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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

"Monsters University" is released on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, Oct. 29, just in time for Halloween.

"Monsters University" entertains, shares glimpse into animation


Tomorrow, Disney Home Entertainment takes Pixar fans back to school with "Monsters University," and does so in beautiful fashion.

When these animators create a world full of texture and diversity, the Blu-ray picture makes the college campus come to life with historic buildings, leaves blowing in the wind and literally hundreds of different monsters. I had the chance to screen the three-disc combo pack before its release on Tuesday.

If you've seen the film on the big screen, and are familiar with "Monsters Inc.," then you know the world that exists beyond our closets. This prequel walks through the background of Mike Wazowski, a young monster that grows up wanting to be a top Scarer. The modern monster world is powered by the screams of young children, harnessed in canisters, the Scarers enter the human world to scare the children at bedtime to harness the power.

What we learn, is that the monsters only scare humans because they have to, to power their world. "Monsters University" delves into the conflict-filled relationship Wazowski (Billy Crystal) builds with James P. Sullivan "Sculley" (John Goodman).

It's one thing to create a "G"-rated film that children will enjoy. But part of the mastery that Pixar knows so well, is its ability to pepper in jokes and references that only adults will enjoy while watching the film. And if you are in a household forced by children to watch the same film over and over again, there's enough in "Monsters University" that you won't catch in the first, say, 10 viewings.

One of my favorite scenes, which is just a small segment of a chase on the college campus, involves a folk singer monster performing under a tree. The bit evokes the classic John Belushi scene in "Animal House" as Bluto breaks apart Stephen Bishop's guitar.

As the film itself and the animated short "Blue Umbrella" are certainly enough to entertain all-ages worth of family members, the extras are certainly enough to share some of the insightful behind-the-scenes work that will inform teens and adults.

One fascinating look into the work at Pixar is seeing the physics of movement and fur engine that was created in "Monsters Inc." is still being used in this prequel and other films like "Cars." The innovative work of more than 250 individuals went into the making of "Monsters University" and the extra bonus features shares their world in segments "Campus Life," "Welcome to MU," "Scare Tactics," "Color and Light" and "Music Appreciation" with Randy Newman, who has scored the majority of Pixar films.

The most heart-felt and insightful extra is the "Paths to Pixar" where members of Pixar's team that worked on "MU" share their back stories, and how one door may close, and that another will open. Much like the road that Mike and Sculley take in the Monsters films, the animators, project directors and staffers had plenty of rejection before working on a feature film that opened at the top of the box office.

"Story School" was my favorite, where you find some of the original plans in the story end up getting tossed out. And as many get attached to what they have created, that have to let go for the sake of making a better story. One prime example was that the dean of the college was originally a male monster. By the time the story sessions were done, Helen Mirren was supplying the voice for Dean Hardscrabble.

The interactive art gallery is truly amazing, where you can see the changes that the lead characters have gone through in the two films.

Whether you are a fan of Disney and Pixar films or not, the latest Blu-ray release certainly has something that you'd find informative, if not only entertaining.


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