a high variety of monsters to animate, so it makes sense. I really like the world building in the animation, and overall, the film is just really pleasing to look at.
I do not recall any songs per say, but the score is done by the regular Randy Newman. There are a lot more jazz influences on this score, and it works well I guess, despite the film having nothing to do with jazz. Otherwise, it doesn’t stand out too much, but jazz is always nice to listen to.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on November 2nd, 2001, it made $289,916,256 in North America, and $287,509,478 elsewhere, which lead to a worldwide total of $577,425,734. It was the highest-grossing Pixar film at the tine, second highest-grossing animated film at the time, and completely stole the attention from Walt Disney Animation Studios, though received a lot of competition with DreamWorks’ Shrek. It is the third highest-grossing film of 2001.
It gave Pixar another critically acclaimed film under its belt, as people called it clever, funny, engaging, and set the bars once again for animated films. It showed that Pixar can do well outside of the Toy Story franchise, and this was during the time where traditionally animated films really started to under-perform and flop. WDAS’ Atlantis: The Lost Empire barely made back its budget, and lost money in marketing earlier that summer, and this was after a series of underperforming films within the last year and a half. People were really starting to question whether traditional animation could last, especially with the success of Shrek earlier that summer, and Ice Age the year afterwards. I remember seeing all of the Pixar films, while not even knowing the WDAS films existed at the time.
The film was nominated for, and won countless awards, but lost the Best Animated Film Academy Award (this was the first year the award was in place) to Shrek, which proved to be controversial then, and is still controversial today.
It managed to get a prequel called Monsters University in 2013, and I do feel like the prequel put an effect on the current reception of this film. People still see it as a brilliant film, but I do not see many considering it one of the best films in the canon. People know that this film is one of the main reasons why Pixar is such a strong force in animation today.
= 30/40 = 75%