Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. is another dazzling example of the studio’s inventiveness and pure storytelling ability. The 2001 animated feature is an entirely unique adventure that presents entertaining characters and even offers a little emotional kick when you least expect it. Directed by Pete Docter, the director of Pixar’s Up, Monsters, Inc. ducks the norm and heads off in a wholly original direction. There’s a sequel set for release in 2012, so it’ll be sweet to see these great characters again.

Like Cars, the basic fundamentals of Monsters, Inc. are set up first and they help to plant the tale in original ground. We are introduced to a world of monsters and it is very civilized. The monsters go to trendy restaurants and have jobs working for the titular company generating energy. The use of these implements provides for a lot of laughs and smiles, but it also makes the movie a profound affair when the blue fur settles.

Monstropolis is the monster city our monster story takes place in. We’re quickly introduced to the world as a place that isn’t connected directly to the human world but can reach it through the doors in children’s rooms. Get it? The power supply for the city, and presumably the monster world as a whole, is provided by the screams of said children, so it becomes necessary for monsters to use the doors to scare kids to produce the screams. Hence, Monsters, Inc.

Sulley (John Goodman) is the top “scarer” at the company and Mike (Billy Crystal) is his best friend and assistant. Mike opens the doors and handles the screams, while Sulley scares the crap out of the kids. It’s an arrangement that has produced great success, but Sulley and Mike’s world is turned topsy-turvy when a little girl (Mary Gibbs) makes her way into the monster world through an open door. A lizard monster (Steve Buscemi) also provides complications with his evil plot.

There are a lot of interesting elements to Monsters, Inc. worth looking into. A point that struck me immediately was that of the “energy” provided by children’s screams. The “sustainability” of the energy source comes into play through a major plot point and an “alternative energy source” is considered to give cleaner, better power for Monstropolis.

The nature of fear is also a vital part and it turns out that kids aren’t scaring quite like they used to. Is this a nod to the media saturation and scary content that kids are exposed to? I think so. The monsters have to work a lot harder to get at their precious energy supply and that proves a two-edged sword once Sulley discovers the effect his roaring and bellowing can have on a small child. When he develops an attachment to the little girl, the game changes.

Beyond the philosophical points, of which there are actually many, Monsters, Inc. is a wonder of Pixar animation. The character of Sulley apparently features some two million hairs and the look of the other monsters is distinctive and astounding. Their movements are exceptional and the animation during the last feverish chase through a giant series of doors is something else.

The foundation of Monsters, Inc. provides an endless array of stories and characters and this picture makes the most of it. There’s room for more and that’s where the November 2012 sequel could really shine. Pixar doesn’t simply assemble characters for marketing purposes, thankfully. As always, Pixar succeeds because they present layered pictures that really do have something for everyone. Monsters, Inc., with its intense animation and thought-provoking premise, is stunningly enjoyable stuff.


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