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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 11/8/02

Monsters, Inc.
Collector's Edition - 2001 (2002) - Pixar/Disney (Buena Vista)

review by Graham Greenlee of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Monsters, Inc.: Collector's Edition Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/A/B+

Specs and Features

Disc One: The Film
93 mins, G, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), Amaray keep case, single-sided, dual-layered (extra layer for full frame version), audio commentary (with director Pete Docter, co-director Lee Unkrich, executive producer John Lasseter and screenwriter Andrew Stanton), sound effects only track (DD 5.1 EX), animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (32 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 EX), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: The Extras
NR, full-frame (1.33:1), For the Birds short, Mike's New Car short, outtakes, "story" featurettes (including Monsters Are Real, Original Treatment, Original Sully Intro, Story Pitch, Banished Concepts, Monster Files and What Makes a Great Monster?), multi-angle storyboard to final feature comparison, "design" featurettes (including Step Through, Color Scripts, Master Lighting, Set Dressing and The Guide to In Jokes), location "fly-arounds" (of Downtown, The Apartment, Monsters, Inc., The Simulator and Boo's Room), "animation" featurettes (including Opening Title Animation, Hard Parts and Shots Department), multi-angle animation process demonstration, "music and sound" featurettes (including Sound Design and Binaural Recording), If I Didn't Have You music video and recording session footage, theatrical trailer, TV spots, international release featurette, multi-language reel, poster concepts, El Capitan theatre premiere footage, Ponkickies 21 featurette, the television broadcasts seen in the film (shown in their entirety), program for the fake company play Put That Thing Back Where It Came From (Or So Help Me), training videos (Welcome to Monsters, Inc., Your First Day at Monsters, Inc, and The History of the Monster World), text based Employee Handbook character guide, Scarer Cards, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, languages: English (DD 2.0 - some features DD 5.1)

Sully: "Hey, this might sound crazy but I don't think that kid's dangerous."

Mike: "Really? Well, in that case, let's keep it. I always wanted a pet that could KILL me!"

Monsters, Inc. is the fourth feature film from the team at Pixar, and yet again, they hit another home run, both with the film and the DVD release. While DVD fanatics might be bothered by some of the repetition that this set shares with the Toy Story and A Bug's Life releases, fans of the film and kids will love everything here.

If you're unfamiliar with the story, it goes a little something like this: Monstroplis is the capital of the monster world and is the home of the Monsters, Inc. plant. Monsters, Inc. is monster world's power supplier, and they create energy from capturing the screams of kids in the human world by sneaking into their rooms and scaring them at night.

Well, this vital job is like most others, and the "Top Scarer" James P. Sullivan (voiced by a very well cast John Goodman) is in a friendly competition with his fellow co-workers to scare the most children they can. But during this competition, a three-year old girl, nicknamed "Boo," has found her way into the monster world - and in the monster world, children are considered toxic and must be "terminated" immediately. Sully knows that Boo isn't harmful at all; she just needs to be put back into her world, and enlists the help of his roommate/best friend/co-worker Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal). But as they work to get her back into her world, they find that her appearance in their world is just part of a grand scheme to take over the Monsters, Inc. complex.

There is quite a lot of exposition to be handled in this film, but it is done quickly and clearly, using some pretty creative ways. And I could have gotten into more detail, mentioning the wonderful supporting characters like Celia (voice of Jennifer Tilly), the snake-haired receptionist, or Roz (voice of Bob Peterson), the droll Scare Room dispatcher. The entire film is brimming with cute visual gags and colorful set pieces, but beneath all of the comedy is a heart wrenching story of parental love, as Sully slowly begins to bond with Boo. And if the final scene doesn't bring a tear to your eye - well then you just aren't human.

Monsters, Inc. rivals Toy Story 2 as Pixar's finest feature, and I argue, it should have won the first Best Animated Feature Oscar (over Shrek). In any case, there is no denying how creative, touching, and outright hilarious Monsters, Inc. is compared to any film, animated or live-action.

Like Toy Story, A Bug's Life and Shrek, the transfer for this release has been pulled straight out of the computer, meaning absolutely no film was involved in the transfer process. The colors are vibrant, blacks are deep, and there is a great dimensionality to the picture. It's unfortunate that a full frame transfer was also provided on the same disc as the widescreen version (for all of those who don't like "them black bars") as it does limit the bit space that could have been devoted to the anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.85:1). Still, as it stands there is nothing in the way of compression artifacts, but the detailing seems a tad soft for a digital-to-digital transfer. Still, it's worlds above most DVD releases, and makes for an excellent film to test your display.

The included Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track is an amazing testament to movie sound, as Monsters, Inc. is one of the better sounding films of the last few years. The surrounds are in constant use, with various effects being used proportionately. Besides being immersive, the dialogue and Randy Newman's score are always clear. But the ambiance created by the surround channels are especially well handled, especially in the "Door Room" menu screen. The .1 LFE is wonderful and booming when it needs to be. It's about as perfect of an audio track that you're going to get short of DTS.

