Saturday, June 22, 2013

Penny Thoughts ’13—Monsters, Inc. (2001) ****

G, 92 min.
Directors: Pete Docter, David Silverman, Lee Unkrich
Writers: Andrew Stanton, Daniel Gerson, Pete Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon, Ralph Eggleston, Robert Baird, Rhett Reese, Jonathan Roberts
Voices: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Mary Gibbs, Jennifer Tilly, Bob Peterson, John Ratzenberger, Frank Oz, Daniel Gerson, Steve Susskind, Bonnie Hunt, Jeff Pidgeon, Sam Black

I was a huge fan of “Monsters, Inc.” from the moment I saw it, which was kind of a unique situation that speaks to the power of Pixar Animation and how it changed the animation industry in the United States. I was in Columbus, Ohio at an arborist industry trade show. It was Friday night, and we were looking for something to do after the conference events had wound down. It was also where my brother happened to live at the time, so he came out to join us for dinner. So it was me, my brother, my new father-in-law, and three other men who spend their days cutting and lugging trees around for a living. After narrowing it down to a movie, which one do we choose to go see? Not the new Steven Segal, or the latest Smith & Wesson commercial. No, we all chose to see the latest Disney animated film about the monsters that live in children’s closets. And no, we didn’t think it was a horror movie.

We all enjoyed it as well. It spoke to universal notions we all had about childhood and the silliness of how we perceive things as children when put in the perspective of adulthood. We liked how these were working class monsters, just trying to make a living. It had an exciting story that was traditional, but originally executed. That was what made Pixar in those early days of the CGI animation revolution—original execution of universal ideas. That and their wonderful characters.

Now, more than ten years down the line, Pixar is releasing their fourth sequel film “Monsters University”. While “Toy Story 2”, “Toy Story 3”, and “Cars 2” have been made in the same spirit of their originals, Pixar seems to be running the danger of slipping away from original execution and characters by repeating themselves. I was a bigger fan of “Cars 2” than many people who’ve been with Pixar from the beginning of their ride. I’m not saying that “Monsters U” is going to be a huge disappointment. I’m just hoping the company doesn’t have to depend on old properties to continue to dominate the animation field. Because there’s nothing like discovering a new set of friends in a movie like “Monsters, Inc.”

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