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The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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‘Monsters University’ director, producer talk inspiration for prequel, creation process

+Mike+Wazowski%2C+voiced+by+Billy+Crystal%2C+returns+in+%E2%80%9CMonsters+University%2C%E2%80%9D+the+prequel+to+2001%E2%80%99s+%E2%80%9CMonsters%2C+Inc.%E2%80%9D
Courtesy of Bigscreenanimation.com
Mike Wazowski, voiced by Billy Crystal, returns in “Monsters University,” the prequel to 2001’s “Monsters, Inc.”

Mike Wazowski, voiced by Billy Crystal, returns in “Monsters University,” the prequel to 2001’s “Monsters, Inc.” (Courtesy of Bigscreenanimation.com)

Mike and Sully from “Monsters, Inc.” are coming back to the big screen for their college debut.

The beloved monsters return in Disney’s new film, “Monsters University,” which hits theaters on June 21, 2013.

In a nationwide college conference call, the film’s director, Dan Scanlon, and the film’s producer, Kori Rae chatted about the anticipated prequel to the animated film.

So, how did the idea of bringing the monsters back come about?

According to Scanlon, the relationship between Mike and Sully led filmmakers to explore ideas for another film.

Thoughts about their friendship led to the question, “How did these guys meet?” Scanlon said.

What better place to explore the formation of the unique friendship than going back to college.

“We loved the idea of doing something in a university…and just the opportunity for sort of fun monster antics that could come out of that,” Scanlon said.

Mike is not immune to the challenges that a human college student faces during their freshman year of college.

“That led us to the story of Mike…and that sort of feeling, the difficulty when you arrive at college thinking you’re the best of the best. And then you come up against some pretty stiff competition.”

According to the director and producer, the decision to send the monsters to college was not necessarily geared towards appealing to adult audiences, but rather maintaining the characters of Mike and Sully in their adult state.

“I think we just knew that we wanted the characters to be somewhat familiar adults,” Scanlon said.

“For example if we went back too far, and did Monsters Elementary….we didn’t feel like that would be the Mike and Sulley that we remember and love.”

In order to truly capture the essence of the college experience, the research for the film required the filmmakers to visit schools.

Since the majority of the filmmakers went to art schools, they sought to explore the traditional fraternity and sorority experience.

“We wanted do just walk around and soak it up and see the buildings and the fraternities and sororities, and just kind of get our heads set back into the college student mindset,” Scanlon said.

Among their observations was “fraternities with sleeping students,” Rae added.

“It was a really good opportunity and the artists came and actually drew buildings and drew sort of campuses and in the end, put them all together to create a campus that, although it’s original to Monsters University, hopefully feels familiar to everyone,” Scanlon said.

After completing their research and creating the campus, the next step was to make the monsters look younger.

To achieve this, the art department worked to make the characters appear thinner and brighter in color.

“We started to notice that thinning them up really helped. We were all a little thinner in college,” Scanlon said.

Rae found that the task was to find the balance between making the characters appear younger while still maintaining their familiarity.

“It was important that they were recognizable… so we had parameters that we wanted to make sure that we kept. We didn’t want to do anything too crazy because they still needed to look like Mike and Sulley and be recognized as Mike and Sulley without a whole lot of changes,” she said.

It was not only challenging to update the main characters, but also to populate the University with new characters, Rae added.

“It was a lot for the character department, and it was also a lot for the animation department, who had to animate scene after scene of anywhere from six to ten to twelve characters in the foreground,” Rae said.

“And then have hundreds of characters in the background. So just the scope of the film from a character standpoint was definitely a challenge.”

When “Monsters, Inc.” was released in 2001, the animation used to create Sulley’s hair was groundbreaking at the time.

Since then, there have been major advancements in technology that the filmmakers took advantage of in the making of thesecond movie.

“What we can do now is pretty staggering,” Rae said.

Scanlon found that one of the biggest advancements is the use of lighting.

“We have a sort of a new system of lighting our movies, which has been great,” he said. “We love it, it’s just created a much richer look to the film than what we’ve had before.”

While the technology may have changed, some of the voices are remaining the same.

Billy Crystal and John Goodman returned to reprise their roles as the voice of Mike and Sulley.

“He (Crystal) loves this character Mike Wazowski so much. And so he was thrilled to come back,” Rae said.

Giving a voice to the younger characters required the actors to be a little more “energetic,” Scanlon and Rae said.

This mostly required “a little more yelling.”

It was the voice work and the animation that allowed the filmmakers to be able to achieve their goal of taking the monsters back to college.

“I think it was more in the energy. And then amazingly, the animation helps that illusion as well…these characters look younger, they move younger and they’re- it,” Scanlon said.

Ultimately, Scanlon and Rae agree in addition to being a fun film, the early story of Mike and Sulley’s friendship will still emotionally touch audiences.

See the film when it hits theaters nationwide on June 21, 2013. 

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