Monday, August 26, 2013

Monsters, Inc.: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition: 3D Blu-ray / Blu-ray / DVD Combo + Digital Copy Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
The now-classic Academy Award-winning animated comedy adventure Monsters, set in Monstropolis, a thriving company town where monsters of all shapes and sizes reside. Lovable Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) and his wisecracking best friend Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) are the top scare team at Monsters, Inc., the largest scream-processing factory.  The main power source in the monster world is the collected screams of human children—and at Monsters, Inc., an elite team of scarers is responsible for gathering those precious natural resources.  Believed by monsters to be toxic, children are strictly forbidden from entering Monstropolis.  But when a little girl named Boo (voiced by Mary Gibbs) accidentally follows Sulley back into his world, he finds his career in jeopardy and his life in utter chaos.  Assisted by Mike, the two pals plot to rectify the mistake and return Boo to her home.  When the trio encounters an unexpected series of complications, they become embroiled in a cover-up catapulting them into a mystery beyond their wildest dreams.

Film (5 out of 5 stars)   

After enjoying their much deserved success from two Toy Story movies and A Bug’s Life, Pixar wanted to do something more challenging and different.  While the plot and characters from Monsters, Inc. changed over time, the core story about a tale about a pair of friends set in whole new world full of monsters remained.  For this movie, they would build a new world called Monstropolis from the ground up that showed the lives of the monsters that scare kids to obtain scream energy to power their city.  
Everyone growing up knows these monsters as the ones we imagine hiding in our closet just waiting to scare us, but in this case, they actually do.  It’s not done maliciously, it’s more of a survival mechanism that Monsters, Inc. President Henry J. Waternoose III (James Coburn) has enforced and promoted for years. His company is made up of scare floors on a factory floor, where the “scarers” and their assistants scare kids on the scare floor and bottle up the scream energy.  The top scarer is a tall furry monster named James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) who is helped by his best friend and assistant, the short and one-eyed Mike Wazowaki (Billy Crystal).
Sulley is well on his way to becoming the top scarer when he accidentally stumbles across a scheme by his main competitor, a chameleon like monster named Randall (Steve Buscemi) which allows a human child into their world. After all of the anti-human propaganda he’s been bombarded with from the Child Detection Agency (CDA), Sully is convinced that human children are toxic so he’s terrified to discover that a young girl has somehow crossed over to his world.  Afraid that he will be blamed for the little girl, Sully enlists Mike’s help in hiding her while they come up with a plan to return her home.  
That task grows even harder when the girl escapes and makes her presence known to the monster community which sets them all on high alert.  Once they realize that the little girl who Sulley nicknames “Boo” isn’t dangerous after all, Sulley and Mike plan to smuggle Boo back into Monsters, Inc. to get her door and return her home.  As if that task wasn’t hard enough, they don’t realize that there is a secret plot going on in the factory that’s going to put them in all more danger than they can imagine.
By the time Monsters, Inc. had been released, Pixar was already on a roll with two Toy Story movies and A Bug’s Lifeunder their belt and this movie just continued their incredible track record.  This imaginative and funny movie benefits from having a fresh approach and some well cast voice actors who bring quite a bit to their roles.  Having learned his lesson from passing on playing Buzz Lightyear, Billy Crystal is very funny as Mike, as the bossy little monster who always has something to say. 
John Goodman is perfectly cast as well as the fierce but lovable Sulley, which is a tougher role to pull off as he has to be believably scary when needed, but also loving and warm to Boo as he gets to know her.  James Coburn also nice a nice job as the enigmatic Mr. Waternoose, while Steve Buscemi is great as the slimy underhanded Randall.  Jennifer Tilly also stars as Mike’s medusa-like girlfriend Celia and while she doesn’t have a big role, she is sweet and adds some femininity to this otherwise male centric film.  Speaking of males, I really enjoyed the friendship between Mike and Sully which felt real and well defined.  While this isn’t my favorite Pixar film, it’s pretty high on my list and it’s one that I don’t mind watching over and over with my son.

