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Monsters, Inc.
(Blu-ray)

review by Zach B.

 
 

Rating: G

Running Time: 93 minutes

Starring the voices of: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, John Ratzenberger, Bonnie Hunt

Screenplay by: Andrew Stanton, Daniel Gerson
Original Story by: Pete Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon, Ralph Eggleston

Directed by: Pete Docter
Co-Directed by: Lee Unkrich, David Silverman

 

Studio: Disney

Retail Price: $44.99

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Pete Docter, Co-Director Lee Unkrich, Executive Producer John Lasseter and Exectuive Producer/Co-Writer Andrew Stanton, Isolated Dolby Digital 5.1 Sound Effects Mix, Outtakes, "Mike's New Car" Animated Short with Optional Commentary, For The Birds" Animated Short with Optional Commentary with Director Ralph Eggleston, Pixar Fun Factory Tour, Story Is King, Monsters are Real, Original Treatment, Story Pitch: Back To Work (Early Version), Banished Concepts, Original Sulley Intro, Storyboard To Film, Cast Of Cahracters, What Makes A Great Monster?, Character Designs, Monstropolis, Setting the Scene, Color Scripts, Master Lighting, Location Flyarounds, Monstropolis Art, Guide to "In" Jokes, Animation Process, Early Tests, Opening Title Animation, Hard Parts, Shots Department, Production Demo, Monster Song, Sound Design, Binaural Recording, The Premiere, Toys, Posters, Outtakes, Trailers, TV Spots, International Inserts, Multi-Language Clip Reel, Production Tour, Monster TV Treats, Ponkickies 21, Peek-A-Boo: Boo's Door Game, Disney Storytime: "Welcome To Monstropolis," If I Didn't Have You Music Video, Company Play Program, On The Job With Mike and Sulley, Welcome To Monsters, INC., Your First Day, History Of Monster World, Employee Handbook, Monster of the Month, Scarer Cards, Digital Copy

Specs: 1.85:1 Widescreen 1080p High Definition, English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (32 Scenes), 3-Disc Set

Released: November 10th, 2009

 
 

The 1.85:1 Widescreen 1080p High Definition transfer looks so damn good it's almost lifelike. It's just downright beautiful. Colors and perfectly saturated: they're treats to the eyes as image looks downright vibrant. The colors are really amazing. Be it the greens of Mike himself, the intricate lighting of the Scare Floor or the little things in Boo's room... there's no denying how great the transfer looks. Black levels and shadow details are also very, very impressive, while resolution looks pretty great. Detail itself is amazing... the way Sulley's hair blows, how the characters movie, the backgrounds... it really comes to life so magically, feels so right and will put you in some sense of awe, as these Pixar transfers tend to do.

 

The English DTS-HD 5.1 track for "Monsters, Inc." is reference quality if you ask me. Every little thing makes a big impression on this track. There are a plentiful of surround effects to really enjoy here such as the roars of Sulley, the opening scene after the monster fails his test, the trash compactor, the restauraunt scene and its aftermath and of course, the wonderful door-oriented climax. It's all here and it really gives your speakers a work out. I loved the fine use of the subwoofer, how centered the front channels were and how well mixed everything was in the rears.

But that's not all! Randy Newman's wonderful, jazzy score sounds so fine and natural through the speakers too. Dialogue from the characters is one-hundred percent crisp, clear and feels all nice and natural in the digital realm. Fidelity and dynamic range are particuarly strong as well. But there's also a fine balance between everything. So you'll not only hear all the surround effects, but the music and dialogue are intertwined quite nicely too. Nothing overpowers anything, and nothing gets losts in the track, which is something one might be worried about given the flurry of surrounds.

Also included are English subtitles and English closed captions, plus Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish. 

 

New to Blu-ray is a lot of cool goodies: Ride and Go Seek which looks at a ride based on the movie in Japan, a Filmmakers Roundtable, Pixar Fun Factory Tour and 100 Door Challenge Game. A Digital Copy and DVD copy of the first disc from the original 2002 release is included, too.

Everything else from the DVD release is included in some form. We have the usual, excellent Pixar Audio Commentary with Director Pete Docter, Co-Director Lee Unkrich, Executive Producer John Lasseter and Exectuive Producer/Co-Writer Andrew Stanton. I love their group commentaries... they even remind me of Kevin Smith commentaries in a way, since it's a group of friends sharing laughs, but also a lot of interesting stuff. The group have a lot of fun moments, but they give a lot of insights into how long in takes to make an animated film, how much it changes and what they set out to accomplish. It seemed there were a lot of challenges with the production, but a lot of interesting stuff about the story is shared here. A lot of the effort though paid off, as with the final film. Though I must admit since Lasseter does so much talking and tells so much, you almost feel he directed the project! You can only listen to the commentary on the widescreen version, however.

You have your classic Pixar Outtakes. They end up lasting five and a half minutes, and are definently funny, especially the Company Play sequence which is downright classic. These were originally shown in the theaters a few weeks after the film was released. To my disappointment, they're in full screen only (especially since they had to be matted for a widescreen aspect ratio when presented in theaters), but at least there is nifty 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. You'll probably watch these over and over again.

