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Kevin Krock, editor
DVD Reviews
Monster's, Inc.
(2001) | Approx. 93 Minutes | Rated G | Reviewed by Kevin Krock
Cover Art
Click to Buy
Ratings Summary
(Scored out of a maximum of five)
Audio Video
Goodies Interface
Value
Advanced Home Theater: Well, it's almost perfect...

Promo art © Disney / Pixar
Promo art © Disney / Pixar

The Movie

Pixar never ceases to amaze me. Each new film seems to leapfrog the previous ones technologically, and Monsters, Inc. continues their record of consistently delivering enjoyable stories wrapped in stunning animation. Although this fun buddy movie, starring monsters James P. Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal), is differently paced than previous Pixar outings, it grows on you over time, with plenty here to thoroughly entertain both parents and children.

Rather than describing a movie many of you have probably already seen, let me refer those of you unfamiliar with the film to my review from the November 2001 premiere.

The Goodies

Wow, where should I start? Just as Pixar has a running history of hit movies, they have also produced some of the best collector’s edition DVDs around. Fortunately for us, the Monsters, Inc. DVD is right on par with the Toy Story DVD box set and the Bug’s Life collector’s edition DVD. This two-disc set should provide several hours of entertainment for you and your family.

The first disc is essentially dedicated to the movie, and there are really only a couple of bonus items. The first is the sneak preview trailer of Finding Nemo, Pixar’s fifth film due in theaters the summer of 2003. Unlike some trailers these days, this one does not really reveal much about the movie beyond the characters are fish and the movie takes place in the ocean. The animation looks fantastic, and I can’t wait to see what new technical hurdles Pixar jumps for this production.

Promo art © Disney / Pixar
Promo art © Disney / Pixar

The second item is the full-length audio commentary. Where the Toy Story 2 commentary feels a bit self-congratulatory, this one is almost purely informational with enough humorous stories to keep my attention. Director Pete Docter and co-director Lee Unkrich provide most of the commentary, and it sounds like John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton, the executive director and the screenwriter, were recorded separately and edited into the commentary. Altogether, the comments blend fairly well and help to provide a constant flow interesting insights throughout the movie. My favorite is John Lasseter’s revelation that Billy Crystal was actually the first person asked to voice Buzz Lightyear.

The second disc is just packed with stuff. While some features - like design galleries, production progression clips, and storyboard-to-film comparisons - are similar to previous DVDs, they are still a treat to have, and there are plenty of unique features to keep you busy for a while.

Promo art © Disney / Pixar
Promo art © Disney / Pixar

The disc is divided into two "worlds." The "Human World," which focuses on the humans behind the making of the movie, is the place film buffs should focus their energy on. The "Monster World" allows you to enter Monstropolis and join Monsters, Inc. as an employee, and most of the material is targeted at a more general audience, including some children’s games.

Although the whole disc is a lot of fun to peruse, here are some of my favorites:

Mike’s New Car – A real treat, this four-minute animated short was made specifically for the home video release of Monsters, Inc. John Goodman and Billy Crystal reprise their roles of Sulley and Mike, and the two explore Mike’s new six-wheel-drive, all-terrain, sports car. Their antics keep me and my family laughing each time we watch it, and the worst part is that it is too short. It also features a commentary track by a couple of special guests related to the director and producer.

Outtakes – In the tradition of A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2, this series of 15 outtakes and the Monsters, Inc. "Company Play" was theatrically released about a month or so after the premiere. Some of them are hilarious, and others are cute. The melodramatic company play has to be the best part, though, and if you missed these in the theater, do yourself a favor and catch them on this set.

For the Birds – This is Pixar’s 2001 Academy Award-winning animated short, which appeared before Monsters, Inc. in the theater. The first time I saw this short, I just about fell out of my chair laughing. The concept is so simple, and the execution is perfect. To discuss it further would just ruin it, so do not miss this one. It also features a commentary track by the director should you select it.

Promo art © Disney / Pixar
Promo art © Disney / Pixar

Monsters, Inc. Company Handbook – This little gem is mostly text and pictures, but it cover such critical topics as: Your Fellow Employees, Hazard I.D. Symbols, Repetitive Scare Injury, Top 10 Ways To Get Fired, and Personals. It is creatively constructed and fun to look through.

Monsters, Inc. Company Play Program – If you have seen the company play, then you need to read through the program. Lots of jokes tucked among a very real-looking program.

Pixar Animation Studio Tour – As Pixar has grown over years along with its success, its needed to expand its facilities, and this is a tour of its new studio building in Emeryville, California. Hosted by John Lasseter, the tour visits several locales including John’s toy-filled office, Steve Jobs' office (Pixar’s CEO), and the "Love Lounge" (a converted air conditioning access room). It is just a fun little featurette for Pixar fans.

