Disney/Buena Vista .
R4 . COLOR . 88 mins .
G . PAL
Animation experts Pixar have done it again with their new feature Monsters, Inc., which stars John Goodman and Billy Crystal. Released around the world in over 30 different languages, this film originally emerged in Australia the same day as The Fellowship of the Ring and blitzed the box office for children’s films over the holiday period.
Pixar now have a solid collection of feature-length films behind them, as well as a stack of shorts including the award-winning Geri’s Game (available on the A Bug’s Life DVD) and For the Birds (featured on this DVD). Their innovative technology and creative design place them way out front in the race for digital animation for films, although companies such as Blue Sky Studios (the technologically-minded creators behind Ice Age) and Dreamworks (the masters behind Shrek) are starting to catch up. The adorable characters and driving stories behind Pixar’s films keeps them ahead of the rest with hilarious situations and dual interests for audiences. The humour works on two levels – the simple laughs for the kids, and the older ones for the adults. This is what drags parents in with their kids, as they know because it is Pixar that they will get a laugh too.
Do you sell contact lenses?
The beautiful animation is aided by a talented cast which is driven by a pulsating script. Billy Crystal is hilarious as the one-eyed green ball Mike Wazowski, and his entire character steals the comedy. Billy Crystal (for some) is the most annoying actor (can you guess who thinks this?) but he is watchable and lovable in this film, due to the fact that you don’t know that it is him half the time. John Goodman is perfect for the furball James Sullivan (a.k.a. Sulley). His deep voice suits the build of his character and his mannerisms convey his gentle-giant tone. Sulley is so cute and cuddly (he says as he looks at his stuffed Sulley from a Happy Meal...) and is the real heart and soul of the emotional story behind the movie. The other cast members include Jennifer Tilley as the Medusa-haired Celia and James Coburn as the Monsters, Inc. boss Henry J. Waternoose.
Things are driven along with a superb score written by Randy Newman. On the 25-track soundtrack, the orchestral score is accompanied by the theme, If I Didn’t Have You, which is the heart of the friendship between Mike and Sulley. The tone of the music compliments the action on screen, and builds to the busy nature of the factory and world created by Pixar’s artists.
The story is based around two friends, Mike and Sulley, who work at Monsters, Inc. They scare children and capture their screams to be used as an energy source. Scaring is done on a “scaring floor” where doors are retrieved by swiping a key-card and then hooked up to the Monsters, Inc. equipment where the scarer walks through the door which acts as a portal to the childrens’ bedrooms. Mike is in charge of the paperwork and getting doors for Sulley, his scarer. However, after Mike forgets the paperwork (again), Sulley retrieves his work for him, but finds a door in the empty scaring floor. He enters this door to investigate, but finds nothing. He returns to the scaring floor to finds a child has made the trip with him. Now one thing to remember is that monsters are scared of children more than children of monsters. This child, now known as Boo, must be returned and it's up to Mike and Sulley to do this. But the plot thickens when a fellow-scarer is seen to be cheating, but is actually up to more than meets the eye... umm, pardon the pun...
The film is presented in a widescreen aspect of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
This video transfer is near-faultless, and easily stands out as reference quality. As with other Pixar films such as A Bug’s Life, the video was mastered directly from the digital source of the film. Because of this, none of those film-related problems are going to be an issue at all. This means that telecine wobble, grain and film artefacts are nowhere near this disc.
The artistically designed world of Monstropolis is rendered superbly on screen, with a deep, rich colour palette hosting the brightest colours and most vibrant tones. Reds are bold and strong, blues are luminescent and solid and yellows are golden and bright. Blacks are deep and rich with no sign of any low-level noise. The palette is so broad, yet each tone gets its own high priority in the compression process.
Get this thing off me...
Being a digitally animated feature, lighting is added and is perfected on the animator’s screen prior to its release. This means that the shadows are intended and complete. The image is consistently sharp, due the fact that it is all digitally animated with no physical elements required. The level of detail is high, with a great clarity throughout. Sulley’s fur is a superb example of this, with each hair being easily visible and distinguishable.
