2001, US, Directed by Pete Docter
Animation, Running Time: 88 minutes
DVD, Region 2, Disney, Video: Anamorphic 1.81:1, Audio: DTS
Monstropolis is an alternate dimension that is powered by children’s screams, these being collected by factories that employ the most competitive creatures to enter the human world via closet doors to scare kids (who are reputedly poisonous to monsters), notching up points and positioned on a league as an incentive to do better. Sulley is an especially revered monster and, accompanied by his perpetually argumentative assistant, Mike, they inadvertently bring a human child into Monstropolis and from there begins a frantic race to return ‘Boo’ to her homeland before the paranoid boss finds out who’s responsible. But they face problems from the likes of Sulley’s primary competitor: the chameleonic, mischievous Randall, who may be even more sinister than he first appears.
Continuing in the established tradition of Pixar this is a meticulously well-planned story with identifiable characters in imaginatively executed situations. Technically there were clear progressions from Toy Story and Bug’s Life (the implementation of realistic hair being the most notable) but Pixar are intuitive enough to have this almost relegated to background detail as the story itself captures viewer attention - technical mastery can only stimulate awe for so long and Pixar are well aware of this. The narrative techniques are occasionally ingenious but often obvious (for example, Sulley and Mike being such an odd couple is a joke that goes back to the Laurel and Hardy days), though this is admittedly a product aimed at the whole family. Animation itself is exemplary and Pixar are masters of their art, although subjectively I marginally prefer PDI’s (Shrek, etc.) slightly more adult approach (Disney’s influence over Pixar seemed to have become more noticeable by this stage). Kids aside, there’s enough humorous material here to entertain just about anyone. If more live action film-makers put in this much effort these days the movie world would be a healthier place.
The 2-disc set is first-rate in almost every respect. The film presentation is reference standard (direct digital transfers eliminate the print/negative problems of footage shot on ‘film’), being sharp and dazzlingly colourful. The DTS sound mix gives a sweeping surround workout. Among the many extras are two short films well worth owning - the Oscar winning For The Birds, and Mike’s New Car, the latter using characters/settings from Monsters Inc. itself. Pixar basically built themselves up during the 80s with short films and the gradual inclusion of all of them on their feature DVDs is nice incentive to collect. Superb package.