The college experience had at one point been reserved for the wealthy, those with the financial and social means to assure acceptance. Then, after World War two things changed. Thanks to the G.I. Bill opening the way for returning veterans and their families to attend universities the experience became widely known. This opened the way for a myriad of college based films in a trend that is still going strong. In fact it has now become part of the ever expanding slice of cinema known as the animated feature film. In a sequel to the widely popular, and profitable ‘Monster’s Inc., the new release, ‘Monsters University’ brings this theme of college life to some of our favorite animated characters. This movie also touches on another frequently used method of extending a successful story, the prequel, giving the many fans a glimpse at how the relationships that drove the first movie were formed. While naturally not as ground breaking as the first film this one more than manages to hold its own and find its own unique narrative.
Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) is an ambitious young monster who aspires to the profession of his monster society, a scarer. This position requires the monster to enter the human world through the bedroom door of a child frightening them; the source of energy on the monster world. In order to find a job with a respectable energy company like Monsters, Inc., It has been many years since a very young Mike went on a field trip to Monsters Inc. and made his mind up to be a scarer. Mike realized he needed a college degree. His prospects looked brighter than ever as he stepped onto the campus for the first time. A large part of the experience of attended college is the socialization. There are fraternities and extracurricular activities but it all begins with your roommates. Mike is introduced to his pair of dorm mates, the chameleon-like Randy Boggs (voiced by Steve Buscemi) and a huge fluffy blue monster; James P. Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman, better known to his friends and the throngs of monsters that want to be his friend, Sulley. While Sulley is a gregarious, boisterous individual who is among the chosen in any university, a legacy, student from a successful and well established family with connections in the school. This is contrasted to Randal’s perpetual lean and hungry look.
This sets up a set of very familiar circumstances with Mike spending every possible minute studying while everything appears to come so easy for Sulley. When both pledge a fraternity Sulley is readily accepted into the equivalent of the campus jock frat, Roar Omega Roar, unlike Mike. The intense rivalry between Mike and Sulley comes to the attention of Dean Abigail Hardscrabble (voiced by Dame Helen Mirren) prompting her to fail them both in Scaring 101. The repercussions are dire including getting Sulley bounced from his frat house. Mike joins a rival fraternity, Oozma Kappa, initially denied admittance because his team id one short Sulley, seeing this as his way back in to fraternity life reluctantly joins in.
The Scare Games consists of a series of p one more daring than the one before. The first challenge was an obstacle course requiring the constants to evade glowing urchins. The underdog, Oozma Kappa, unexpectedly advances when the winner is disqualified for using a protective substance. That night Sulley tries to attend a party ay his former fraternity only to be ridiculed for his association with the outcasts, Oozma Kappa. Trying to lift his roommate’s mood Mike sneaks them into Monster’s Inc. after hours. The other challenges proceed in the expected way with the all-important final challenge set in the school’s simulated child’s bedroom. Mike makes the winning scare only to find out Sully cheated to increase Mike’s decisive score. Embarrassed, Mike breaks into the school’s door lab finding he is up to his eyeball in trouble after being transported to a human summer camp. Sulley, feeling responsible, goes into to find him and bring him back. By this point the pair has become best friends.
It is unusual for a follow-up film to hit the theaters a dozen years after the first movie but there are several mitigating circumstances at play here, the most important is the incredible success of ‘Monsters Inc.’ sweeping the fans, critics and the executives concerned with the box office bottom line. It was one of the Disney/Pixar alliance’s largest successes and certain to have a sequel. The budget of ‘Monsters University was estimated at a staggering $200 million but considering the domestic box office exceeded $743 million not only are the suits ecstatically happy it is a reasonable bet that pitch meetings to make this a trilogy are actively ongoing.
Beside those realistic reasons to make this movie the original was in the forefront of a new wave of animated features. Technology has advanced to the point that they can readily compete toe to toe with the biggest live action Hollywood block busters around. Movies of this quality have helped redefine the place animated feature play in the artistic expression of cinema. They not only have their own Best category in the Academy Awards but have been nominated right along their live action counterparts. Like most of Pixar/Disney’s big project films this one was created with Real 3D right from the inception. One of the main reasons thus team of giants is such a juggernaut is Disney created the genre of feature animation back in 1939 and has been steadily honing their considerable skills in telling humanistic stories through them all this time. Pixar was a pioneer in the cutting edge blending of human talent and computer driven technique allowing them to infuse their films with a degree of realism while retaining the delightful sense of wonder that affects children and adults alike.
Without this attention to details evident in every stage of development from initial sketches right through to the final animations the 3D would not have come across as spectacularly as it did. The textures of the background, the life-like motion of individual blue hairs on Sulley all contribute to the overall effects of surrounding the audiences, enfolding us in the world of these odd yet human creatures. The 3D effects are beyond the gimmicky stage that still plagues the majority of directors of real life films. the illusion of depth as employed here creates a natural feel, one that achieves the ultimate in this techniques potential making you forget you are watching a movie.
The Blue Umbrella: Theatrical Short