Directors: Pete Docter, Lee Unrich, and David Silverman
Voice Talent: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly
Released: November 2, 2001
Viewed in theaters: November 3, 2001
Best Animated Feature (lost to Shrek)
Best Original Song - "If I Didn't Have You" by Randy Newman (won)
Best Score - Randy Newman (lost to Howard Shore for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)
Best Sound Editing (lost to Pearl Harbor)
Monsters, Inc. is the reason I see all Pixar (or any other animated) movies at nine in the evening (or, at the very least on a weekday during the school year). Why, you ask? Well, because I did not have a good viewing experience seeing this and it has haunted me to this day that this was only the second time I've seen the movie. When this movie came out I was living in a small town that only had one theater (and not a very comfortable or big one at that). It was literally only one theater where only one movie played. (Some other films I saw at this theater include The Fellowship of the Ring (that was a big gamble for me as I knew it was a long-ass movie and I went in knowing nothing about Tolkien, so if I didn't like it, it was going to be a long and painful experience for me, but luckily I ended up really getting into the movie and was ready for the next installment when it ended!), A Beautiful Mind, I Am Sam, and Panic Room.
So when this movie came out I saw it because, even though Pixar was quite young at this time (Monsters, Inc. is their fourth movie), I was a fan of the first two Toy Story movies. (I have never seen A Bug's Life). I honestly don't remember how crowded the theater was, but like I said, it was pretty small so even if the whole theater wasn't packed, that still makes a huge difference. I just remember there was some young kid (maybe two) who were talking/crying/ kicking my seat (they were seated behind me)/just basically annoying the sh*t out of me during the movie, hence making it hard to enjoy the movie so I've always associated this movie with negative thoughts and that's why I never revisited it until recently. I vowed to myself that I would never see another animated movie during the weekend or weekday when kids are out of school. Fast forward to two years later when I see Finding Nemo in a huge theater PACKED with screaming kids. Yeah, I'm an idiot who didn't follow my own advice. However, I saw Wall-E at nine in the evening; I saw Up at nine in the evening; I saw Toy Story 3 at nine in the evening; I saw How To Train Your Dragon and its sequel at nine in the evening; I saw Inside Out at nine in the evening; you get the picture.
Anyway, I'm glad I finally gave Monsters, Inc. a second chance because I really enjoyed it and it's a really cute movie. However, if you really stop to think about it, the basic premise is a little messed up. It's about a society of monsters who get their energy source from the screams of children, so every night they sneak into their rooms via their bedroom closet to scare the young children all over the world, then capture the screams of terrified children, bottling them up into a air-tight container (the screams, not the children!) Yeah, just a little messed up. However, this being a Pixar/Disney movie, it's a very cute and kid-friendly movie. Obviously.
The movie focuses on two monsters named Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) and James P. Sullivan, or, as his friends call him, Sully (voiced by John Goodman) who work at the energy-producing factory, Monsters, Inc. in the town of Monstropolis. The company's motto is "We Scare Because We Care." They work on the scare floor, a huge room that has access to every bedroom closet door of all the children in the world, so, as you can imagine, there are millions upon millions of doors. There is a chart to keep track of where and when they've been and every child has their own "monster" so they always get scared by the same monster because they (the monsters) knows what each child is afraid of. I'm not really sure how they keep track of all the doors and who's been scared, but somehow they manage to keep it all organized. I don't know which is more convoluted: the scare floor in Monsters, Inc. or Riley's head in Inside Out!
Their job is to obtain the screams of children so that Monstropolis is able to function and be the bright and vibrant city that it is. Sully, a large purple and blue fuzzy monster with horns and a long tail is a scarer which means he goes into the bedrooms to scare the children while Mike, his assistant (basically a large green talking eyeball with arms and legs), gives him the stats and numbers he needs. Each scarer has their own assistant and there is a bit of a rivalry between the two top scarers, Sully and a sleazy chameleon-like monster who can blend in with his surroundings, Randall (voiced by Steve Buscemi).
Even though the monsters who are scarers are big and imposing and have sharp teeth/claws/horns, the most amusing part of the movie is that children are considered toxic to the monster world so if something that belongs to them comes back to the monsters' world (or, God forbid, an actual living child being), they treat it as a risk and take it very seriously. When they enter a room, they will hop around, making sure not to touch or come into contact with any toys or clothes laying on the floor and they never physically touch the children, just scare them, capture the screams, and get out of there. We see what happens when one monster has a child's sock stuck to his back after coming back from a job and the CDA (Child Detection Agency) is called and they put everybody into lock down. The monsters who work for the CDA are all wearing haz-mat suits and helmets and carefully dispose of the sock (by blowing it up), then they shave the poor monster who accidentally brought back the sock and scrub him ten times over. They went through all this trouble for a single sock, just imagine what would happen if an actual child made their way into Monstropolis!
Sully knows he has to send her back to her world, but Randall has already put away her door and I guess it would raise an alarm if Sully were to re-activate it because he doesn't want anyone (especially the CDA) to know that a toxic child is among them. He gets Mike involved and he starts freaking out and when Boo sneezes in his direction he sprays disinfect on his eye which turns it red and makes him dance around in agony. I admit, I laughed hard at that. It doesn't take long for Sully to realize that children (at least not this one) aren't toxic and they even realize that her laughter is quite strong and that all along they should have been capturing children's laughter instead of their screams.
Sully and Mike are determined to get Boo safely back to her home, which they do, but not without a few obstacles in their way. They have to go through this maze of thousands of doors which is a fun scene. It's very bittersweet when Sully finally has to say goodbye to Boo; they have to destroy her door once she's back in her house because she now knows about the Monster World and they can't have her making any contact with them. Even though we know Randall is the bad guy, there's also another twist of someone conspiring with him, but of course everything works out in the end and Sully even gets to visit Boo one last time after Mike fixed her door.
You think that would be the idea for the sequel; Sully visiting Boo every now and then and maybe getting into some shenanigans in the human world, but they went for a prequel for the second movie. I added Monsters' University to my Netflix queue after I saw the first movie and I think I enjoyed it more than I was expecting. Most people have this at the lower end of their Netflix rankings and while it wouldn't be near the top of mine, I thought it was quite delightful and I had fun watching it. Also, my monster would be the dean of the university, Dean Hardscrabble who was voiced by Hellen Mirren. The design of that monster was nightmare fuel with her dragon wings and centipede legs...eesh!