With the feature length being so short, no MPEG problems are visible with the solidly compressed video. There are no cases of aliasing, even on the finely detailed fur.
The layer change occurs at 31:51, and is brief, unobtrusive and very well placed. Five subtitle tracks are available - English, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish. They are presented in a white typeface with a fine black outline, and are easy to read and accurate.
Four audio tracks exist on Disc 1 – English Dolby Digital 5.1 and English DTS 5.1, as well as an audio commentary and sound effects track. The DTS track features an ES flag, and works if you have the necessary hardware. However, there is no EX flag on the Dolby Digital track as it is not being used at present due to major problems it caused on some receivers. If you want to listen to EX sound with the Dolby Digital track, you need to turn on EX processing manually.
Both Dolby Digital and DTS tracks offer superb renditions of the soundtrack, with DTS slightly overshadowing the Dolby Digital. The fidelity and dynamic range of the DTS track is ever-so-slightly more than that of the Dolby Digital. Regardless, both tracks are bold enough to rock your living room. Another note is that both tracks are THX certified, and the disc comes with a THX Optimizer (you gotta love the American spelling!). This handy little tool is located in the 'Set Up' page on Disc 1 and allows you to set up your speakers and tweak your television to give the best output. Prior to the film, we are treated to a 35 second THX trailer with what looks like a broken Lego man with a cow noise maker. Weird, I know, but how else can you explain it? Nothing beats the good ol’ low-end THX logo, like the one used in Titanic.
Dialogue is crisp, clear and audible throughout, with no audio synch issues. It is projected primarily from the centre channel, with the odd effectual piece of dialogue spilling from the front left or right channels. The surround channels get a fairly hefty workout, as do the front left and right. Overall, the soundstage is deep and enveloping and sucks the audience right in. The subwoofer is intense yet subtle and packs a punch where appropriate.
Where to start – normally its just complaints in the extras department, but this disc sure makes up for them!
Disc 1 hosts only three special features.
Teaser Preview for Pixar’s 2003 feature-length film, Finding Nemo. It is presented in a widescreen aspect of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced. It runs for 2:01, and shows that Pixar may just have what it takes to make another top-notch film. An Audio Commentary featuring Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, John Lasseter and Lee Unkrich is very informative and busy. Someone always has something to say, yet at times some of the information is just reiterated from the special features. A 5.1 Sound Effects Mix has been added which contains the brilliant and detailed Foley effects used for the film. Sure, it's not going to be everyone’s cup of tea for a feature-length track, but it is interesting just to flick to every now and then.
Disc 2 holds a monster-load of special features – enough for both the little ones and the not-so-little ones. And just so I don’t need to keep repeating myself, all extra features are presented in a full frame aspect of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, unless otherwise stated. This disc is introduced by the directors, producer and the Pixar chimpanzee (don’t ask me why, because my guess is as good as yours). This introduction gives you some clues about the “extra” content on the DVD, *wink wink, nudge nudge*.
From the main menu, you have access to Outtakes which run for 5:24. They are the bloopers that are in the end credits to the film, just made to fill the screen. These feature Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Mike’s New Car is a special short film made for the DVD, and tells the story of Mike’s new car (funnily enough). It runs for 3:35, and has Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, as well as an optional commentary by Docter and Gould. No, not the directors, but their kids. This is a very cute commentary and very funny to listen to. The Oscar-winning film For the Birds (which also screened prior to the film in its theatrical release) is included which runs for 3:16. It features Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and is presented in the aspect of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. It is a very funny and cute film, which can be watched with an informative commentary.
This large section of the extras covers the technical aspects of the making of the film. Sure, they are not full-on, but they're still informative and interesting to watch.
The Production Tour is a good way to kick off in the Human’s world, which takes you on a tour through the Pixar Animation Studios in California. It runs for 18:36, and also includes the first section of the other parts to the DVD.
