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Pixar Talk: Monsters Inc.

by on September 24, 2011
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Every week, Austin is going to chat with Victoria Disque about a Pixar film. This is all leading up to a speech Austin will be giving about Pixar at the E.B. and Bertha C. Ball Center in Muncie on December 9. Victoria is a producer of The Reel Deal and is currently majoring in telecommunications at Ball State University.


 Austin: I have no originality. When was the last time you saw “Monsters Inc”?

Victoria: A couple of years ago.

Austin: And does this one rank highly?

Victoria: Oh, yeah. This is probably in my top three Pixar movies.

Austin: It’s a lot funnier than I remembered. It’s a straight-on comedy, unlike the others.

Victoria: Not as many pop-culture references in comparisons to the previous three Pixar films.

Austin: There was one I caught for the first time on this viewing; the restaurant they go to is —

Victoria: Harryhausen’s!

Austin: Yes! I thought that was a blast. Most of the humor comes from the filmmakers’ creativity. They had toys existing in our world and bugs existing in our world, essentially. This one is an entirely new world, and they are gleefully having fun with that. They show you every monster imaginable.

Victoria: Like the one who sneezes fire. The one with 100 eyeballs. One that is just a blob of jelly.

Austin: Then they use each one to connect it to their world. He doesn’t just sneeze fire, he burns his newspaper. It’s so much fun. It’s incredibly original. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s a clever premise to have monsters scaring children to power a city, which is dark — our overused word.

Victoria: They are really good about having those dark elements, but never making it too dark. It’s a great balance.

Austin: One way they pulled that off was by having Boo, who might be the cutest thing ever.

Victoria: Ever! Seriously, she is one of the cutest kids I have ever seen and she’s animated.

Austin: She only speaks borderline gibberish, except for “kitty” and “Mike Wazowski.”

Victoria: And “Uh oh!”

Austin: And yet we completely understand her. We see the fun she’s having — when she’s afraid, when she isn’t afraid. There’s that great moment in the film where she watches Sully be scary, and it’s heartbreaking to see her in fear. I’m glad they hired an actual kid to play Boo because having an adult voice her would feel fake.

I think it’s because of Boo that no kid can be scared of this movie even though they have this organization built around frightening children. In the organization, they all freak out about the child thinking it can contaminate everything. Yet the child really is like the audience. So even the littlest kid knows what is “true” because they know Boo isn’t harmful. It’s a way for the younger viewers to know when the monsters are wrong, and that’s a very hard thing to pull off.

How about the main monsters? Do you like them a lot?

Victoria: I really do. Even Mike, who ranges from being very funny to being a bit obnoxious. I still love him, though, especially how he looks.  He’s just a ball with legs, arms, and one eye.

Austin: I love how easily he can be picked up by Sully.

Victoria: Yeah, like a basketball.

Austin: I love Billy Crystal, even when I was a kid. I saw “City Slickers” a ton back then. Weird movie to watch as a kid, a flick about middle-aged men having a midlife crisis but still, it had cowboys.

Victoria: He’s clearly having way too much fun doing the voice. He’s not doing much more than a variation of himself, but you can picture him having a blast in the studio.

Austin: John Goodman isn’t doing much with his voice either. He slows it down a little bit. He’s playing a giant character, but he makes it like he’s the smallest in the room sometimes. He mostly just focuses on his job until Boo comes along. We actually rarely see him do his job. We stay on the other side of the door while he scares the kids. The only time we see him as scary is when he scares Boo.

Victoria: It makes that scene even more emotional because of that wait. It’s hard to even imagine him as scary since he’s like a big teddy bear. Also, you look at our John Ratzenberger cameo of the Abdominal Snowman. He’s not scary at all, unlike his usual demonic depiction. He’s just a big snowman … obviously. The only one who really is scary is Randal. What a great villain he is. He’s not even the biggest villain, but he’s so slimy. We haven’t had a villain like that.

Austin: We talked last week about how Buster the Dog’s hair wasn’t that good. This was a 180. Sully looks incredible. It’s always naturally moving. The animation keeps getting better and better. This level of quality fit their new world because they had to invent everything. Every creature had its own original texture.

Victoria: I like how they didn’t get over-the-top with the new world. They didn’t have a ton of new words. It was very human and relatable.

Austin: It’s so clever and fun. There’s only one problem I have with the movie. The story always feels small. I know on paper, the company is at stake and their entire world is at stake. Yet it doesn’t feel as important as the past three movies. We know Boo is not dangerous and we know the company is ethically wrong, so it’s hard to be worried that it’s falling apart. It feels like a pilot episode of a TV show; it never feels like they are in any real danger.

Victoria: I didn’t really feel that.

Austin: Fair enough. One thing I did like was how they handled exposition. They had more to cover than the other films. It almost felt like too much information at the beginning, but at least it all tied together well with the return to the test simulator. It wasn’t like “Green Lantern,” when it’s just an impossible monologue where you feel you have to be taking notes.

Victoria: I really liked how they teach you what’s going on without ever feeling like they’re talking to the audience. Showing the information with what the new employee is doing wrong worked out well.

Austin: It’s called “Monsters Inc” for a reason. It’s all about the business. So they have training seminars, quotas and other things that should be boring for a kid. Yet if you have a silly job with silly things happening, then it’s all worthwhile. Those quarantine guys are such a great running joke.

Victoria: Oh, George. I felt so bad for him. I hated his little partner.

Austin: Ha. Exactly! I mean, paperwork is a running joke. Why would a single kid care about that?

Victoria: What did you think about the ending? I thought it was amazing how they tied everything together with their new solution of laughter being more powerful than screams. It makes you excited to have a monster in the closet.

Austin: Oh, yeah. I loved how all the partners were reversed. If Sully wasn’t the nicest guy in the world, there could a power struggle, but it all works.

Victoria: Now that I have nieces and nephews, I find myself more emotional when Sully opens the door to see Boo at the very end. It kills me. I do love it when he leaves her for the first time and she’s showing him all of the toys, including Nemo — which hadn’t even come out yet.

Austin: It’s fun because Pixar always has a clue for its next movie coming out. Like in “Up,” there’s a Lotso bear.

Victoria: It makes me so mad though that we don’t get to see Boo at the very end. I want to see how much time has passed and how much older she is.

Austin: She sounds a tad bit older. I am fine without seeing her because I love the last shot because of how happy he is. That’s not John Goodman, that’s just pure animation.

You know what really works though? It’s one of my favorite Pixar scenes ever: the door chase. It’s the coolest and most imaginative thing in the world. They have to climb up doors …

Victoria: It was so cool when she laughed and all the red lights turned on.

Austin: They’re falling to their deaths and trying to open a door as they fall. They fall sideways through one and that’s confusing. It’s one of the coolest chase scenes ever. Despite having all the doors accessible to the whole world, there are moments of claustrophobia as the doors pile in on them at the warehouse.

Not every one of Pixar’s films needs to have these deep meditations on life, death and the afterlife. They can just have a really fun comedy that works.

Victoria: I just love this movie.