Blu-ray Review: Monsters, Inc.

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This was originally supposed to be released earlier this year, but it’s finally getting its day on Blu-ray this month, hitting shelves the same day as Up, which means dedicated Pixar fans are going to need to open their wallets a little wider, but the pay-off is certainly worth it. Monsters, Inc. was a film I had only seen once until earlier this year when I put together my list ranking the first ten Pixar films. Monsters, Inc. came in at #8, but after watching it two more times in an effort to review this Blu-ray, it’s grown on me much more and there would definitely be some upward movement on my list.

To talk too long on the film would seem a bit meaningless since everyone has pretty much seen it at this point and you are more interested in learning what this new Blu-ray release offers that may or may not separate it from your previously purchased two-disc DVD edition. However, I have to add for a movie called Monsters, Inc. I think it’s a bit odd my favorite part is the young girl referred to as Boo, and especially how she refers to Sulley as “kitty” and speaks in broken baby talk. It’s cute, believably authentic and makes the movie work on a level you wouldn’t assume based solely on its premise.

As for the features, you will first notice an introduction by director Pete Docter as he gives you a small bit of detail regarding what is new from the previous DVD release. Of course, the biggest “feature” is the fact the film is now in high-definition and I can’t imagine any other way to watch it. Once you have seen any of Pixar’s films in HD you really don’t want to watch them any other way.

The features for this monster 4-disc collection include a standard single-disc DVD edition as well as a digital copy disc along with the two Blu-ray discs including the feature film and a second disc of additional supplementary material.

The first disc includes the film along with an audio commentary with co-directors Pete Docter and Lee Unkrich, writer Andrew Stanton and executive producer John Lasseter. The four of them are endlessly informative and entertaining. From the film’s early start and through all of its more technical aspects, not a detail is missed.

A brand new 21 minute round-table feature includes Docter, Unkrich, producer Darla K. Anderson and story supervisor Bob Peterson as they reminisce on a myriad of details such as how before Billy Crystal became the voice of the monster Mike Wazowksi he was originally offered Buzz Lightyear and turned it down. There is also conversation of a changed scene due to 9/11 as Monsters, Inc. was released less than a month after the tragedy. However, the biggest detail I keyed in on during every single feature on this disc, including the previously mentioned audio commentary, is the focus on story something that is continued in the list of featurettes on the second disc. (A clip from the “Filmmakers Roundtable” is just to the right as they discuss their favorite scene from the film, followed by the scene itself.)

Throughout the myriad of featurettes included on the second disc you will get a tour of Pixar studios, banished concepts, a storyboard-to-film comparison, set design features, details on the animation process, featurettes on the music, trailers, an art gallery and the animated shorts “For the Birds” and “Mike’s New Car.” All of these were carried over from the DVD release and many are still only offered in low-res standard def, but when it came to the 22-minutes of story featurettes it was 22 minutes of information I believe anyone looking to make a film should pay attention to, and many of those already making films.

It’s a section called “Story Featurettes” and in it is a featurette called “Story is King” where co-director David Silverman says, “The most important part of a good film is a good story.” This instantly got me thinking of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Terminator Salvation and the just released A Christmas Carol from Robert Zemeckis, a film that was lacking drastically in story (interesting story at least). It then went even further in another feature examining the roots of the Sulley character and how at one time he was designed to wear glasses. It was then said the eyes of a character must be perfectly readable and are a clear way of expressing the personality of any character. This is where so much has been lost in Zemeckis’s attempts at motion-capture animation and I was just happy to hear both of these details mentioned and emphasized. If you have any question as to why Pixar is the animation king, look no further than their stories.

The features on these two discs are rich with material even if the ported supplements from the DVD are a bit dated. My largest complaint is the lack of a “Play All” option as you have to continually bounce back to the main menu after watching a 90-second featurette, something that wastes time and gets rather annoying, but I coped.

Overall, this is another out-of-the-park winner and a film I am glad I gave a second, third and fourth chance, each time improving the experience from the prior. These are films made for high-definition with their attention to detail and Monsters, Inc., in my opinion, was a huge step up in terms of lighting, particularly the scene shot by candlelight where the commentary references how Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon was an inspiration. Little nuggets like that and a great film make this a worthwhile purchase.

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