The short Mike's New Car is everything you'd expect from a Pixar short: it's sweet, it's funny and it's to the point. Somehow they take a simple concept, apply slapstick you've seen before and it still feels pretty fresh and original. This short follows our favorite green one-eyed monster Mike as he gets his new car. He shows it to Sulley... and as you'd expect, things go pretty awry. The short is presented in full frame and mixed in 5.1 Dolby Digital, and if you wish to hear it, there's an Optional Commentary. I don't wish to ruin who's making the comments on this short, but I was really thrown off when I selected the option to listen to this. You'll find some interesting insights here, a certain concept that's not quite in the movie, a conception that water is hard to animate on computers and a whole lot of random comments. Fun stuff.

Right before the feature itself started in theaters when the film was released, in Pixar tradition, they showed off a little animated short called For The Birds. It did end up winning the Best Animated Short Film Oscar®, and it's definently quite an amusing little treat. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (yes!) and 5.1 Dolby Digital, it's really fun. As an excellent little bonus, you can also listen to an Optional Commentary With Director Ralph Eggleston. Since this is a short, Eggleston talks a bit fast but says quite a lot in his mere three and a half minutes. He shares some insights, even pointing out same names of the birds and how certain individual characteristics shift to a unified characteristic between all the tiny birds. Eggleston also cites it took two and a half years to put this short together, and was done mainly for fun and not for breakthrough purposes, yet he does cite what revolutionary aspect this short developed. Very spiffy stuff here.

So into the Human World. Under the "Pixar" door, there's only one item and that is the Pixar Fun Factory Tour. Presented in full frame and lasting a bit over three and a half minutes, this is an amusing look at Pixar's new studio. Personally, I'd love to work there. Looks like a great atmosphere... they even have their own pet monkey!

Moving onto "Story," Story Is King is introduced by David Silverman, and talks about how a story is developed and then the process in developing it goes. Story Supervisor Bob Peterson describes his work, and then there's him making a story pitch. Pete Docter, completed film and rough animation are also in this two minute piece.

Monsters are Real is a minute and a half full frame piece with film clips and interviews with John Lasseter, Disney animation exec Thomas Schumacher, Lee Unkrich, Billy Crystal and a few others talk about the approach of the monsters themselves in that they're afraid of kids. The Original Treatment lasts a little under fourteen minutes, and is simply narration of a bunch of storyboards that told the original story. As you'd expect, this is waaaaaaay different from the final film, so it is quite interesting. The Back To Work is more or less a four minute four second story pitch, which is pretty nifty.

Banished Concepts has an introduction from Lee Unkrich, plus four of the banished concepts: "Assitant Sulley," "End Of Day," "Bad Scare" and "Scream Refinery." The scenes are in story reel format, but still intriguing and cool to watch nonetheless. The last one is even slightly animated in 2-D. The Original Sulley Intro is in non-anamorphic widescreen, and is in the second to last finished computer animation stages. No introduction in why they changed the intro... but it's pretty similar to the one in the final film, just cut a bit differently. Finally, Storyboard to Film is a multi-angle feature where you can watch a sequence in its final form, story reel or split screen comparison.

In "Monster Files," Pete Docter, producer Darla Anderson, David Silverman and Lee Unkrich talk about that the voice process is done long before the actual information. They introduce the main voice cast and their characters, plus the surprise voice of Roz in Cast Of Characters. What Makes A Great Monster? has interviews with the character designers of the monsters, and how they developed them. Stills and film clips are shown to give an idea of the process. Topping the section of is a nice Character Design section where you can view stills for particular character or character pairings.

Under "Design," Monstropolis is introduced by David Silverman, and has interviews with him, Lee Unkrich and a few others in how the wondrous world of Monstropolis was designed and put together. Since I loved how they created the world and how great it was, this certainly kept my interested. Definently a job well done. Setting The Scene has two parts. The first, "Set Dressing," talk about what Pixar did in where they took blank sets and then added props. It's a new department, and the supervisor for it, Sophie Vincelette, talks about how it was all created with on-screen examples and film clips. Complex but neato stuff. The second part, "Step Through," is stills of the layers of set dressing. Nice.

Color Scripts are stills meant to look like abstract art, while Master Lighting lets you look at various stages of the art and its effects in lighting. Location Flyarounds lets you view the main locations in excellent video shots (You can watch "Downtown," "The Apartment," "Monsters, INC.", "Simulator" and "Boo's Room"). Rounding it out are many, many, many cool stills for various locations: "Monstropolis," "Monsters, INC.", "Scare Floor," "Door Vault" and "Door Station." Rounding it out is a Guide to "In" Jokes. They're 21 in this section which you can read through and see stills. Some are obvious, others... not so obvious.

In the "Animation Door" we have Animation Process. Pete Docter introduces the animation process, while David Silverman describing the process, followed by examples from Lee Unkrich. Animator Glenn McQueen and someone else goes into it a bit more in-depth, and you'll see a bunch of behind the scenes footage. Early Tests are accompanied by audio commentary with Thomas Porter, Steve May and Michael Fong. The trio talk about test models and how they created the whole world, and how the designed process changed. As they talk, you'll see animation you've never seen before (boy, does Sulley look different!). It lasts a bit over eight minutes, and if you're interested in what everything was before it really became everything, this is your place.