Also provided is a sound effects only track in 5.1 EX, which highlights the Oscar-nominated foley work in the film. Although, you may not want to run through the entire film with this track, it's a great opportunity to view favorite scenes without music or dialogue, and the amount of work that went into Monsters, Inc. is just amazing.

Now onto the extras, which have been much touted in ads and much hyped at the local video store. You do get two discs of Monster goodness and a lot of great extras here. But if you are familiar with The Ultimate Toy Box set or the deluxe edition of A Bug's Life, you'll find more of the same. While it's not a bad thing to say the least, (I personally wish that other titles would get this kind of treatment *cough* Harry Potter *cough*) for DVD fans it seems a little anti-climactic. But here is a run down of what we've got.

On Disc One, besides the sound effects track, there is a screen-specific audio commentary with Pete Docter (director), Lee Unkrich (co-director), John Lasseter (executive-producer), and Andrew Stanton (screenwriter). All four are, obviously, extremely knowledgeable on the film, and the commentary is a fun listen as they cover all aspects of the storytelling and the technical process behind the film. I do have to say that a lot of the information is also included in the bonus features in their own section; still, it's nice to hear it all in one place. (As a side note, this commentary is only accessible by viewing the widescreen version, as it's encoded on the same layer as the widescreen.)

On Disc Two, there is a unique menu hierarchy allowing you to choose between two worlds, "Human World" and "Monster World." These are more than just different looking menus; there are two completely sets of supplemental material. But first, on the screen where you choose which world you want to enter; there are some extras you can choose. The first one is the short For the Birds, which won an Oscar for Best Animated Short and was seen theatrically with Monsters, Inc. The second is a whole new short entitled Mike's New Car, featuring Mike and Sulley trying out a new car. I saw this during a special screening at the El Capitan for Who Framed Roger Rabbit and everyone fell out of their seats laughing; it's a great little short. Finally, Pixar has once again created faux-outtakes, which you can view here. The whole concept of animation "outtakes" is getting a little old, but there are a few good ones here with "Roz." At the end, you'll see the fake company play referred to in the movie.

Moving on to the "Human World," the supplements contained here are connected with the making of the film. The menu takes the form of the big "Door Room", and by selecting different doors; you are taken into the different "worlds" of production. Each new world has an introduction by the Pixar staff, which you can either view separately in each world or all together via the "Human world" menu.

The "Story" area is all about the planning that went behind the film. Monsters Are Real highlights the ideas behind the movie. We've also got the Original Treatment, with the Original Sully Intro and a videotaped Story Pitch. Banished Concepts is about as close as you can get to deleted scenes. A multi-angle feature highlights the process from a storyboard to the final frame. Then you have the "Monster Files", which contains the What Makes a Great Monster? featurette, focusing on monster concepts.

The "Design" area looks at the set design of the film. Here you have several features that you can go through with your remote. Step Through, Color Scripts and Master Lighting allow you to, step by step, see how the sets were "built," decorated, and lit to the final versions that you see in the film. There is also the Set Dressing featurette and the "location fly-arounds", which gives a tour of five of the films locations: Downtown, The Apartment, Monsters, Inc., The Simulator and Boo's Room. And there is The Guide to In Jokes, which highlights the little visual gags, tossed into the film that reference other Pixar films.

Next up is "Animation". Here you can find early animation tests to see what direction they were going with the film in the early stages, along with three vignettes (Opening Title Animation, Hard Parts and Shots Department) and a multi-angle demonstration of the animation process. There is also the "Music and Sound" section, where you can see the recording of If I Didn't Have You, and a featurette that shows how the sounds of the film were created. And if you have headphones, be sure to check out Binaural Recording, video on a recording technique that allows multiple microphones record sound much to the way we hear it.
[Editor's Note: Damn you Billy Crystal, but this featurette scared my little puppy to death, so much so that she hates the TV now and won't let me watch it - barking at it whenever it's on. Makes my life a bit complicated in terms of reviewing DVDs - TD]

Last in the "Human World" section is "Release", which includes the trailers (non-anamorphically), TV spots and features on the changes made to the film for international release. This includes a multi-language reel. You also get poster concepts, a clip on the premiere at the El Capitan theatre, and a link to the outtakes.

With that we move on to the "Monster World" section of the second disc. First up is the "New Monster Adventures", from which you can access Mike's New Car (again), the Monsters, Inc. TV spots, the If I Didn't Have You music video, and the very bizarre Ponkickies 21, which shows segments created for an incredibly bizarre Japanese children's show.

From there we move to "Behind the Screams", where you can access the outtakes (again), the television broadcasts from the film shown in their entirety, and the program for the fake company play Put That Thing Back Where It Came From (Or So Help Me). And there is the "Orientation" section, which allows you to pretend to be a monster trainee, with Welcome to Monsters, Inc., Your First Day at Monsters, Inc., and The History of the Monster World featurettes, along with the text based Employee Handbook character guide and Scarer Cards.

Pixar has created another great DVD release for this classic. If you don't already own this 2-disc special edition, you'll most defiantly want to pick this one up. It's among the year's best releases... and is definitely recommended.

Graham Greenlee
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