The Story section offers features relating to the story and construction of the film. Story is King runs for 2:03 and introduces the story department and the studio and gives you a run down on the process. This part is also included in the Tour video. Monsters Are Real runs for 1:33 and describes the relationship between monsters and humans, and the fact that monsters are scared of the so-called “toxic” humans. Original Treatment runs for 13:45 and is a concept story-book with colour sketches. Story Pitch: Back To Work runs for 4:39 and features Bob Peterson (the storyboard artist) giving a “sales hype” for the scene by walking through and acting out the detailed story boards. Banished holds a few of the abandoned ideas. These have been placed on another menu and feature a :32 second introduction. The numbers in the brackets refer to the duration of the clip. The ideas are Assistant Sulley (2:16), End of Day (2:37), Bad Scare (3:02) and Scream Refining (1:08). These are not fluid animations, rather just the story boards of these ideas placed within a movie with dialogue. The Storyboard to Film Comparison is a multi-angled documentary of the “Back at the Apartment” scene. It runs for 5:43, and is presented in the aspect of 1.85:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. The possible angles are Storyboard Only, Final Colour only or a Split Screen of the two.
The Monster Files section holds information regarding the creation of the monsters. Cast of Characters runs for 5:54 and introduces the various cast members and characters of the film. This clip is also part of the Tour. What Makes A Great Monster? runs for 1:27 and is from the art department’s point-of-view about creating the “perfect” monster for the film. The large Character Designs gallery features a vast number of images for all the characters in the film. The number in the brackets refers to the amount of images, and the second number is how many “Turnarounds”, which are 360-degree simulations of the finished characters. Images exist for: Sulley (36 + 1), Mike (18 + 1), Boo (27 + 1), Sulley and Boo (9), Henry J. Waternoose (9 + 1), Randall/Rivera (9 + 1), Celia/Rox (9 + 1), Fungus/Jerry (9 + 1), Ted/Smitty/Needleman (9 + 1), George/“Claws” (9 + 1), Bile/Harley (9 + 1), “Bud”/Bob/Ricky (9 + 1), C.D.A. (9 + 1) and Monster Wannabees (45). This large gallery of concept character art is interesting to see, and allows you to trace the development of the characters.
The Design section steps into the world of designing Monstropolis and the artistic influences and sets. Monstropolis runs for 2:51 and is part of the Tour of the Pixar Studios. The Setting the Scene portion describes the innovative technology used to “dress” the scenes. The “Set Dressing” component runs for 3:24 and describes the process, while the “Step Through” component allows you to step through five scenes from their base stage to their completed prop stage. The Colour Scripts are pastel sketches of different locations and characters and are arranged on eight pages, with a total of seventy one images. The Master Lighting Gallery has eight images where you can compare the concept art with the final frame from the film. The Location Flyarounds are just that, where you fly through the different sets. The duration is in brackets after the title. The different sets are Downtown (1:11), The Apartment (1:27), Mine (3:08), Simulator (0:52) and Boo’s Room (0:33). The Monstropolis Art Galleries are a collection of different parts of Monstropolis. They are divided into particular areas, with the number in brackets referring to the total of images. You are able to look at the Door Vault (9), the Door Station (9), Monstropolis (50), Monsters Inc. (18) and the Scare Floor (20). The Guide to In-Jokes is a page-by-page guide to different gags in the film relating to the crew. There are 21 in-jokes described in total.
The Animation component allows you to explore the complex world of animation and the technology used to create the film. The Animation Process gives a brief summary of computer animation and runs for 3:14, and is part of the Tour. The Early Tests run for 8:15 and are the original animations used to map out the film on computer. The Opening Title Animation feature runs for 2:09 and describes the concepts for the opening titles and the mood that they convey. The Hard Parts describes the difficult tasks that the software engineers had to overcome in order to do exactly what the animators required, including dynamic engineering, which conveyed the laws of physics into computer props. The Shots Department runs for 2:16 and describes the process of “simulation” of the fur and Boo’s shirt. The Production Demonstration is the second multi-angled feature, which allows the user to view four different stages of a scene. The scene has a :42 second introduction, and then lets the audience choose the 'Story Reel', 'Layout', 'Animation' or 'Final Colour' angle, which can be changed during the clip using the angle button.
