Pete Docter is one of those filmmakers that I admire like no other. He's my favorite animation director of all time and all four of his films that he's made at Pixar are some of the greatest animated films that have ever been made. I'm sure many of you reading already know that his sophomore film "Up" is my favorite animated film of all time and his follow up films "Inside Out" and "Soul" are not far behind with their blend of hilarious humor, creative stories, and mature emotional scenes that will most likely leave you crying. And of course, the one film that started his amazing journey as an animated auteur was his 2001 directorial debut, "Monsters Inc." Needless to say, like his other three films, this film is also another animated masterpiece and another winning film from Pixar. In fact, I'd say that this film was the one that made Pixar a household name with audiences with their top-notch animated films that we know and love today rather than just being remembered as the studio that made the "Toy Story" films. It's a film that has held up so wonderfully twenty years later and I adore it so much.
In the monster city of Monstropolis, the power company Monsters Inc. is in serious trouble. With their gimmick of having monsters scaring children by coming into their worlds through closets and turning their screams into electricity, they've run into a problem with children not being scared like they used to. Hooping to turn things around, the CEO of the company, Waternoose (James Coburn) is hoping to rely on the top scarers to boost their numbers to turn around the company's financial shortcomings with one of these scarers being James Sullivan, aka Sulley (John Goodman) and his door assistant and best friend Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal). One day after work hours, Sulley ends up discovering a lone door still on the scare floor and ends up letting a young girl (Mary Gibbs) into the factory, much to his horror as humans are perceived to be deadly and toxic in the monster world. Desperate to get the girl who he nicknames Boo home to the human world, Sulley and Mike try to figure out how to get her through the factory and back home a secret and away from Child Detection Agency (CDA) and other monsters, including rival scarer Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi) who is planning an underground conspiracy within the company walls.
I've lost count over how many times I've seen this film in the twenty years it has been released and through every rewatch, I've found it gets better every time. Much like my review of "Finding Nemo", it might be difficult for me to say something new about the film that hasn't already been said, but I'm gonna try my best. Pete Docter and Pixar made such a special and memorable film that really sticks around and has left an iconic legacy all these years later. This mainly has to come down to the story which is probably what makes this film work so well. For starters, the concept of this film is genius with the idea of monsters who lurk in closets to scare children only doing it as their jobs to help churn electricity in their world. It leads to some amazing world-building and one of the most unique animated worlds that has ever been put on screen. The ideas in this film are too many to count and I love how the film takes many advantages on the creative concepts. It also helps that the films simple story really keeps the movie grounded without going out of control with the crazy ideas in the world and the brilliant twists in the plot keeping the audience on edge leading to some fun iconic scenes including one in the Himalayas and the door vault where all the closets doors are kept in the factory. It also helps that the screenplay written by Andrew Stanton and the late Dan Gerson is exceptionally hilarious. There are too many hilarious moments to count from Mike and Sulley arguing about Boo on the scare floor and lying to the employees that they are putting a company play and scene where Sulley believes Boo got put into the garbage compactor and his horrified looks as he sees a lightbulb fixture from her costume get smashed into bits which was a funny and clever homage to the Chuck Jones cartoon "Feed the Kitty". And of course, there's the heartwarming bond between Boo and Sulley that keeps the film special with the ending being one of the most special and sweet endings ever put in an animated film. As far as the animation goes, it's held up exceptionally well and is really groundbreaking for the time. There are so many unique character designs in the film from the way the monsters look and act and it all still feels so perfectly realized. A lot of the textures of the monsters from their scales and skin and fur (particularly on Sulley) is so technologically amazing for 2001 and a lot of computer-animated films since, including those from Pixar like "Ratatouille" and "Luca", have this film to thank for it. You can really see how much time and effort went into perfecting their look and the way elements moved off of them like snow, wind, and water. Even a lot of the sets are amazing with their incredible designs and amazing lighting techniques. The city of Monstropolis looks like a unique metropolis and major city that you don't see in a human world and the moving components of the door vault still feel incredible all these years later. I'm sure the Land of the Dead in "Coco" wouldn't have been possible if it hadn't been for the latter. I also particularly love the unique touches to the character animation from the small eye twitches to the dynamic poses. You can tell a lot of hard work and uniqueness went into making these characters so special. Another reason why the film holds up so well all these years later are the characters mainly because they are so perfectly cast and have great chemistry together. Sulley and Mike are a lot of fun as their friendship feels genuine and watching them you understand they've known each other for a long time. It also helps that a lot of the conflicts they have in the film don't come across as generic or contrived, particularly during a low moment where the two are seemingly stuck. Sulley's character development in the film is really special, particularly with his development with Boo. The way he grows from a laid-back scarer terrified of children to a more mature character that becomes almost a father-like figure to Boo really helps. The villains of the film are also fun with Randall being hilarious and menacing with the way he moves and his frustrated personality and even the twist villain (who I'm sure you know who it is though I won't spoil it for those who don't) also still feeling fresh and working well where other twist villains have fallen flat. The whole film seriously just works amazingly throughout.
This is why "Monsters Inc" still is an amazing animated film twenty years later. The story is funny, heartwarming, and creative, the animation is incredible and groundbreaking, and the characters are all distinct and have amazing developments and personalities. I think it should go without saying that this is another one of Pixar's most iconic films and one of my favorite animated films from the 2000s. Pete Docter has since gone on to direct three more animated masterpieces and is now helping lead Pixar into the future and this film is the one that started it all. It just goes to show you that Pixar sure are animation masters and this film is without a doubt one of them.