Monsters, Inc. appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Two of the three prior Pixar DVDs earned “A+” grades from me for visual quality, while Toy Story “slipped” to an “A”. Needless to say, I had high expectations for the image of Monsters, but nothing here disappointed me; the DVD offered another virtually flawless visual presentation.
Sharpness seemed immaculate. At all times, the movie remained terrifically crisp and detailed, and not a single instance of softness or fuzziness occurred. The image stayed detailed and distinct from start to finish. No signs of jagged edges, moiré effects or edge enhancement appeared, and the movie also was totally free of any source flaws. As with the other Pixar flicks, they created the DVD transfer straight from the original computer files; they used no print at all. This ensured a presentation completely devoid of any defects.
The fantasy setting of Monsters offered a nicely bright and varied palette, and the DVD reproduced the colors wonderfully. From the broader tones of the monster world to the more natural and lifelike hues found in the human realm, the colors always came across as vivid and lively, and they appeared absolutely gorgeous at all times. Black levels also seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail looked appropriately heavy but not overly dense. In the end, Monsters, Inc. provided a tremendously clear and exciting visual presentation that never faltered.
Almost as strong was the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 EX soundtrack. The soundfield seemed very broad and engaging. For the most part, the forward spectrum dominated, but the entire package seemed well distributed and nicely balanced. It provided a virtually seamless mix that spread the audio cleanly between the various channels. Effects and music often emanated from all five speakers, and the sound blended together neatly so that the environment seemed smooth and convincing.
Various auditory elements appeared precisely located in the spectrum; even dialogue was focused in the correct location across the front speakers, and we also heard some speech from the rear when appropriate. The surrounds contributed excellent reinforcement of the information and also used split-channel details quite effectively. Best of the bunch was probably the climactic sequence that included the many flying doors in the factory; it created a vivid and engaging setting.
Equally solid was the quality of the audio. Speech appeared warm and natural, with no signs of shrillness or concerns related to intelligibility. Music sounded clear and smooth, with terrific range; the score seemed appropriately brassy and bright. Effects were the best part of the package. They appeared very accurate and realistic and showed absolutely no signs of distortion or harshness. The track boasted fine resolution and terrific depth, with solid bass response throughout the flick. Overall, the audio packed a fine punch and added a lot to the Monsters, Inc. experience.
In the grand tradition of the A Bug’s Life Collector’s Edition and the
Ultimate Toy Box, Monsters, Inc. receives the deluxe two-DVD treatment. As usual, most of the extras appear on the second disc, but DVD One includes a few components. First we encounter an audio commentary from director Pete Docter, co-director Lee Unkrich, executive producer John Lasseter, and executive producer/screenwriter Andrew Stanton. It may sound like all four were recorded together for this screen-specific track, but they weren’t - I think. It sounded like Docter and Unkrich sat together, and their remarks strongly dominated the piece. Lasseter and Stanton apparently were taped together in a separate session; the producers of the commentary then integrated those statements into the track with Docter and Unkrich. However, a couple of examples arose in which it sounded like the whole crew sat together, so who knows? I’m getting confused just thinking about it!
In any case, since all these guys appear on other Pixar commentaries, they seemed comfortable with the format and we got a lively and informative track. As with prior Pixar commentaries, they covered some useful technical details that communicated issues related to the animation, but the emphasis remained on characters, cast and story. They provided lots of great information about how they chose the various actors, how the characters and plot elements developed throughout production, and many other fun tidbits. Heck, when they couldn’t recall why they dropped one plot point, they even phoned co-writer Dan Gerson to get the answer! Overall, this commentary offered a very compelling and educational track that I thoroughly enjoyed.
DVD One also includes a second audio feature. We get an effects only soundtrack. Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, you can view the entire film with just the sound effects. A similar piece appeared on the Bug’s Life CE, and it’s a fun little addition to the disc.
When you start DVD One, you’ll find the usual complement of advertisements. Here we get a preview of Pixar’s next flick Finding Nemo plus clips for Treasure Planet, Inspector Gadget 2, Lilo & Stitch, and Beauty and the Beast. From the main menu, you’ll discover a Sneak Peeks area that includes the same promos. Unlike virtually all other “Sneak Peeks” domains, though, this one provides no additional ads; it just repeats the collection from the DVD’s start.
Also on disc one, we get the THX Optimizer. This purports to help you set up your home theater to best present the movie on the disc in question. Apparently the Optimizer is unique for each DVD on which it’s included; unlike programs such as Video Essentials, the Optimizer should tweak your set-up differently every time. Frankly, I’ve been very happy with my already-established calibration and I’m afraid to muck with it, so I’ve never tried the Optimizer. If you lack calibration from Video Essentials or a similar program, or if you’re just more adventurous than I, the Optimizer could be a helpful addition.
