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Monsters, Inc. (Blu-ray)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment / 2001 / 92 Minutes / Rated G
Street Date: November 10, 2009
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Reviewed by Aaron Peck
Monday, November 09, 2009
The first time I saw 'Monsters, Inc.' I was living in England. An acquaintance had given (and I stress given) us a pirated VHS copy of the film. Someone had video recorded the movie in the theater on a home camera and made tapes of it. I tell this story, because even with the loud screeching sound that was being emitted by the tape, the overall blurriness of the picture, the child crying loudly in the background, and the abnormally tall silhouette head that was covering the lower right of the movie screen I still LOVED this movie.
Once we got a chance to find a proper cinema to go to, we went and saw 'Monsters, Inc.' in all its big screen glory. I found it to be, and still think of it as, the most inventive and creative film done by Pixar thus far. Is it my favorite? I wouldn't say so, but I think that the creativity expressed has yet to be rivaled throughout Pixar's glorious reign as CGI animation king.
Monsters live in a parallel world to humans. Their only passage into that world is through the closet doors of small children. It just so happens that the screams emitted by children after seeing a monster emerge from their closet are the power that lights the cities of Monstropolis.
Sulley (voiced by John Goodman), a giant blue monster is thick fur and ridges on his back like a dragon, is at the top of his scaring game. He's about to break the all-time scare record. His assistant, Mike, is made up of a single eyeball and a dry Billy Crystal wit. Hot on Sulley's tail (literally) is Randall, a chameleon-like monster who is vying for the leader board position for most scares.
With little exposition, Pixar creates a world in which we know exactly what is happening without them telling us anything. Doors run along a conveyor belt, and lock into place. Once switched on these doors are magically transformed into portals of fear, sending monsters straight into the rooms of children all around the world. It's such a simple concept, but the creativity that it took to execute this is out of this world. In the simplest of ways, like a child's sock getting stuck on the back of a furry monster, and the subsequent freak out from the surrounding monsters we realize that monsters are just as afraid of kids as kids are of monsters. What a perfect storyline.
Goodman and Crystal are perfectly matched here. The best one-two punch in Pixar animation up until Ed Asner and Jordan Nagai in 'Up.' The animation at the time of its release was like nothing that had ever been seen before. How the hair on Sulley moved and appeared to be alive with every step he took was a monumental achievement in CGI animation.
'Monsters, Inc.' was an instant classic as soon as it hit theaters, and has only gotten better with age. The creativity involved with the film is astounding, the writing is clever, the story is perfect and the characters are loveable. Children and adults alike can sit down and enjoy this film again and again for years to come.
'Monsters Inc.'s 1080p AVC-encoded transfer is presented in pure Pixar style, near perfection. The colors have never been more vibrant than they are now. Detail is maxed out. The darker splotches on Mike have never been clearer. Each and every scale on Randall's body is perfectly visible and defined. Blacks are deep and rich, while contrast is perfect. Edges are clearly defined, and the film is free from digital artifacts like banding, crushing, or blocking.
'Monsters Inc.' is about as good as it gets on Blu-ray. For the most part it's perfect demo material. I really wanted to give this five stars for its video transfer, but one technical quibble holds this transfer back from absolute perfection. The fine fringe hairs on Sulley's body are a hotbed for aliasing. At times, during close ups, the aliasing becomes distracting and very noticeable. Having just watched and reviewed 'Ice Age 3' where most of the main characters have fine fringe hairs without any aliasing problems, I couldn't let something like that pass by without letting readers know about it. Be it known though, that the aliasing problem is the one and only annoyance in this otherwise beautiful high definition transfer of one of Pixar's greatest films.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 attached to this release is nothing short of magnificent. I'm glad to say that, unlike the video presentation, the audio track harbors not one single imperfection. Disney and Pixar have created an engrossing soundtrack that sucks you into the film and never lets go. Surround channels are alive for the entirety of the movie. As Mike, Sulley, and Boo fly through the door room being chased by Randall, doors whoosh by you on every side, making you feel like you're hanging on with the heroes. The LFE output is another point of perfection. Some of the deep bass will literally shake your room. The bass is deep and clear without being overpowering. Panning effects, like a helicopter flying in from out of scene, are completely immersive. The front and center channels handle the dialogue and front-centric effects with precision. This is a completely enveloping audio presentation from beginning to end.
After reviewing 'Snow White,' and wading through all of the special features housed there, I think that there can actually be too many special features. This version of 'Monsters, Inc.' is absolutely loaded with special material, but at times it can feel a bit like overload. Disney saw fit to include all the special features from the latest collector's edition of 'Monsters, Inc.' on DVD, but didn't give them the HD treatment. Overall, this is a stellar special features package, everything that you want to know about the making of the film is contain herein, but be warned that getting through each and every feature will take quite a while.
- Trailers (HD) - A preview for the theatrical release of 'Toy Story 3,' and the Blu-ray releases of 'Up,' and 'Dumbo,' are available.
- Audio Commentary - Pixar regulars Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, John Lasseter, and Lee Unkrich get together to talk about where the idea for 'Monsters, Inc.' came from, how it evolved over the years, and the different techniques that went into making it. These guys have some great charisma, and act like excited little kids when they're talking about their movie. These guys are fun to listen to, but also give a well informed commentary about this Pixar classic.
- Short: For the Birds (HD, Disc 1, 3 min) - One of the best things about getting a catalogue Pixar movie is remembering exactly which Pixar short was paired with the movie. I had totally forgot that 'For the Birds' was the short that accompanied 'Monsters, Inc.' It was a pleasant surprise to see one of my favorite Pixar shorts again.