Location Flyarounds – I really enjoy being able to closely examine the incredibly detailed sets that the crew has to construct from scratch, and the flyarounds are perfect for that. You can look at Downtown Monstropolis, Mike and Sulley’s apartment, Monster’s, Inc., the scare simulator room, and Boo’s room. Look for a few surprises in one of the flyarounds.

Guide to the "In" Jokes – See all of the little jokes that the animators threw into the movie, so you won’t miss them the next time you watch it.

Character Design Galleries – Tons of concept art and developmental sketches, and many of the characters include 3D model turnarounds.

Besides those specific highlights, the rest of the production material is right on target for my taste. Even though I’ve seen similar material, I always appreciate being able to see how a particular film was put together. Each Pixar film usually has at least one or two major technical advances, and the disc nicely describes how they handled the animation of Sulley’s fur and Boo’s T-shirt.

The abandoned concepts are also a great source to see how the film’s concept and story were developed over the years and ultimately refined to their current state. Overall, there is plenty on this disc to keep everyone, from the casual DVD viewer to the film/animation fanatic, occupied well beyond a single viewing of the movie.

Promo art © Disney / Pixar
Promo art © Disney / Pixar

The Video, Audio, and Interface

I have absolutely no complaints about either the video or audio transfers. This movie should look pretty darn good on just about any home theater system. The direct-from-digital audio and video transfers provide great Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and stunning colors, shadows, and detail.

It is such a treat to be able to appreciate everything - from the delicate animation of Sulley’s fur to the subtle texturing of the basement pipes - on a small screen almost as much as I was able to in a theater. On top of just making the movie look and sound great, they did an impressive job of getting both an anamorphic widescreen and a full-screen transfer onto a single disc.

The interface is simply fantastic. Just about every screen has some sort of animation, music, or sound. Everything is themed to the movie, and I could not ask for anything more. The first disc does have movie previews, but everything after perfectly sets up the movie’s feel and gets you into the mood.

Disc Two launches you right into the Monster’s, Inc. world, and closet doors give you access to the two "Worlds." The "Human World" setting is the closet door warehouse, with moving doors and everything, and the "Monster World" drops you off at the lobby of Monster’s, Inc. You have to see these screens. Pixar has once again shown what the DVD interface is all about.

Promo art © Disney / Pixar
Promo art © Disney / Pixar

The Advanced Home Theater

What can I say? They almost got it right. Here's what they missed the boat on with this otherwise exemplary title...

First is a major problem in the layer change for the widescreen version of the movie. It sputters (if not hangs up) not only my new top of the line unit (a Toshiba SD-5700) but on quite a few other models also from what I can find out. It's particularly annoying because it comes just before the final scene of the movie - which shoots the heck out of the mood at that point.

Second is the missing "highlights" for selections as you arrow to them on the menus - apparently once you drill down one layer on the disc 2 menus, the highlights of what you've selected (either underlines or circles of the chosen menu items) start disappearing.

From what I can find out from this happening with a few titles in the past is that this release may be suffering from some sloppy authoring. A DVD navigation system is not easy to assemble, as it can rival in complexity the writing of a computer program. A messy piece of code or a shortcut that was taken, can trip up even the best of players sometimes. Layer changes need to be selected with care, and tested on all sorts of players.

The past Pixar/Disney titles were pretty much flawless in these areas, so this is something that has been introduced into the authoring process since then, either via new software or a new production house.

Promo art © Disney / Pixar
Promo art © Disney / Pixar

The other disappointment here is the lack of 16x9 anamorphic enhancement for the majority of the additional materials on the two discs. Disney has proven in the past they can do an exceptional job in this area as they did with the Atlantis special edition. Yes, it does add to the production cost, but it's a minimal amount considering just how much the movie has already made, and will make on home video.

While current 4:3 screen owners may find this a petty complaint, the future of television is 16x9, and chances are very good their next higher-end set will be a widescreen model. It's annoying to find the movie itself, and the For the Birds short, along with the Nemo preview in 16x9, while all the other letterboxed trailers and the Mike's New Car short are presented in 4:3.

Disney is to be applauded by including both versions of the film in this one low-priced edition, but enhancing the rest of the materials would have made less of a hassle for widescreen / non-progressive scan disc player owners when they play back this title on their systems.

There have been some comments in a few early reviews of this disc online that the quality of this transfer is not up to past Pixar efforts, but in watching this title on a 50" widescreen set with a progressive scan player, the picture to me at least seems comparable if not better to past releases. There are no artifacts, the colors are rock solid, and there is abundant detail in all the shots. Textures abound. (Shrek on DVD also looks very good, but doesn't have the vivid color pallet this film presents.)

