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Feature: Monsters, Inc.

Things that make you go Aargh!

Monsters, Inc.: the bear-like Sulley with crabby Henry J Waternoose

Pixar's John Lasseter and star Billy Crystal discuss Monsters, Inc. - the new computer-animated hit from the creators of Toy Story

When Toy Story leapt onto the big screen back in 1995 it took the world by storm. Imitations followed thick and fast, but the computer wizzkids at Pixar, the company responsible, have remained at the forefront of the genre.

Monsters, Inc. represents the studio's most advanced and sophisticated use of computer technology to date. Set in Monstropolis, a land populated by monsters of all shapes and sizes, the film follows the hilarious misadventures of James P Sullivan (known as Sulley), an eight foot tall, blue-green monster with purple spots and horns, and his best friend and co-worker Mike Wazowski. They work for Monsters, Inc., the largest scream-processing factory in either world.

So how does Pixar's boss, John Lasseter, feel the finished film looks? "(Director) Pete Docter and his team have done an amazing job with the characters and relationships on this film. Audiences love when they see something they've never seen before but yet has some aspect to which they can relate. Monsters, Inc. presents this alternative world where the foundation is an urban company town that is familiar and yet it's presented in a way that audiences have never thought of before. Not only is it a funny film, but it has a richness of emotion that resonates and gives the characters a life way beyond the boundaries of the screen."

Pixar's method of choosing their actors - putting a vocal performance from one of their earlier films over the top of animated footage of the character - seemed to impress Billy Crystal. He told us, "John Lasseter showed me the Buzz Lightyear test with them using my voice" - a role Crystal turned down - "and it was hilarious. But to be very honest this part is much better for me." Why is that? "When I saw the test footage I just loved the character, but felt it shouldn't just sound like me. I wanted to add something else to it. You start developing the character and not just coming in and reading from a script. Once I got to that stage it was very free. So when I come in and put on the headset I never feel like me, I always feel like Mike. The guy's like Jiminy Cricket on speed!"

When you sat down to watch the finished film did you see anything of yourself in the character, physically? "I watched the film with my wife," says Billy. "She knows me better than anyone, and she said, ‘Hey, Mike really looks like you.' There's a scene where he's sitting in a sushi bar and smiling across the table at Celia (the girl monster he's in love with) and that's my face! One eye with no profile, but it's me all right!"

by Rupert Laight

Just part of the 6-page feature on Monsters Inc. in Starburst #283. John Goodman, Billy Crystal, John Ratzenberger, Steve Buscemi, John Lasseter, Pete Docter and technical director Tom Porter all talk more in the issue.

Images © 2001 Disney Enterprises / Pixar Animation
Feature © 2002 Visual Imagination. Not for reproduction

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Starburst #283, see below for ordering options
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