Twelve years ago, Pixar released its fourth animated feature, Monsters Inc. The story focused on a city of monsters that required children’s screams to supply the city’s power. The heroes of Monsters Inc. were Sully (John Goodman), a gentle giant with a gift for scaring, and Mike (Billy Crystal), his one-eyed, pea-shaped sidekick. This dynamic duo learns to overcome the monsters’ phobia of human children when a child accidently penetrates the monsters’ secret world. While its predecessor focused primarily on the characters overcoming their fear of children and subsequently learning to accept them, Monsters University, a prequel to the original story, centers around the characters understanding of their own self-worth and finding the courage to accept their weaknesses, casting aside their arrogance and animosity and working together to overcome insurmountable adversity and become extraordinary.
While the predecessor to Monsters University focused on monsters competing in the work environment to achieve the title of “top monster” and focused primarily on Sully, the prequel, while striving to achieve the same purpose as the original, concentrates instead on the monsters’ college years, this time with most of the attention on Mike. The story begins with Mike Wosowski as a child visiting Monsters Inc. and discovering his fascination for scaring children. Fly forward many years later, and we see Mike again, this time as a freshman at Monsters University, with a passionate determination to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a “scarer”. While Mike is an overachieving perfectionist who pays stringent regard to the rules, his furry blue rival, Sully, relies on his name and his frightening scare tactics in order to succeed. Initially, jealousy and arrogance elicit a blistering rivalry between Mike and Sully, but impending disaster demands that they cast aside their differences and work as a team, ultimately causing the reluctant heroes to team up with some unlikely comrades to regain their place at the university.
Sully’s character elicits the most obvious change from the original story to his much younger character in the prequel, and it is uncertain whether this somewhat arrogant version of a well-liked character merits the same emotional attraction that the original did. In Monster’s Inc. Sulley was acknowledged as being exceptionally gifted among his peers, but he regarded this status with humility and integrity and these qualities made him a likable character. Likewise, his tender affection for the child that inadvertently made her way into the monster world also made him a likable character. In Monsters University, Sulley lacks the qualities that made him so endearing in the first movie until the third act, and even then, the loyalty and inherent goodness which shined so fiercely in the first movie, are executed in a manner that creates more friction than satisfaction, despite the character’s good intentions.
When it comes to Pixar films, I find that I either love them or I hate them. Some of their more creative movies such as Toy Story, Wall-E and Finding Nemo, I have come to love because they are extraordinary masterpieces. As an artist, I appreciate the creativity and artistic beauty of these movies and as a writer, I have been impressed with the exceptional storytelling and memorable characters. While Monsters University lacked the creative genius that its predecessor had in creating a truly imaginative storyline, I appreciated this movie because the characters were able to transcend from circumstances which caused them to be less than ordinary and allowed each of them to acknowledge their individual strengths and gifts and utilize them to become extraordinary.