Video (5 out of 5 stars)  

2D Video (5 out of 5 stars)       3D Video (5 out of 5 stars) 

Giving a Pixar movie a five star rating for its video quality is almost a foregone conclusion now since every one of their movies comes straight from the tap digitally and they always look amazing.  This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer easily continues that legacy with its bright colors and sharp definition.  Watching this movie, you are painfully aware of how much work went into making it look this good just by looking at Sulley’s voluminous fur.  Seeing how much effort was spent animating that life-like fur, I’m sure the animators have to be thrilled to see how well their efforts have been captured for both of these Blu-ray presentations.  In both the 2D and the 3D transfers, the detail is astounding, the colors are brilliant and this transfers shines on every level.  The black levels are rich and dark, and there aren’t any significant blemishes or digital defects to complain about.  The 3D version does a nice job of adding some depth to Monstroplis and its citizens, but it doesn’t have a lot of gimmicky 3D effects as this movie follows a more subtle approach.  I prefer the 3D transfer because it offers a more immersive experience without the loss of any of the 2D version’s quality.  As an owner of the previous DVD release, I thought that it looked pretty good for a DVD, but it doesn’t hold a candle to this new and improved transfer.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars)   

Monsters, Inc.’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also fantastic which also shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has bought any of their movies before.  And just like with the video quality, the difference between the previous DVD version’s audio and this one is light years apart.  Every scene of the movie sounded real and engaging, no matter whether it was a quiet scene or an action-packed chase.  It all sounded so good that it’s hard to even pick out individual scenes to praise as every one of them deserves recognition.  I will say that I loved the sound of the energy containment field coming down as well as the scene during a snowstorm, and of course the final chase through a conveyor belt of doors that sounds every bit like the roller-coaster it is.  Even more subtle tricks like hearing Randall’s voice echo throughout the room while he is invisible is very cool to hear.  The directionality throughout the movie is extremely accurate and the ambiance for each location is also enveloping and immersive.  This mix easily earns a welcome five star rating from me!

Extras (5 out of 5 stars)   