- Short: Mike's New Car (HD, Disc 1, 4 min) - This is the same little feature that was created for the first DVD release of 'Monsters, Inc.' It's pretty funny, and it's nice to have this one presented in HD.
- Pixar Fun Factory Tour (HD, Disc 2, 4 min) - From one of the dated features on this release is this tour of Pixar studios. At the time it was new, but now it's been in use for the better part of a decade. It would have been cool to have this feature, paired with a new one, around the same length, showing us what the studios look like now and how they've changed.
- Banished Concepts (HD, Disc 2, 10 min) - Five deleted scenes, some which actually offer fully rendered animation, are introduced one by one by Lee Unkrich.
- Storyboard to Film Comparison (HD, Disc 2, 16 min) I always like these types of features when dealing with an animated film. We can see exactly how storyboard art translates into the finished product by getting a split screen comparison of both of them playing out simultaneously.
- Designing Monstropolis (SD, Disc 2, 3 min) -
- Set Dressing (SD, Disc 2, 3 min) - This featurette gives a little insight on how the filmmakers made different sets look like they have been lived in for a while (like Sulley's apartment). Great little featurette that gives us an idea of the kind of creativity that is needed to make a movie like this.
- Location Flyarounds (SD, 7 min) - Much like what was on the 'Wall-e' release, this gives us a complete view of the different sets used for the film without characters present.
- Monster File (SD, Disc 2, 7 min) - This featurette consists of two parts. The first part Cast of Characters is six minutes long and discusses the voices for the characters, they're designs and personalities. What Makes a Great Monster? is only one minute and gives us a brief glimpse into the art department and how they came up with some of the ideas behind the monsters. Too short to get really in depth though.
- Animation (SD, Disc 2, 26 min) - Six different featuerettes are housed under this section. Animation Process is three minutes long and shows how animation progresses from rough drawings to the polished product we see on screen. Early Tests is eight minutes long and shows early animation tests and the evolution of characters from the movie. Opening Title Animation is two minutes and takes a look at the opening sequence of 2-D animation with the doors being shuffled around during the opening credits. Hard Parts is five minutes and delves into what it was like to animated some of the character's clothing and weird body parts. Shots Department is two minutes and gives yet more information on how hard it is to animate certain things that require a lot more detail. Production Demonstration is around six minutes and shows the complete progression of a scene from storyboards to the finished product.
- Music & Sound (SD, Disc 2, 7 min) - Monster Song is three minutes of John Goodman and Billy Crystal discussing and singing the song "If I Didn't Have You." Sound Design is about four minutes and gives us an idea how sound effects are added to the film and how they are created.
- Release (SD, Disc 2, 12 min) - Way too much EPK stuff here. Footage of the premiere of the film, TV spots, clip reels, merchandising mumbo jumbo…etc. This is about the most worthless extra section of them all.
The only thing here worth noting is the "outtakes" that were at the end of the film during its theatrical run. They are presented in high definition.
- Monsters Only (SD, Disc 2, 12 min) - A few Japanese TV spots, a music video for "If I Didn't Have You," and a couple of weird interactive games for kids. Behind the Screams: On the Job with Mike & Sulley is three minutes and is in the "Monsters Only" section. Mike and Sulley give a little interview on what it's like working for Monsters, Inc. Orientation gives three more featurettes (sub menus inside of sub menus, it's getting confusing) Welcome to Monsters, Inc. is a one minute advertisement for the company, Your First Day is a three minute film on what to expect for your first day on the job, and History of the Monster World is an all too short (one minute) featurette giving us the differences between the monster world and the human world.
- Wrap-Up (SD, Disc 2, 1 min) - A nice little goodbye from the people involved with making the film.
- Art Gallery (HD, Disc 2) - Wow! Around 900 stills of various animation that goes along with the film. Very interesting stuff, but after about 150 or so, it just becomes too much.
- Director's Introduction (HD, Disc 1, 1 min) - Before the film begins, director Pete Docter gives a little insight into what we can expect to see on this first ever Blu-ray release of 'Monsters, Inc.'
- Filmmakers Round Table (HD, Disc 1, 22 min) - Seriously the guys at Pixar have done more advertising for the Hidden City Café than the restaurant could ever dream of. The café is the one featured in one of the 'Wall-e' trailers. Now the crew gets back together to offer a round table discussion that is a Blu-ray exclusive. Just like the informative and cheerful commentary, this round table is more of the same loving banter about 'Monsters, Inc.' Pixar alumni Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson, and Bob Peterson gather around to laugh, joke and discuss the film. It's a fantastic edition to the special features.
- Monsters, Inc. Ride and Go Seek: Building Monstropolis in Japan (HD, Disc 1, 8 min) - During Docter's introduction he explains that there's a new Blu-ray exclusive feature that offers a short look at the making of, and production of a new ride for Disneyland, Tokyo. I've been on the 'Monsters, Inc.' ride in California Adventure, and as fun as that one is, this one looks like it blows it out of the water. The detail that went into creating Monstropolis is stunning.
- Roz's 100 Door Challenge (HD, Disc 2) - Another Blu-ray exclusive, but this one is a little less interesting that the others. It's just an employee placement game to see where you'd best fit within the Monsters, Inc. organization. Could be fun for kids though.
No easter eggs reported for 'Monsters, Inc.' yet. Found an egg? Please use our tips form to let us know, and we'll credit you with the find.
'Monsters, Inc.' is a classic, plain and simple. It will be a movie that, like the classic animated films of Disney, will stand the test of time. It has and will be beloved by children and adults for years to come. It has found a perfect home on Blu-ray with a near perfect video presentation and a superbly crafted, demo worthy, audio presentation. This is simply a must own for any Blu-ray collection.