Monsters, Inc. - 3D: Ultimate Collector's EditionOverview -
Monsters, Inc. is a factory which sends monsters around the world to scare kids who are trying to sleep. It's nothing personal, in fact the screams are used to power Monstropolis where the monsters live. This job isn't easy for the monsters, who believe children are toxic. James P. Sullivan, a large woolly blue monster, is one of the company's top scarers. Teamed up with a troublesome green one-eyed monster named Mike Wazowski, the two roommates and best friends are finding that today's kids are not as easily scared as they used to be. One night Sulley accidentally lets a young girl named Boo into the monster world. Now Sulley and Mike must risk their own safety as they race to get Boo back into the human world without letting anyone know of her existence.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
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.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The biggest surprise about the new five-disc 3D Blu-ray re-release of 'Monsters, Inc.' is that even the 2D discs contains new content, visual enhancements and audio upgrades from the 2009 Blu-ray version. Included in this set are three BD-50s (one with the 3D feature and 3D extras, another with the 2D feature and a few extras, and another loaded with 2D special features), one DVD (the standard-def feature) and another Digital Copy disc. Easily removable stickers on the lithographic slip cover explain that the Disney Rewards code will give you a free ticket to the prequel 'Monsters University' when it opens this summer and that a special peek at the new film is contained with this set – which is slightly bogus because of where it's located on the discs. You have to go to the special features menu, select Sneak Peeks and re-watch all of the pre-menu trailers again (or skip past them one by one) to get to it. The only features missing from the previous Blu-ray release are the introduction from director Pete Docter and the Ride and Go Seek walk through.
'Monsters, Inc 3D' has been given a superb 1080p/MPEG-4 MVC encode. The brightness and coloriz have been properly cranked up to completely eliminate the chance of the video appearing dark, dingy, or less-colorful. The 3D transfer doesn't contain a single instance of pop-up 3D; instead, every shot carries multiple layers of depth. When we get to the door vault during the film's climax, there are countless layers of varying depth.
When it comes to fine details and textures, it almost looks like Pixar has gone back and upped the animation just to make it look even better. If you thought that Sully's fur was phenomenally detailed and lifelike before, it appears even more so here. Randall's scales appear even more bumpy and defined than ever. One area that was certainly updated was the video quality of the 'For the Birds' Pixar short. I went back and compared the quality of the two different Blu-ray releases and 'For the Birds' has definitely had animation updates. Aliasing telephone wires are no more, and the texture of the birds' features is even more detailed and elaborate than before.
The 2D 1080p AVC-encoded transfer of 'Monsters, Inc.' 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. 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. Like Aaron, I really wanted to give this 3D release a five-star video rating, but one technical still quibble holds this transfer back from absolute perfection - aliasing. The fine fringe hairs on Sulley's body cause it, as do a few other instances of fine lines moving on the screen (door frames, paper ends, etc.). This flaw exists on both the 3D and 2D discs. Having recently watched '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.
I didn't expect this upgrade, but 'Monsters, Inc. 3D' has scrapped the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix for an active 7.1 Dolby TrueHD one – and it's brilliant. If you thought the 5.1 mix was perfect, just wait until you hear how much more inclusive this sound can be.
Just like the previous 5.1 mix, 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.
The loud obvious sounds are just as impressionable as the smaller subtle ones. As Mike, Sulley, and Boo fly through the door vault while being chased by Randall, doors whoosh by you on every side, making you feel like you're hanging on with the heroes. When Sully and Mike enter the main lobby of Monsters, Inc. for the first time, you can hear individual monsters walking (or oozing) through the echoey space even though they may never be seen on screen.
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 immersing. 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 that has only been made better by a 7.1 upgrade.
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.
- Sneak Peeks (HD, Discs 1 [partial] and 2) – This is where the new 3-minute look at 'Monsters University' is hidden. You must first watch (or skip past) the original teaser for 'Monsters U' and the Blu-ray trailers for 'The Little Mermaid' and 'Wreck-It Ralph.' I don't recommend watching this mostly clip-free walk-through of the film with director Dan Scanlon because of how much of the film's plot it spoils. Following the 3-minute tease, you have to watch a Disney BD commercial, a Disneyland commercial, a TV spot for the Disney Channel's 'Jessie,' the trailers for Disney's upcoming 'Planes' and the Blu-ray trailer for 'Mulan.'
- Audio Commentary (Discs 2 and 4) - Available only on the 2D feature, 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.
- Toy Story Toons: 'Partysaurus Rex' (HD, Discs 1 and 2, 7 min) – Get ready to revisit the world of 'Toy Story' again with 'Partysaurus Rex,' the new Pixar short that was attached to the brief theatrical release of 'Monsters, Inc. 3D.' After ruining the gang's fun, Rex is deemed a "party pooper" and left to play with Bonnie in the bath. We get another awesome sequence showing the kids' point of view playing with toys. Rex is left in the bath with the rest of the sad tub toys. All they want to do is party, but without arms, unless the tub is full of water, they're boringly confined to the dry bath. Proving that he's not a party pooper, Rex becomes "Partysaurus Rex," turning the water on and starting a rave with all the bath toys. Break out your glow sticks for the best 'Toy Story' short yet presented in 7.1 Dolby TrueHD.
- Short: For the Birds (HD, Discs 1 and 2, 3 min) – Upgraded in both 3D and 2D formats, one of the best things about getting a catalog 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 – now with enhanced animation, video qualities and an optional director's commentary.
- Outtakes and Company Play (HD, Discs 1, 5 min) – This feature is also found in 2D under the "Release" portion of the bonus disc (disc 3), but it's now available in 3D on disc 1. What played during the credits of the theatrical release is now just a special feature, but the fact that it was converted to 3D shows the amount of love that Pixar has for it.
- Short: Mike's New Car (HD, Disc 2, 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. Too bad it's still in a 4:3 aspect ratio.
- Pixar Fun Factory Tour (HD, Disc 3, 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.
- Story Featurettes (HD and SD, Disc 3, 22 min) – Co-director David Silverman kicks off these four featurettes by walking us through the process of how the 'Monsters, Inc.' story came about. We're given interview footage with the cast, filmmakers and studio heads. Included is the 14-minute original animated treatment (now in HD) - which has some major differences between the movie as we know it - and a scene pitch.
- Banished Concepts (HD, Disc 3, 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 3, 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 3, 3 min) – Co-director David Silverman explains that creative process has to happen before the animation process. Get a little glimpse at how the monster's practical world was created.
- Set Dressing (SD, Disc 3, 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, Disc 3, 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 3, 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 3, 26 min) - Six different featurettes 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 3, 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 3, 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 that used to be worth noting is the "outtakes" section that ran at the end of the film during its theatrical run – but they are now also contained on the the main feature 3D disc.
- Monsters Only (SD, Disc 3, 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 3, 1 min) - A nice little goodbye from the people involved with making the film.
- Art Gallery (HD, Disc 3) - 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.
'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. Although it already exists on Blu-ray, this five-disc 3D set is well worth the double-dip for the upgrades, enhancements, and new special features. It carries a near perfect video presentation with a 3D transfer that's simply brilliant. The brand new 7.1 audio mix makes for a superbly crafted, demo-worthy audio presentation. And a larger, dizzying amount of special features is included that will hold over any fan until 'Monsters University' opens. This is even more of a "must own" title than it was before.
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