For this new Ultimate Collector’s Edition, Disney has brought back all of the extras from the previous releases and added some new ones as well, such as a filmmakers round-table, a director’s introduction, a featurette detailing the creation of a ride in Tokyo Disneyland based on the movie,  and more which is always nice.  The new stuff is in high definition while the older material has sadly been left in standard definition.  Here’s what you will find in this set:
  • Audio Commentary (Disc 1): Directors Pete Docter and Lee Unkrich, writer Andrew Stanton, and executive producer John Lasseter (who seems to be added in) talk about Monsters, Inc. and how it all came about.  With this many people involved there really isn’t any dead air as they keep things moving and it was interesting to hear their different points of view.  Hearing stories about how the movie changed from its original genesis and what they were trying to accomplish along with stories about the cast was fun to listen to.
  • Director’s Introduction - Pete Docter gives us an official welcome and introduction to this Blu-ray release ofMonsters, Inc. and all of its contents.
  • Filmmakers Round Table – At a little over twenty minutes long, this extra which was filmed at the Hidden City Cafe (which inspired its appearance in the movie), we get to hear from the group of  people that were mainly responsible for the movie’s success.  Those present include directors Pete Docter and Lee Unkrich, producer Darla K. Anderson, and story supervisor Bob Peterson who all have a great conversation that we get to overhear.  The group talks all about the evolution of the movie and we get to see some concept art, some reinactments from the movie, and hear their thoughts on the movie and its untimely release right after 9/11.   These people have been friends for a long time and it shows and this was my favorite extra on the disc as it was both fun and informative.
  • Ride and Go Seek: Building Monstropolis in Japan – This is a fairly quick look at the Monsters, Inc. ride at the Disneyland Theme Park in Tokyo.  It looks like a lot of fun and better than the one we have in California Adventures.
  • For the Birds – In this funny Pixar short we get to see some mean birds pay for their evil ways.
  • Mike’s New Car – In Monster’s, Inc., we see Mike try to drive his new car only to be stopped by Sulley who wants them to walk due to the scream shortage.  In this cartoon, Mike finally gets to be in his beloved car with humorous results.
  • Roz’s 100 Door Challenge – This is an interactive game that allows players to answer some trivia questions to be placed for a job at Monsters, Inc..
  • Story Featurettes -Four short featurettes covering the production of the film.  First up is ”Story is King” which emphasizes Pixar’s philosophy that the story should always come first, then there’s ”Monsters Are Real” which covers the monsters and Monstropolis from the point of view of the cast and crew; and then there’s a look at the ”Original Treatment”, which shows us the original story that was going to be the movie, before finally closing with “Back to Work” which lets us see some behind the scenes footage of Story Supervisor Bob Peterson running through a storyboarded bit in front of his fellow Pixar employees.
  • Pixar Fun Factory Tour - Ever wondered what it would be like to work at Pixar?  Me too.  In this extra, John Lasseter hosts a tour of the their new building at the time.  This tour includes a monkey and a lot of scooters and it’s fairly odd and yet fun to watch.  I have a feeling that they were deliberately trying for a wild and crazy image back in the day.   ”
  • Banished Concepts - A look at five deleted sequences that is hosted by co-director Lee Unkrich.  None of them are necessary to the final story but it’s still interesting to see.
  • Storyboard to Film Comparison – This extra shows us a comparison between an early storyboard and the final scene through a split screen.
  • Designing Monstropolis -  A look at the making of the monster world with David Silverman hosting.
  • Set Dressing  – A look at some of the props and sets used in Monsters, Inc. that made it look so unique.  Look closely and you can see that all of the designs and patterns have been monsterized.
  • Location Flyaround - If you’d like a tour of the many sets and environments in the movie, then this 360 degree tour is for you.  You can control the camera and look around to your heart’s content.
  • Monster File - This short featurette covers the film’s various monsters and we get to hear from the voice actors who play them as well.  This is short but enjoyable.
  • Animation – Runing almost thirty minutes long, these six featurettes cover the various aspects of animation.  Included are: “Animation Process” which explains how Pixar does its films, ”Early Tests” shows the early models of Mike and Sulley, then there’s “Opening Title Animation” which covers illustrator Geefwee Boedoe’s title sequence, while “Hard Parts” shows us where the filmmakers had problems to overcome, and then there’s ”Shots Department” which shows us just how painstaking tracking animation can be, and finally, “Production Demonstration” which shows is the four steps of animation: storyreel, layout, animation, and final color.
  • Music & Sound - We get a look at the film’s sound design and then get to see some behind the scenes footage of Billy Crystal and John Goodman singing “If I Didn’t Have You.”  We also learn that Goodman is a huge fan of Randy Newman.
  • Release - This is a hodgepodge of footage relating to the film’s release which includes footage from the film’s premiere, two theatrical trailers, four TV spots, a look at the changes required for international releases, a multi-language clip reel, a look at the merchandising aspects, and the outtakes from the end credit sequence.
  • Monsters Only Section – Now we get to the weird section.  ”New Monster Adventures” looks like some commercials that ran during the Super Bowl, then there’s two very weird animated bits for two different Japanese television shows, a “If I Didn’t Have You” music video; a promotional “Behind the Screams” segment includes an interview with Mike and Sulley about their work at Monsters, Inc.; and “Orientation” gives us three new employee orientation videos that include ”Your First Day,” “History of the Monster World” and “Welcome to Monsters, Inc.”  You can pretty much skip this section unless you are a die hard fan.
  • Wrap-Up – A nice farewell from the Pixar gang who also hint at an easter egg on the Blu-ray!  (It’s not hard to find).
  • Art Gallery For the super hardcore, there’s almost 900 pieces of concept art included in this gallery that covers early designs, concept art, etc..
  • DVD Version of the Film
  • Digital Copy of the Film
  • BD-Live

Summary (5 out of 5 stars) 

Monsters, Inc. is a great family film that is enjoyable for all ages.  It’s colorful and has cool monsters in it for the kids, but there’s also plenty of humor that parents can appreciate too.  The story is pretty original and the cast is fantastic in their roles.  Disney has done an incredible job with this Blu-ray with its amazing video and audio quality and the extras are just as impressive.  Watching this movie again just makes me even more excited for the upcoming prequel Monsters University.  This Blu-ray is highly recommended!
Order your copy today!

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