Ever since college-bound Mike Wazowski (voice of Billy Crystal) was a little monster, he has dreamed of becoming a professional Scarer — and he knows better than anyone that the best Scarers come from Monsters University (MU). But during his first semester at MU, Mike’s plans are derailed when he crosses paths with hotshot MU legacy James P. Sullivan, “Sulley” (voice of John Goodman), a natural-born Scarer.
The pair’s out-of-control competitive spirit gets them both kicked out of the University’s elite Scare Program. To make matters worse, they realize they will have to work together, along with an odd bunch of misfit monsters, if they ever hope to make things right. “We wanted this to be Mike Wazowski’s story,” says Dan Scanlon, director Disney/Pixar's animated comedy “Monsters University.” “His drive and sincerity are so compelling — his quest so personal.”
From the beginning, Scanlon was drawn to the idea of self-discovery. “Setting the story at the time when Mike is first venturing into the world by himself allowed us to delve into his journey of self-awareness, experiencing with him the fun, the ups and downs, the friendships and the revelations that come with growing up. It’s during these years, whether in college or not, that we tend to learn who we are. And it’s not necessarily who we thought we were.”
“Mike is self-assured, unwavering in his convictions,” says producer Kori Rae. “But Mike’s dream — unlike Mike — is outsized. It never occurs to him that he might not realize his goal. But we don’t always get what we want, including life-long dreams. It’s perhaps the hardest lesson for any of us to face, but it’s the benchmark of maturity.”
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Pete Docter, director of the original “Monsters, Inc.,” played a key role in developing major themes in “Monsters University.” “One theme that came out really early was this idea that when one door closes, another door opens,” says Docter. “Doors were so central to the first film visually, so this idea really stood out. We realized that the main message in so many movies — especially those for kids — is, ‘If you try hard enough and believe in yourself, you can do anything!’ And that’s not a bad message, but it’s not always truthful. What do you do when your dream is crushed?”
According to the filmmakers, Mike’s story — and the fact that he doesn’t accomplish what he sets out to do—not only makes the story more interesting, it makes it more relatable. “A big part of this film is facing reality,” says story supervisor Kelsey Mann. “Sometimes it’s harsh and unfair, but that’s okay. It just means you were meant to do something else, something that ultimately might be more rewarding.”
Executive producer John Lasseter agrees. “College is the time when we all have so much optimism and confidence that we can change the world. We have dreams and goals. We’re unstoppable. And then reality sets in and we start hitting closed doors. It’s what you do when you hit a closed door — it’s what you do when your dream is shattered that really formulates who you are.”
Scanlon believes the key to figuring these issues out is often revealed through the relationships we form. “No matter how hard we try, we can’t do it alone. Nobody can. So we turn to others — and they turn to us — and we really start working on what we’re going to be. It really does take a village, I think. The tricky part is putting together the right team.”
Opening across the Philippines on June 26 in Disney Digital 3D, 2D and regular theaters, “Monsters University” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.