The Music and Sound area allows the audience to gain information regarding the sound design and technology used for the film. The Monster Song feature runs for 3:17 and is all about the theme song If I Didn’t Have You, performed by Billy Crystal and John Goodman. The Sound Design runs for 4:16 and describes the process of adding sound and foley effects to a film. This short piece, shot at Skywalker Ranch, features footage of the foley artists as well as technical know-how of how the sounds were manipulated using computers. One of the most interesting features is the Binaural Recording component which breaks down into several parts. The first is a 1:12 introduction describing what binaural recording is. Simply put, it is a 3D microphone that picks up the sound space all around the microphone. The 57-second video clip shows Billy Crystal and John Goodman playing around with the technology and is very amusing to watch. The audio component features three clips with different sound formats. The first is the Film Mix (Stereo) which runs for :46 and has been taken from the soundtrack. The second is the Binaural Scoring Sound Stage which runs for 1:40 and allows you to hear the depth of the recording studio. The final is a Special Surround Mix in 5.1 which runs for :48 and really shows off the dynamic range of a 5.1 setup.
Oh my, Toy Story 3 on DVD?!
The Release component is the advertising and release tools. There is a 59 second clip from The Premiere as well as a 1:32 look at the toys created for Monsters, Inc.. The Poster Gallery contains 15 images of theatrical and advertising posters that were used around the world. The Outtakes are just a repeat of the same outtakes that are accessible from the main menu of this disc. The Trailers consist of one theatrical teaser (1:53), two theatrical trailers (1:52 and 1:21) and four TV spots (:33, :33, :33 and :18). All of these are presented in an aspect of 1.85:1 yet are not 16x9 enhanced. The International Inserts are clips showing the different ways in which Monsters, Inc. was translated and distributed around the world. The Multi-Language Clip Reel builds on this and shows the different translations and different clips from around the world. These two clips run for 1:09 and 3:48 respectively.
This smaller section of the disc allows you to enter the monsters’ world and join in with the scares of Monsters, Inc.
The New Monster Adventures are a collection of new clips and treats that revolve around the Monsters of Monstropolis. Mike’s New Car is the same clip as before, and has nothing different to offer. The Monster TV Treats run for 1:13 and show a collection of different commercials for the Monsters, Inc. company including holiday ads for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ponkickies21 is a Japanese TV show that Pixar created two game segments for. These games are Janken and Lucky Door Game, and they run for :36 and :56 respectively. These can either be watched with or without subtitles. Note though, that the language is Japanese for these two games. Peek-a-Boo: Boo’s Door Game is a game where you need to find the missing pieces of Boo’s Door. It's not terribly hard, but still it's something to keep the kids occupied. Storytime is a story where you can either read along or read aloud. This is a worthy addition for the kiddies where adults can supervise their child’s reading. The Music Video runs for 1:13 and is the video clip for the theme song.
Behind The Screams allows you to venture behind the scenes into the Monsters’ world. The Outtakes are the same ones that can be accessed from the Main Menu AND from the Release component of the Humans Only world. The Company Play Program is a humorous 23-page guide to the play “Put That Thing Back Where It Came From Or So Help Me,” as performed in the closing credits to the film. On The Job with Mike and Sulley runs for 2:33 and is a funny promotion for Monsters, Inc.
The Orientation gives you the complete guide to becoming an employee of Monsters, Inc. Welcome To Monsters, Inc. is a :56 introduction to the company. Your First Day walks you through the workplace of Monsters, Inc and has a great feel to it with an applied film grain and texture, making it appear like a training tape. This runs for 3:37. The History of Monster World runs for 1:40 and tells the history of... c’mon, you can guess it... Monster World! The Employee Handbook is a 15-page guide to becoming an employee, and the Monster of the Month gallery shows the wall of Sulley. The Scarer Cards are narrated by Smitty and Needleman. There are a stack of cards read by these two junior employees – quite humorous on their own.
And *phew* we’re at the end of the extras. You were warned there was a monster-load!
Overall, this is one perfect release. A faultless video transfer accompanied by a superb selection of audio tracks as well as a monster load of extras. What more could you want? This disc is a must have for everyone’s collection, period.