I didn’t walk into the room planning to bellow “NERDS!” at producer Kori Rae and director Dan Scanlon, but it seemed like a very organic thing to do when discussing their new film “Monsters University.”
I went to see the film for a second time this weekend so I could take Toshi and Allen, who have been raised as active members of the Church Of Pixar. As long as they have been alive, the iconography of the various films and characters created by the company have been part of their lives, and last weekend, when we re-painted the playroom, Pixar ended up playing a pretty major part in the decoration of that room thanks to some wall decals that they wanted to use.
I think I liked the film a little more a second time through, and I think one of the most interesting things about it is the way they’re not afraid to play up the negative elements of both Mike and Sully’s personalities. These are younger versions of the two, and they make some big mistakes in the way they behave and in the way they solve their problems in the movie.
When I sat down with Scanlon and Rae, I wanted to talk to them about the film’s unusual message and the decision to make a college comedy, something that most kids are, frankly, not going to understand as a point of reference. I had to explain fraternities and school mascots and all sorts of things to my kids after the film, because while they rolled along and generally understood the plot, a lot of the specifics of how and why people did things in the film went right past them.
Like most of the people I’ve met who make films for Pixar, Scanlon and Rae seem bright and funny and really smart about the story process. As always, being on the Pixar campus and walking around the building and seeing how they work really makes me respect the craft of what Pixar does. They are, regardless of how you view some of the commercial aspects of their decision-making process, a pure story machine. They are completely focused on the way story and character work, and how to create powerful moments, and Scanlon and Rae have a lot to be proud of in this one.
“Monsters University” opens Friday in theaters everywhere.