Batten down the hatches, pull up a chair, and brace yourself: now we move to DVD Two, which includes scads of supplements. When you first launch the disc, you’ll encounter a brief video introduction from director Pete Docter, co-directors Lee Unkrich and David Silverman, and producer Darla Anderson. They tell us how to navigate the set, which becomes necessary since it places most of the extras behind two different “doors”: “Humans Only” and “Monsters Only”.
A few supplements land on the main page, however. We get five minutes and 28 seconds of Outtakes. These use the same fake blooper format seen in the last two Pixar flicks. While some of them seem amusing - especially the production of “Put That Thing Back Where It Came From or So Help Me” - but honestly, this feature has become tiresome. The outtakes seemed hilarious and pointed when they originally accompanied A Bug’s Life, but now they appear somewhat stale. Time to retire the outtakes, folks!
Next we find two shorts. A brand-new clip, Mike’s New Car lasts three minutes, 43 seconds, and it reprises John Goodman and Billy Crystal as Sulley and Mike. A very simple piece, “Car” offers a lot of funny gags; in fact, this brief cartoon might include more true laughs than all of Monsters itself. “Car” definitely merits a look.
You can watch “Car” with or without commentary from Docter and Gould. However, this doesn’t feature directors Pete Docter and Roger; instead, we hear from their kids, Nicholas Docter and Leo Gould. They try to explain how their dads made the film, and they offer lots of silliness during this hilariously irreverent commentary.
The last extra that doesn’t fall behind the two big doors, For the Birds offers the short that appeared prior to theatrical showings of Monsters. The cartoon lasts three minutes, 25 seconds and offers a cute and entertaining little piece.
Another commentary accompanies “Birds”, but this one’s for real. We hear from director Ralph Eggleston. He offers a fairly technical track that quickly runs through the project’s genesis and some fine points about the animation. He also provides a few more general remarks during this short but engaging commentary.
Now I decided to step behind the first of the two doors, and I chose to go with “Humans Only”. I began with the Production Tour. This piece lasts 18 minutes and 35 seconds, and it consists of short clips that mostly appear elsewhere on the DVD. As such, I’ll discuss the featurettes more fully when I go over those domains.
However, you may want to watch these within this area, because when the “Production Tour” ends, you’ll find a screen populated by cartoon doors with no additional information. Flip through these to find some Easter eggs. These consist mostly outtakes from the taping of the different “Tour” segments. We also find a quick clip from the movie, an animation test, and a collection of rough sketches that showed different possible uses for the giant atrium at the new Pixar studios. These eggs aren’t very hidden, but they’re fun.
Called Pixar, the first of the seven domains under “Humans Only” consists solely of the Pixar Fun Factory Tour. Hosted by John Lasseter and Pete Docter, this three-minute, 46-second piece quickly shows us through the new Pixar studio. It seems superficial but fun.
Another Easter egg appears here. Click to the left of the Monsters, Inc. icon to highlight a scrawled circle. Hit “enter” and watch a 133-second clip from the “1st Annual Pixar International Air Show”, which features lots of paper airplanes launched in the enormous Pixar atrium.
When we shift to Story, we get seven subdomains. Hosted by co-director David Silverman, Story Is King provides another of the featurettes that comprises the “Production Tour”. The 123-second clip features remarks from story supervisor Bob Peterson and director Pete Docter as they discuss the storyboard pitch process and other creative elements. This is old news for veterans of these kinds of DVDs, but it’s quick and interesting nonetheless, and it provides information crucial for newbies to learn.
The 92-second Monsters Are Real offers movie clips and quick comments from actors Billy Crystal, James Coburn, and John Goodman, writer Andrew Stanton, Walt Disney Feature Animation President Thomas Schumacher, executive producer John Lasseter, co-director Lee Unkrich, and producer Darla Anderson. They quickly discuss the story’s main conceit that kids are scary to monsters. It’s fairly useless but at least it’s brief.
The Original Treatment seems much more worthwhile. This 13-minute and 44-second program combines filmed artwork with light background music and narration to communicate the film’s first incarnation. No Sulley, no Mike, no Boo - in fact, very little of the finished flick appeared in this rendition. That makes it all the more compelling, and it definitely merits a look so we can see just how radically the plot and characters changed from beginning to end.
