One can owe a ton of credit on Pixar’s behalf for keeping childhood happy especially for those born around my time. No matter which of their films it may be, going from the Toy Story series to Finding Nemo or The Incredibles, a part of our childhood comes right out from these films. Yet even for adult viewers their films still carry their appeal, whether it be their inventiveness or their mannerisms of approaching more emotional beats. Although Monsters, Inc. is not my favourite work from the studio (I’m partial to Toy Story 1 and 2) it always remained so dear to my own heart for not only is it a cute-appearing one from the outside but it also carries what truly are some of their most resonant beats to date. I’ve noted already in my review of Who Framed Roger Rabbit that when we still recognize what sort of impact our childhood favourites have had even when watching now, something to treasure is left and Monsters, Inc. is yet another film I owe a lot to.
As a child, there’s a specific fear that roots inside of one’s head involving monsters coming out of the closets. I remember when I was much younger, I had this fear myself – then my late uncle would come by. When he stepped in, he showed me Monsters, Inc. and it was soon enough I not only got over this fear of the monsters in my closet but it was also the first time in which I can vividly remember feeling sad as a result of a film. My uncle would always be up to treat me to a Pixar film then and there, in fact he treated me to my first ever theater experience with Finding Nemo and the whole family to The Incredibles. I still remember his final days well, for on the last visit I made to see him in his hospital bed, we watched Monsters, Inc. together for one last time and I was more teary than I remembered how I was the first time we watched it together.
When I looked at Monsters, Inc. nowadays, something hit me even harder that made me realize what it was that made me love it as much as I did back then, for maybe I only found more this time around. Just as always with Pixar, we have the usual odd couple again with Mike and Sulley – but what hit me about Monsters, Inc. didn’t ring only from how perfect the chemistry between the two of them was, but a sudden thought rang into my head that convinced me it was quite possibly their most inventive work other than the ingenuity present in the Toy Story series. They take an age-old fear of monsters living in the closets and explored a whole new world within the process, by exploring what is the purpose these monsters now have with collecting the screams of unsuspecting children, and the ingenuity to where this idea can be expanded towards is still roaming free.
The moment in which Toy Story 2 had come by on Pixar’s end, their films have went ahead to enter more dramatic territory but in Monsters, Inc., the ever presence of the drama all throughout when mixed together with the comedy is fleshed out to a larger scale. It was clear from Sulley’s first moments of connecting together with Boo after taking her home with him and Mike, when Randy Newman’s score hit the marks. Pixar’s beats upon this territory have always formed some of their most resonant moments, as shown through Jessie’s story in Toy Story 2 and in Monsters, Inc. no exception is present. In some sense, it hit me almost in a manner that reminds me of My Neighbor Totoro, where simplicity was key but also in a more figurative sense when looking back at what has been established between Boo and Sulley. Boo is a figure representing our childhoods and how at a younger point in our lives, we were so curious about the world around us and Sulley plays off like that imaginary friend we created at said time. Even though Boo is not the focus of our story opposed to Sulley and Mike, she’s never present for the sake of convenience thus elevating the emotional impact of their final moments which only come by through facial expression.
And when I look back at said facial expression which concludes the film, that’s where I come back to think of my uncle once again. That image I see isn’t one of Sulley smiling to see an old friend again, but my uncle smiling upon me and where I’ve managed to move towards within my life. Looking upon it now, I teared up more than I remembered especially with a thought running that while I was watching the film together with him as he was lying in his hospital bed that I should have done more for him. I still owe a lot to him for providing the strength necessary to grow to become who I am, but seeing him smile upon me again through an image of Sulley I’m left wondering what exactly have I done to return the favour to him. Nevertheless, it was a thought that haunted me more as it lingered in my head and I still search for that answer. Maybe it might have been the joy of my own growth which he played a huge part, and it could only ever have been what he wanted most.
But going back to Monsters, Inc., I only find that my own love for it has strengthened over time and it also stands as Pixar’s best film apart from the Toy Story series. Maybe it may very well be their most inventive film in my own eyes but in how it takes a long-going childhood fear to bring out something heart-wrenching in the end, something more has come out right on the spot. John Goodman and Billy Crystal make a perfect pair as Sulley and Mike, just as Steve Buscemi does with the deceiving demeanor as Randall Boggs. Some may complain about the look of the animation being dated but I still think it holds up fine, but when so much more comes along for the adventure, that’s all which remains important when talking about Monsters, Inc. – a childhood favourite that maybe I’ve grown to love more as I got older.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Disney/Pixar.
Directed by Pete Docter
Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Dan Gerson
Produced by Darla K. Anderson
Starring John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly
Release Year: 2001
Running Time: 92 minutes