Opening Title Animation discusses the process of the retro-ish openin titles and why it was done in 2-D animation. Thomas Schumacher, David Silverman, Pete Docter, Thomas Porter, John Lasseter, Pixar and Apple honcho Steve Jobs, Steve May, Michael Fong and more talk about the complexity of the movement and animation in Hard Parts, which is in full frame, has behind the scenes footage, rough animation and final film clips.

Shots Department is a new department at Pixar, in how they developed simulation in production and the technical issues in how they accomplished it all. This department's supervisor, Galyn Susman, lends a ton of insights about the process with footage in what she's talking about. Complex, technical but certainly interesting stuff. Finally, Production Demo, is your angle feature where you can switch back and forth on the fly between the storyreel, layout, animation and final color. An introduction is included here from Lee Unkrich about it all going through different stages.

In "Music and Sound," Monster Song has interviews with Billy Crystal, John Goodman, John Lasseter and composer Randy Newman himself among others about his Oscar® winning song. There's even footage of Crystal and Goodman performing it. Gary Rydstrom is then the main focus for this nifty featurette, Sound Design. His co-worker Tom Meyers talks about creating the sound too, comparing it to painting a house and how the process is done. There's foley artists performing, clips from the film with the sound effects and how certian sounds from those clips were created, equipment and a bit more. Really interesting, and I urge you to all listen to that 5.1 isolated surround sound effect track!

Rounding this door out is Binaural Recording. Introduced by a post production guy at Pixar (Bill something, sorry, I couldn't catch his last name), he talk about making the masters for the DVD - video and audio. He talks about getting a surround effect out of headphones and even does some examples. In binaural video, there's footage of John Goodman and Billy Crystal trying to freak you out. In the audio portion, you can listen to "Sulley's Work Out" as in the original film mix in stereo, a 5.1 mix, or the binaural of Randy Newman's original stage recording. I tested out all the features here with headphones... and man, binaural is amazingly cool! It does feel purely surround... very cool stuff. Dolby Headphone track my ass!

To top it all off is the "Release" section. The Premiere is a full frame feature on everyone arriving for the premiere at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood. It lasts a good minute. Toys has the film staff reflecting on the wonders of merchandising (you know how much Pixar loves toys!), while you can view a variety of Posters too (I wish they were blown up bigger). You also have your Outtakes once again, followed by the Theatrical Teaser Trailer, the first Theatrical Trailer and the hilarious second one. There are also four TV Spots. International Inserts talk about the changes that need to be made in visuals in the international versions of the movie (must be annoying), while the Multi-Language Clip Reel has the film in 30 different languages in one of the early scenes. Finally, there's the Production Tour which is just the introductions of the clip sections.

Moving into Monsters Only, some of the stuff is pure rehash of things you can find on other parts of the second disc. In "New Monster Adventures," you can check out "Mike's New Car." There are also Monster TV Treats which are quite hilarious. Same goes for Ponkickies 21, where Pixar took their monster characters to be special guests on some little segments there. Fun stuff. Peek-A-Boo: Boo's Door Game. It's a simple and slightly amusing game aimed for the kiddies. Disney Storytime: "Welcome To Monstropolis" is a little feature which can be read by a narrator or be read by the viewer to get a sense of the film's story. The "If I Didn't Have You" Music Video isn't really a music video, but rather, a shortened version of the song which is used to advertise the soundtrack. You also have some DVD-ROM extras that include games and the storytime feature.

"Behind The Screams" has the outtakes yet again, but quite amusing is a faux Company Play Program as featured in the outtakes. Do read that! Finally, On the Job with Mike and Sulley have our two leads being interviewed by the TV station news anchor in Monstropolis. Sorta amusing, I suppose.

And our last section, "Orientation," features a blown up Welcome to Monsters, INC. spot as seen in the movie. Your First Day is a little faux video about the world of the company, using film clips and stills from the artists. Definently a fun three and a half minutes. History Of Monster World is a story reel about how monsters came to be and their struggle against humans, while the Employee's Handbook is a fun little thing to browse about working at the company. Quite creative. Monster Of The Month is simply portraits of Sulley as seen in the movie (oh, and one of Mike) while Scarer Cards are character biographies of all the film's main monsters and narrated. Even if the narration doesn't match the words on the cards all the time, it comes close. Like the handbook, this is certainly a hoot. And as you can see... that's a lot of features for the second disc, totalling well over three and a half hours. Great stuff here!

 

Do I really need to tell you how great this set is? Do I really need to tell you how great the movie is too? "Monsters, Inc." is another filmmaking benchmark from those talented geniuses at Pixar in technical and storytelling departments. As you'd expect from previous Disney/Pixar Blu-ray outings, this one does not disappoint. You have your wonderful transfer, a classy and whirlwind 5.1 DTS-HD mix and tons of insightful extras that are not only fun, but really come to show you how a film is made and what can branch off from it. This is Blu-ray release is perfection, and a must buy.