More early material shows up in the Story Pitch: Back to Work (Early Version), Bob Peterson acts out the boards for a prototypical rendition of the scene in which Sulley and Mike bring Boo to the factory for the first time. It also differs heavily from the finished piece, which means it offers some very interesting viewing within the four-minute, 38-second clip.
Within Banished Concepts, we see other discarded ideas. Lee Unkrich offers a 30-second “Introduction” to the area, and then we can check out four difference scenes: “Assistant Sulley” (135 seconds), “End of Day” (155 seconds), “Bad Scare” (180 seconds), and “Scream Refinery” (67 seconds). All provide story reel renditions of the segments. Some of these bear some resemblance to the final film; the main difference comes from Sulley’s position as an assistant and not a scarer.
The Original Sulley Intro offers some fairly complete computer animation. The 60-second clip shows a slightly different way to first view Sulley. It doesn’t provide the wonders of the radically altered footage we saw earlier, but it offers an interesting piece.
Finally, the “Story” area finishes with Storyboard to Film. This allows us to view one scene in two different states: storyreel only, and final color only. We can also check out a split screen comparison of the two. You can use the angle button to cycle through the three presentations. The moderately interesting piece lasts five minutes, 42 seconds, as it offers the first sequence in which Sulley and Mike dealt with Boo.
After this we head to the Monster Files. Another segment found in the “Production Tour”, Cast of Characters lasts five minutes, 54 seconds and comes hosted by Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich, Darla Anderson, and David Silverman. We mostly get comments from Docter, Unkrich, Anderson, Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, Thomas Schumacher, Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Mary Gibbs, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, and Steve Buscemi. We see a few quick shots from the recording studio, but mostly we just get some short and superficial sound bites that don’t offer a lot of depth.
What Makes a Great Monster? runs 87 seconds, and it includes dsjal Bob Pauley and sjl Tia Kratter as they quickly discuss the visual elements of the monsters. This segment essentially acts as an introduction to the next area, Character Designs. A collection of stillframe galleries, that section splits into 12 subdomains: “James P. Sullivan” (36 images, plus a 33-second “turnaround” that shows the computer model), “Mike Wazowski” (18 stills, 34-second turnaround), “Boo” (27 shots, 69-second turnaround), “Sulley and Boo” (9), “Henry J. Waternoose” (9, 34-second turnaround), “Randall/Rivera” (9, 35-second turnaround), “Celia/Roz” (9, 69-second turnaround), “Fungus/Jerry” (9, 34-second turnaround), “Ted/Smitty/Needleman” (9, 68-second turnaround), “George/’Claws’” (9, 68-second turnaround), “Bile/Harley” (9, 69-second turnaround), “’Bud’/Bob/Rickey” (9, 67-second turnaround), “C.D.A.” (9, 34-second turnaround), and “Monster Wannabes” (45). Overall, this adds a nice package of conceptual work.
The Design area starts with another piece of the “Production Tour”. Monstropolis lasts two minutes, 51 seconds and comes hosted by David Silverman. We also hear from Lee Unkrich John Lasseter and production designer Harley Jessup as we get another quick look at one part of the film. The piece seems brief, but it nicely introduces the topic.
Setting the Scene splits into two areas. Hosted by Docter and Unkrich, “Set Dressing” runs three minutes, 24 seconds and mainly features information from set dressing supervisor Sophie Vincelette. She leads us through a solid look at the way the artists populate the sets with different props and items and how they integrate them into the film. The “Step Through” uses 29 stillframes to show set dressing as it builds through six different sets.
Essentially, Color Scripts seem to be very small pieces of art that show the director of photography how the hues should look in various scenes. We get 71 examples of these drawings here. Master Lighting serves a fairly similar purpose. Via 16 screens, it depicts conceptual drawings and the final filmed results.
Location Flyarounds covers five different spots. We see quick computer-drawn moves through some largely unpopulated sets: “Downtown”, “The Apartment”, “Monsters, Inc.”, “Simulator”, and “Boo’s Room”. I liked this section, as it offered a great look at the basic locations. One even includes a few humorous touches that I’ll let you discover on your own.
In Monstropolis Art, we again split into a few different subdomains, each of which contains conceptual and design drawings related to the specific location. We check out “Door Vault” (nine images), “Monstropolis” (50), “Door Station” (9), “Monsters, Inc.” (18), and “Scare Floor” (20). (Isn’t Scare Floor slated to be the sequel to Panic Room?)
“Design” ends with a Guide to “In” Jokes. This 21-screen stillframe feature shows us the small elements we might have missed along the way. It also tosses in cool details like the menu at Harryhausen’s, something we never could have read during the flick.
