Blu-Ray Review: Monsters, Inc.

Monsters, Inc. represents something of a pivotal moment for Pixar. It was the first time director John Lasseter turned over the reigns, and coming off of Toy Story 2 and A Bug's Life that was probably for the best. Pete Docter (who also went on to direct Up) clearly brought a ton of momentum and innovation to the project. In many ways Monsters, Inc. heralded the second golden era of Pixar, culminating in Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

The Blu-ray looks amazing, and like everything else Pixar does, the limits of excellence are tested. The sound is 5.1 DTS-HD, the picture is 1080p, and it looks absolutely stunning. Kids and adults love the film, it's still rated among the top 250 films of all time, and Pixar and Disney aficionados will find features here that show off the technical mastery too.

The first feature I watched on disc one was entitled Filmmakers' Round Table. It's 22 minutes long and includes the director, co-director, producer, and story supervisor. What's striking about the Filmmakers' Round Table feature is how collaborative Pixar seems. Some interesting items are hinted at, from Billy Crystal turning down the role of Buzz Lightyear to early drafts of the storyboard that didn't even have a "Mike" character. Also tackled: How 9/11 changed a specific scene and the perils of recording a 2-year-old girl.

The other main feature of the disc is Building Monstropolis, a new attraction in Tokyo Disney. I'd call it moderately interesting. The commentary by Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich, Andrew Stanton, and John Lasseter covers a few of the topics broached in Filmmakers' Round Table, but it's still worth a listen. The group draws your eye to items you definitely would have missed, from the various moments the film's internal logic is slightly toyed with to the difficulties behind each of the shots. Quick trivia: Pete Docter brought in a yodeling recording he wanted to use in a shot (the one where Boo is almost put into another house), but Pixar couldn't get the rights because the recording was too old to track down.

Disc two of the Blu-ray release is loaded with features as well -- far too many to go over, so I'll hit the high notes for you. The first feature is 100 Doors, a 100-question trivia/activity game that is meant to decide your job within the Monsters, Inc corporation. As question #8 took me about ten tries I'll tell you the answer is 13 ... that should help you along your way. The next feature is called Humans Only, and it's 13 featurettes broken out chronologically. The original story ideas, concepts that were discarded, storyboard vs. film comparisons, animating ... you want it, it's in here. You'll learn just how difficult fur and snow used to be to model and animate. It's certainly more adult-focused, unless you're hoping your child will grow up to make films. If so, by all means, throw him or her in front of a couple hours of production diaries. Monsters Only is the third and final feature on the bonus disc, and it's mercifully short, containing only three subsections and seven chapters. My favorite of the bunch was a new employee orientation video. At this point I should mention the Blu-ray edition comes with an additional digital copy as well as a standard DVD version, should you find yourself in need of either of those.

This is a slam dunk purchase if you're a fan of Pixar, animation, children's movies, or just great films in general. It contains oodles of features, but more importantly it includes an impressive Blu-ray version of the original film. If you haven't seen it be sure to give it at least a rental, and if you have seen it you already know it's an appropriate gift or stocking stuffer. Enjoy it, because we don't get too many films like this.

Monsters, Inc. is available now from Disney Pixar.