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.
'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.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.