Within Animation, we get six subsections. Another piece in the “Production Tour”, Animation Process runs three minutes and 14 seconds. Featuring comments from Docter, Silverman, Unkrich, supervising animator Glenn McQueen, and simulation and effects supervisor Galyn Susman, it follows one specific scene and shows how it went from storyreel to layout to animation to simulation shaders and lighting. This offers a nice walk-through of the various elements.
Early Tests includes commentary from supervising technical director Thomas Porter, simulation and effects sequence supervisor Steve May and sequence supervisor Michael Fong as we view preliminary designs for some of the characters. The eight-minute and 15-second piece mostly covers issues related to Sulley and his fur, and we also see some tests for Boo and Mike. It’s a fascinating look at the growth and variation in the characters.
Next we take a look at the Opening Title Animation. This 129-second piece includes remarks from Docter and main title design and animation director Geefwee Boedoe. They relate the genesis of the sequence as well as some of its details and offer good notes about the subject.
For a view of the most significant production challenges, check out Hard Parts lasts five minutes and includes comments from Thomas Schumacher, Lasseter, Docter, Silverman, Unkrich, Thomas Porter, Steve May, Michael Fong, Pixar CEO Steve Jobs, modeling artist Steve Milliron, simulation and effects sequence supervisor Mark Henne, and modeling artist Guido Quaroni. Parts of this dealt with fur and clothing, which seemed redundant after the “Early Tests”, but the featurette still offered enough new info to become worthwhile.
A two-minute and 15-second featurette about the Shots Department describes their work. We hear from Galyn Susman as she tells us more about fur and clothes. The information takes a slightly different stance than what we learned earlier, but the information still came across as somewhat redundant. Nonetheless, enough new material appeared to make the clip worth a look.
The final component of the “Animation” domain, the Production Demo allows you to exercise the “angle” function on your remote. After an “Introduction” from Unkrich, you can check out a scene via four different views: “Storyreel”, “Layout”, “Animation”, and “Final Color”. This provides a nice examination of the varying stages of completion.
Time for Music and Sound, the penultimate domain in the “Humans Only” area. It starts with Monster Song. This three-minute and 18-second segment includes quick comments from Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Docter, Lasseter, composer Randy Newman, Thomas Schumacher as well as shots from the recording sessions. This also provides some shots of Newman’s own version of the vocals. It’s another quick and superficial piece, but it’s fun to watch the recording.
Sound Design runs four minutes, 16 seconds, and it features remarks from sound designer Gary Rydstrom and co-sound designer Tom Myers as they cover the topic. We watch as they discuss the challenges and add specific elements to the mix. Like some of the other pieces, it remains fairly short and superficial, but it adds some good information along the way.
In the Binaural Recording area, we start with a 72-second “Introduction” from senior manager of editorial and postproduction Bill Kinder. He tells us what binaural recording is and preps us to get out some headphones. Binaural Video uses the technique with Goodman and Crystal as they run around the recorder and try to mess with us in this 55-second clip. Binaural Audio offers a comparison of three different mixes of the music for “Sulley’s Work Out”. You can listen to the stereo film mix, the scoring stage binaural track, and the “special” 5.1 surround mix.
Lastly, we head to Release, a domain that deals with promotional elements. The Premiere shows 58 seconds of footage from the film’s LA debut. It’s cute but insubstantial. Toys gives us a 92-second party in which Lasseter and some of his cohorts play with the flick’s trinkets. This also features a few comments from toy designer “Ricky” - they don’t identify him beyond that. I felt disappointed by this section, as it should have tossed in a still gallery of all the toys created for the movie; instead, we get a scattershot and fairly uninformative discussion of them.
Posters provides still images of 15 different ads created for the flick. Outtakes repeats the collection we already saw in the main menu of the DVD. Trailers and TV Spots includes a teaser, two theatrical trailers, and four TV ads. The teaser and the second trailer both consist of unique material, so they’re easily the best parts of this section.
The International Inserts domain shows some of the changes made for non-US releases. This offers a look at the translations and other visual alterations as well as some remarks about casting for dubbing. The Multi-Language Clip Reel depicts the results of those efforts. The three-minute and 47-second piece translates different parts of one scene into German, Japanese, Euro-Portuguese, Norwegian, Dutch, French, Swedish, Polish, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Icelandic, Danish, and Hebrew.
