We here at HeyUGuys LOVE Pixar and this is just a small homage to the studio that has brought us all so much joy!
Two million, three hundred and twenty thousand, four hundred and thirteen individually animated hairs. It’s a wildly hirsute statistic that, alas, I’ll personally never achieve these days yet back in 2001 audiences were once again blown away by Pixar’s technical prowess when one James P. “Sulley” Sullivan was unleashed upon our collective imaginations.
Pixar’s fourth feature was the first to not be written or directed by animator, director and chief creative director John Lasseter with Peter Docter (“Up”) and Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”) co-directing with The Simpson’s David Silverman from a story by Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon and Ralph Eggleston. And whilst the follically fecund Sulley was to be the focus of much of the initial hyperbole the film ultimately emerged as colourful a beast as many of the weird’n’wacky inhabitants of Monstropolis itself and, in my humble opinion, remains Pixar’s most wildly enjoyable, creative, charming and original film to date.
Surely one of the crowning glories of “Monsters, Inc.” was to be its voice cast with the sublime pairing of John Goodman as Sulley (a role originally earmarked for Bill Murray) and Billy Crystal as his cycloptic green buddy Mike Wazowski creating a double act that, for me, surpassed even the comedy antics of one Woody and Buzz and imbued the film with such wit, character and charm as to potentially render the remaining cast inconsequential. Yet a further masterstroke was to be the casting of the mighty Steve Buscemi as the delightfully monickered Randall Boggs, a decision that was to further my belief that, alongside such iconic characters as Kevin Spacey’s Hopper from “A Bugs Life”, Kelsey Grammar’s Stinky Pete from “Toy Story 2”, Christopher Plummer’s Charles F. Muntz from “Up” and Ned Beatty’s Lotso from “Toy Story 3”, Pixar are slowly accruing quite the track record for casting and creating a vibrantly colourful rogues gallery of satisfyingly memorable villains.
Set in the fantastic world of Monstropolis, a city connected to our own reality via our children’s closet doors, we first meet Mike and Sulley as they set out for work at “Monsters, Inc.”, a vast company which provides the inhabitants of Monstropolis with their daily energy supply by sourcing it from the countless screams of many a frightened child. But all this is about to change when Sulley discovers an activated door after work one day and unwittingly allows a young girl called Boo to follow him back into the monsters’ world. Fuelled by the monsters’ emphatic belief that all children are toxic Mike and Sulley are thus forced to protect Boo from the various machinations of the CDA (Child Detection Agency) not to mention the scheming Randall Boggs and his ominously named “Scream Machine”.
From the opening beats of “Toy Story” back in 1995 Pixar have never failed to meld stunning visuals with consummate storytelling and have long led the field in groundbreaking technical achievements. Let’s not forget that “Toy Story” itself was the first full length theatrically released CG animated feature whilst such advancements as realistic fur (on average it took 11 to 12 hours to render a single frame of Sulley!), water, fabric and food have ensured that, especially in the current era of Blu-ray technology and digital filmmaking, each successive film has never looked anything less than eyeball-strokingly sumptuous . Yet despite such eye candy the team at Pixar have never lost sight of the true power of storytelling and whilst similarly animated fare has increasingly relied on flashy visuals and A-list voice actors films like “Monsters, Inc.” are every bit as exhilarating 10 years on due to the loving care and attention that Pixar’s team of talented artists and storytellers afford such oft-ignored constituents as characterisation, narrative, ideas and creativity.
From it’s retro-styled two dimensinal opening credits through to the witty outtakes that accompany the closing credits everything about “Monsters, Inc.” literally SCREAMS quality (enough to power a city, perhaps?) from the stunning visuals and superlative voice acting to the witty screenplay and countless geektastic easter eggs hidden throughout the film. At one point in the film Mike takes receptionist and girlfriend Celia Mae (Jennifer Tilly) out for dinner at a restaurant called Harryhausen’s, a tribute, of course, to the legendary stop-motion animator and creator of many a cinematic behemoth Ray Harryhausen. But did you also know that the octopus serving behind the bar is blessed with a mere six legs in reference to the 1955 film “It Came From Beneath The Sea” in which Harryhausen was forced to create a similarly six armed monstrosity due to budget restrictions? Or that the cereal that Sulley feeds Boo features a fully rendered and readable list of ingredients on the packet that includes such delights as tentacles (including suckers), naturally occuring mercury, sulfuric acid, lead, bile, blood, sweat, tears, zinc oxide, anemone, brine shrimp, coral, plankton, deadly pufferfish and depleted uranium (to preserve freshness). As is now commonplace in Pixar’s work such hidden secrets and easter eggs only further the attention to detail so apparent in their films whilst also taking the time to reference their previous releases and subtly tease future endeavours (Not only does Sulley own a copy of “A Bugs Life” on DVD but Boo hands him both a Jessie doll from “Toy Story 2” and a small cuddly clownfish that was to be audiences first glimpse of Nemo!)
Perhaps most ironic of all, however, is that whilst Monstropolis is experiencing an energy crisis the film itself is never in danger of doing so, buzzing with an electrifying energy that is never more apparent than during the truly sensational chase sequence near the film’s climax that is set amidst a rollercoaster-like myriad of moving doors (a sequence that, alas, now forever reminds me of the opening credits of “You Been Framed”!) and sees Mike and Sulley chase Boggs in and out of the human world in a dizzying display of visual virtuosity.
Ending on a beautifully restrained note guaranteed to warm the heart “Monsters, Inc.” is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a monstrous success; a film that blends wonderful characters, witty dialogue and divine storytelling with a stunningly realised and captivating world that is sure to entertain, enthrall and excite audiences both young and old. Not only do I consider it Pixar’s greatest film to date but it’s long sat high up on my list of greatest animated features of all time. In fact it’s a film so truly delightful as to leave me longing for kids of my own so I can someday introduce them to Mike and Sulley and comfortably inform them that monsters really DO exist after all even if they ultimately only scare because they care …