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Digital Media FX Review of Pixar's Monsters, Inc.
by Joe Tracy, publisher of Digital Media FX Magazine

Monsters, Inc. dFX Rating - 8.5

Pixar seems to be the only animation company that can "do no wrong" with its animated productions. From Toy Story to Monsters, Inc. the company has done an excellent job of entertaining children and adults with cutting edge computer animation, good stories, and strong humor. A lot of companies, including Disney, could learn a lot from studying Pixar's techniques.

That brings us to Pixar's latest offering - Monsters, Inc. Like other Pixar movies, Monsters, Inc. is very creative, entertaining, and evokes emotions. While it doesn't reach the heights of Toy Story or Toy Story 2, it still packs a huge entertaining punch.

Before writing this review, I watched Monsters, Inc. twice. The first time was the opening Friday and the second time was the next day, Saturday. Both showings ended up being sold out (after I got my tickets, thankfully). What surprised me, however, is that I spoke with several people waiting in line on Saturday who had already seen the movie Friday. Right there shows the replay value of this movie. Audiences love Monsters, Inc. which is likely why exit surveys on opening night (official and non-official) showed Monsters, Inc. getting higher ratings than any other movie this year.

Monsters, Inc. takes place in Pixar's imaginary town of Monstropolis where monsters live much like humans, except with more creativity. The problem with Monstropolis, however, is that there is a shortage of power. Only one company has a solution to the power crisis (and it isn't in California) - Monsters, Inc. which is able to harness screams from human children and turn those screams into power so that the citizens of Monstropolis can continue to live in comfort.

Monsters, Inc. is not directed by the visionary John Lasseter. Taking the helm for Monsters, Inc. is longtime Pixar guru Pete Docter. Docter is no stranger to the mega-success of Pixar's animated movies. He was supervising animator of Toy Story, which he worked on for over four years.

Monsters, Inc. - The Great
Here are some of the things that makes Monsters, Inc. a great movie:

1. The creativity. The imagination that went into the film shines throughout from the running gags (Mike's "appearance" in the TV commercial and magazine cover) to the concept of how the doors work in the Monsters, Inc. factory.

2. Boo. It is amazing how you can take a human child, Boo, and give her a vocabulary that consists only of baby babble (no coherent human words) and form such an effective communication and emotional aura with her. Because all kids go through the "baby babble" phase both parents and kids gain a lot of fun from this character.

3. The animation. Need I really mention this? Pixar's computer animation, as always, is top notch. From the character models to the movements, everything in this fantasy adventure/comedy is convincing. The animation of Scully's fur is particularly impressive, especially in one scene where he is lying still face down in the snow with the wind blowing his fur in near blizzard conditions.

4. The action. The action scenes in Monsters, Inc. - particularly the "door chase" scene - are executed with excellent precision. As the doors race along the tracks, you get the feeling that you are almost there on this strange, yet fun, fantasy ride...

Monsters, Inc. - The Average
Toy Story and Toy Story 2 packed an emotional punch with songs ("You've Got a Friend in Me" and "When She Loved Me") that really added a strong dimension to the films. This is lacking in Monsters, Inc.. The song that plays during the credits - "If I Didn't Have You" - is missing the magic that the songs from the Toy Story series contain.

Also, there's just something magical missing from Monsters, Inc. in the way the characters react to each other and are developed. Toy Story and Toy Story 2 were perfect in executing this magical formula and Monsters, Inc. comes close, but still misses. Perhaps one of the problems is that the villains aren't likable in Monsters, Inc. where they were likable in the Toy Story series (in a "Darth Vader" sort of way).

Finally, there is some slowdown during the movie's main plot point and the solutions to the predicaments they get in are way too easy. There are also some story problems that you don't think about when viewing the movie, but may pick up on later. For example, it's obvious that more than a day has gone by (and Monstropolis time seems to be matched with real Earth time) with Boo in Monstropolis. In reality, her parents would have found her missing the next morning and called the police, etc.. Then there's the snail Monster that leaves a trail of slime the first time you see it, but never again in the movie.

These are, of course, minor quibbles and for the most part audiences will never think of them because the movie is strong overall with a high entertainment value and the right rating for families - "G".

Speaking of "G" Ratings
Pixar seems to have a long term public relations strategy that is winning it larger audiences every time it puts out films - people trust Pixar. People know that if the Pixar name is attached to it then it is safe to take the whole family. Disney lost a lot of this trust and DreamWorks never had it because it aims more at the PG crowd. Pixar is putting itself in a branded position of excellence that will carry the company well into the future as a premiere provider of safe animated movies that both adults and children can enjoy.

The Pixar and Disney alliance is a perfect match (for Disney at least) as you get the powerful stories and animation from Pixar to go with the mega marketing, distribution, and promotional power of Disney. The result is movies that consistently make over $150 million nationally and hundreds of millions more overseas. Then there's DVD sales, merchandising, tie-ins... you get the picture.

Monsters, Inc. is an excellent family film that continues to make Pixar (which won an Animatasia Award last year for "Best Animation Studio") a mega force in the animation industry that is well respected.

Digital Media FX Magazine gives Monsters, Inc. an 8.5 rating on a scale of 1 to 10.

Monsters, Inc. dFX Rating - 8.5

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