Hooray - I can finally open the second door and enter the “Monsters Only” area! This splits into three different domains, each with subtopics, New Monster Adventures launches with “Mike’s New Car”, which we already found in the main menu. Monster TV Treats lasts a total of 73 seconds and offers six short animated clips that focus on Thanksgiving, Christmas, baseball and football. I’m not terribly sure where all of these aired, though at least one clearly mentions Monday Night Football, so I’d assume it ran as part of that broadcast. Whatever their origins, these are fun to see.
More alternate animated material appears in Ponkickies 21. Created for a Japanese TV program of that name, this absolutely bizarre feature shows dubbed versions of Mike and Sulley as the play “Janken” - the Japanese form of Rock, Paper, Scissors - and the “Lucky Door Game”. These brief but freaky pieces may merit the purchase of this DVD all on their own! I don’t need to drop acid; I can just watch Japanese children’s TV instead.
Peek-A-Boo: Boo’s Door Game offers yet another in an apparently unending series of guessing contests found on Disney DVDs. At least this one’s pretty simple and doesn’t feature the frustrations involved with many of them. One nice touch: Billy Crystal does all of Mike’s lines here. That may not sound like a big deal, but it’s very unusual to find original voice talent involved with this kind of supplement.
Another Disney DVD staple appears via the Welcome to Monstropolis Storytime. As usual, kids can read along with the narrator or decode the text on their own. Despite the generic narrator, the piece includes some original voices and it offers a mix of interactive elements that make it much more fun than the average “read-along”.
The final part of “New Monster Adventures”, we find a music video for “If I Didn’t Have You”. This fairly pointless 73-second piece compiles movie clips played along with the John Goodman and Billy Crystal rendition of the tune.
Next we move to Behind the Screams. There we find the “Outtakes” yet again; did we need to discover these in three different parts of the DVD? We also get the Company Play Program, a 23-screen stillframe piece that shows the booklet created for the monsters’ musical production. It’s very fun to see.
On the Job With Mike and Sulley gives us a two-minute and 33-second provides a news report that features our pals. An anchorman interviews the pair to learn their scream-collection secrets. As always, it features the original voices, and it offers an entertaining addition.
Finally, the Orientation area introduces us to the Monsters, Inc. factory. Welcome to Monsters, Inc. lasts 56 seconds as it shows the entire commercial excerpted during the film. Your First Day provides a short “training film”. It lasts three minutes, 36 seconds and compiles movie clips and production art. Though a little cheesy since it comes from bastardized sources, it’s another fairly entertaining extra.
History of the Monster World looks like a deleted sequence from the film. It runs like a storyreel as we learn how the monster world came into being and why they started to scare humans. It lasts 100 seconds and seems cute and fun.
Next we get a stillframe feature called the Employee Handbook. This area lets us see employee cards for 18 monsters, a “Monster Occupational Safety and Hazard Poster”, a chart that states “How to Avoid Repetitive Scare Injury”, a list of CDA warning codes, some precautions, a lunch menu, door station operation overview, Roz’s directions for paperwork, and a few other paper details. Some of this stuff showed up in the film, but we can’t check it out so closely there, so this section offers a lot of interesting components.
Monster of the Month shows a year’s worth of winners, while Scarer Cards depicts a collection of collectible monster trading cards. This area covers 14 Monsters, Inc. employees. You can read the text of the cards yourself or listen to Needleman and Smitty as they relate the details to you. It’s another very cool addition to the DVD.
That finally ends all of the features on the main area of the disc, but we also find some DVD-ROM extras. The main menu launches with a cute animation of Boo quivering in bed. Click on any - or all - of the six colored panels to the right; they’ll add monsters to the room, and this cheers up the little girl.
Otherwise, the DVD-ROM domain doesn’t add much to the package. It repeats “Boo’s Door Game” and “Disney Storytime: Welcome to Monstropolis” from the main package, and it contributes only one new piece: a game called “The Lunch Room”. This simply offers a demo version of part of a retail product. It forces you to play a virtual cafeteria lady - that ain’t exactly my idea of fun.
Lastly, the Monsters, Inc. package includes a booklet. This nice piece of text offers a map to guide you through DVD Two, and it also describes the content of many of the extras. It provides a helpful addition to the set.
As one who adored the prior three films from Pixar, I expected great things of Monsters, Inc. However, while I enjoyed the movie as a whole, it lacked the spark that made the earlier flicks so special. Monsters provided a reasonably fun experience, but it never took off and became something truly special. On the other hand, the DVD continued the excellent work seen with the other movies. Picture and sound quality appeared absolutely terrific, and the set packed a slew of fun and informative extras. Combine the stellar properties of this package with a fairly entertaining movie, and Monsters, Inc. comes with a positive recommendation.