Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Monsters University: Blu Ray/Film Review

Monsters University was released on DVD and Blu Ray on October 29th last year...and I'm just reviewing it now! Man, does time fly. Oh well, better late than never!

This was a Halloween present from my awesome wife last year, which I'm sure is what a lot of people ended up doing since we're talking about a film about monsters here. I'm sure that was the marketing tactic as well...and it worked.

First of all, I wanted to give some brief thoughts on the film itself. I absolutely love it. Sure, I know it's not known as one of Pixar's best, or better than the original Monsters Inc., but I related to it better than just about any of the other 13 films. To me, I feel this film deserved much better reviews and ratings than it actually got. It has heart, great humor, flawless animation/lighting, new memorable characters, a fun voice cast, catchy music and a story that ultimately goes in a way that you wouldn't expect it going, even though you know how Mike and Sulley end up. It really expands the character development of Mike and Sulley and sheds a whole new light on their relationship in Monsters Inc. I admit this one isn't quite the "tear jerker" that Monsters Inc. was, but it truly is a "heartwarming" and inspiring film with some fantastic messages that just about everyone can relate to.

The overall messages of failure, success, different life paths, hard work, honesty, pursuing dreams, discovering who we are, etc. are messages that mean a lot to me right now. As a college student myself, I'm still trying to figure out exactly what my career path/passion is. Like Mike, I've had to eventually be honest with myself and realize that the big dreams I once had are not for me. However, this movie reminded me that failure is ok (and necessary) and that there are other opportunities out there that are possibly even better than my original expectations. Sometimes no matter how hard we work, we still don't get what we want...and that's OK. The important thing is not to let the failure(s) in life bring us down to the point of giving up. If we keep at it, even if we don't achieve exactly what we hoped for, we can still be successful.

Director of the film, Dan Scanlon, stated: "Like Mike, a lot of times you have to look past you you thought you were gonna be in order to discover who you can be."

I feel like this message is very down to earth and I appreciate Dan Scanlon creating such an honest film. Most kids' films would tell you "you can accomplish ANYTHING you set your mind to", which is good, but realistically isn't always the case.

The film also reminded me to not compare myself with the "success" or talents of others. While I might not be great at everything or the best in a particular area, I shouldn't think of myself as just OK (which I tend to do). We all have greatness in us, we just have to recognize it and do our best to act on it.

Ok, moving onto the Blu Ray and features. First off, this film looks and sounds incredible in HD. The colors are so colorful and vibrant with a crystal clear image. Extremely well done!

 Here's a rundown on what you can expect from this release: 
Disc One-  
  • The beautiful theatrical short film, The Blue Umbrella, directed by Saschka Unseld 
  • A fun and very insightful audio commentary featuring director Dan Scanlon, Producer Kori Rae and Story Supervisor Kelsey Mann 
  • And, of course, the film itself!

Disc Two-
  • Campus Life (a day in the life of Dan Scanlon and crew during the production of Monsters University)  
  • Story School (insights into the story department at Pixar and how the story of Monsters University was crafted into what we know today)
  • Scare Games (a look into some of the fun that was had at Pixar during the making of the film)
  • Monthropology (a look into what it took to create the hundreds of monsters seen in MU)
  • Welcome to MU (We all know that Pixar does its research. Here we see some of the research that was done at real universities across the country for the film)
  • Music Appreciation (a behind the scenes look at how Randy Newman's memorable score for the film was made)
  • Scare Tactics (additional insights into the the animation process)
  • Color and Light (this is exactly what it sounds like. This feature goes into more detail on the color and lighting that was done for the film)
  • Paths to Pixar: MU Edition (here we have some Pixar animators, including director Dan Scanlon and Producer Kori Rae, relating to Mike and telling their story about some of their "failures" in life and how they ultimately ended up at the famed studio)
  • Furry Monsters: A Technical Retrospective (a look into some of the technological advancements that been achieved since 2001, relating to creating fur and hair for the monsters)
  • Four Deleted Scenes, including a director's intro 
  • Promo Picks (a selection of promotional material)
  • Set Flythroughs 
  • Art Gallery
As you can see, this blu ray release has a great selection of bonus features and I was very impressed with the amount included. Of course, given how much of a fan I am of the film and the studio, I wish there was still a lot more!

There is, however, just a little bit more than what is listed. In additional to the standard bonus features, there is one more hidden gem that you can find. On Disc Two, there is a very brief  (two to three minutes long)"easter egg" about the making of the film's opening title sequence. You can find this hidden feature by going to the blu ray Disc Two menu and highlight "Bonus Features." From there, press down and then left on your remote control. In the top right hand corner of the menu, you will see the shadow of Dean Hardscrabble appear in the stained glass window. Press enter to view. Simple as that! Good luck on the hunt.

All in all, this is a great release and is sure to please Pixar fans of all ages.

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