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is truly dynamic - I have to say it was the first time I'd heard so much deep bass in one soundtrack, and it was all crystal clear. (To be frank here, I didn't know just what my system was capable of until I put this title on and shook the floor with the subs - those Cerwin Vegas do the job!)

Promo art © Disney / Pixar

Promo art © Disney / Pixar

The EX encoding is subtle enough should you have the sixth center real channel available, but you won't really miss it all that much if you stick to 5.1.  Those lamenting the lack of a DTS track can relax, as there probably isn't much it could have added sonically, and the space saved on the disc by not including it probably gave us more bonus features to enjoy.

I also liked the use of a single disc Amray type plastic case, with an additional tray inside for the second disc (Shrek was also packaged this way). This saves shelf space, as we all know how our DVD collections will be growing by leaps and bounds over the next few weeks alone.

There are two Easter eggs that I know of, one each behind the Human Door and the Monster Door on the bonus disc. The Human side's egg is available once you open the door marked Pixar - highlight the flying paper airplane on the bottom of that menu and select it for an extended version of the paper airplane contest video footage seen on the Pixar building tour.

The Monster side's egg (a gag reel) can be found when you are on the menu which shows the receptionist behind the sign. Move the cursor over to the right from any selection on that menu to highlight the eye in Monster's Inc. logo on the wall behind her - you'll know you hit it when you see a Monkey pop up on your screen. The very last clip in the gag reel is the funniest one of the batch - but I won't spoil it for you.

While some of the things I mention here will be minor or non-existent problems for the majority of disc purchasers, the folks who have invested in the higher end systems will be left asking why a little extra effort wasn't made for them.

As this DVD edition is currently configured and authored, despite a terrific transfer, it falls just short of being the be-all / end-all ultimate disc for your widescreen top-of-the-line home theater system.

- Al Lutz

Promo art © Disney / Pixar

Promo art © Disney / Pixar

The Final Evaluation

This one should definitely go on your wish list. The variety of material and presentation options should make just about anyone happy, and the video, audio, goodies and interface are top notch, as always.

I won’t say that Pixar and Disney have outdone themselves with this set, but they have certainly delivered a package that more than satisfies. Don’t miss this one.


You can e-mail Kevin at: dockrock@mouseplanet.com


Promo art © Disney / Pixar

DVD FEATURES

Goodies - Disc 1

  • Audio commentary by the filmmakers – Director Pete Docter, co-director Lee Unkrich, executive producer John Lasseter, and executive producer and screenwriter Andrew Stanton
  • "Finding Nemo" - An exclusive sneak peek of Disney/Pixar's Summer 2003 feature film
  • Technical
  • DVD Encoding: Region 1

Technical Specifications - Disc 1

anamorphicdvd.gif (2563 bytes)

  • Region 1 encoded
  • Single-sided, dual-layer
  • THX-certified with THX Optimizer
  • Anamorphic widescreen - 1.85:1
  • Specially reframed full screen (standard) - 1.33:1
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX)
  • Sound effects-only track (Dolby Digital 5.1 EX)
  • Closed captions

Goodies - Disc 2

Divided Into Two Worlds: The Monster World and The Human World

  • 15 outtakes, plus the Monsters, Inc. "Company Play"
  • "Mike’s New Car" - All-new animated short created exclusively for the DVD (with the voices of John Goodman and Billy Crystal)
  • "For the Birds" – Pixar animated short film

MONSTER WORLD

  • Monsters, Inc. Orientation – The TV commercial from the movie
  • Welcome to Monsters, Inc. – viewers enter the factory and start their first day on the job with Roz
  • Company handbook
  • Monster of the Month awards
  • Scarer Cards - Fun-filled facts about all the monsters
  • Monsters, Inc. TV Treats
  • History of the Monster World
  • Company play program
  • Ponkickies 21 Game
  • Boo’s Door Game
  • Disney/Pixar Storytime – "Welcome To Monstropolis."
  • Music featurette "If I Didn’t Have You" Performed by Billy Crystal and John Goodman
  • On the Job With Mike and Sulley

HUMAN WORLD

  • Production Tour – 20-min featurette covering story, cast, design, and animation
  • Tour Pixar’s Animation Studio
  • From Story to Storyboard
  • Story Is King
  • Monsters Are Real
  • Original treatment
  • Story pitch
  • Abandoned concepts
  • Original opening
  • Storyboard-to-film comparison
  • Cast of characters
  • What Makes A Great Monster?
  • Character design galleries
  • Design of Monstropolis
  • Location flyarounds
  • Guide to the "in" jokes
  • Animation process
  • Early tests
  • Opening title animation
  • Challenging animation scenes
  • Shots Department
  • "Angle Button" Production Demonstration
  • Monster Song
  • Sound design
  • Binaural recording
  • The premiere
  • Trailers and TV spots
  • International elements
  • Multi-language reel
  • Toys
  • Posters

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