Michael "Mike" Wazowski, a young 7-year-old monster, inspires to become a scarer (a monster who enters the human world at night to scare children and harvest their screams for energy) when he grows up after visiting Monsters Inc., Monstropolis' most profitable scaring company, on a school field trip. Eleven years later, Mike is a first-year scare major at Monsters University, where he meets fellow monster, James P. "Sulley" Sullivan. Mike studies hard, while the privileged Sulley, coming from a family of talented scarers, relies only on his natural ability and begins to falter. As the semester progresses, Mike and Sulley attempt to join a fraternity, but only Sulley is accepted into Roar Omega Roar, the strongest fraternity on campus. At the semester's final exam, a fight between the two causes them to accidentally break Dean Abigail Hardscrabble's cherished Scream Can. Hardscrabble fails both of them immediately, stating that Sulley does not study enough, and Mike is not scary enough.
Wanting to prove himself, Mike enters the university's "Scare Games", and makes a wager with Hardscrabble to reinstate him and his team to the scare program if they win, but Mike must leave the university if they lose. He joins a group of misfits named Oozma Kappa, the weakest fraternity on campus, but they are denied entry to the Games for being one team member short. Sulley subsequently joins them, seeing the competition as his ticket back into the scare program. Oozma Kappa finish last in the first challenge, but are saved from elimination after another team is disqualified for cheating. Oozma Kappa improve gradually due to Mike's training, intricate knowledge of scaring, and they advance through each following challenge, finishing just behind competition favorites, Roar Omega Roar. In the final round, they defeat Roar Omega Roar with a decisive final scare by Mike in the simulation bedroom. However, Mike soon discovers that he only won because Sulley changed the machine's difficulty to a much easier setting.
Determined to prove that he can become a scarer, Mike breaks into the school's door lab and enters a door to the human world that leads to a summer camp, but he is unable to scare a cabin full of children, and runs off into the woods. Meanwhile, Roar Omega Roar offers to reinstate Sulley, but he refuses, instead confessing to Hardscrabble that he cheated, just as she is alerted to Mike's break-in. Realizing what happened, Sulley defies Hardscrabble, and enters the same door to find Mike. After reconciling, they try to return, but are unable to exit after Hardscrabble deactivates the door while waiting for the authorities to arrive. Pursued by camp rangers, Mike realizes that the only way to escape is to generate enough scream energy to power the door from their side. Working together, Sulley and Mike terrify the camp rangers and generate an overwhelming amount of scream energy to return to the lab seconds before the device overloads and explodes in front of Hardscrabble.
Mike and Sulley are led away by the CDA, and are expelled from the university as a result of their actions, but the other members of Oozma Kappa are accepted into the scare program the next semester, as Hardscrabble was impressed by their performances in the scare games. As Mike leaves on the bus, Sulley runs after him to raise his spirits. Hardscrabble then appears and wishes the two luck, claiming they were the first students to have surprised her. The two take jobs in the mail room of Monsters, Inc., eventually working their way up to join the Scarer Team and setting the events of Monsters, Inc. in motion.Billy Crystal as Michael "Mike" Wazowski
Noah Johnston as Young Mike
John Goodman as James P. "Sulley" Sullivan
Steve Buscemi as Randall "Randy" Boggs
Helen Mirren as Dean Abigail Hardscrabble, the chair of the Scarer program at Monsters University
Peter Sohn as Scott "Squishy" Squibbles, an Oozma Kappa fraternity member
Joel Murray as Don Carlton, a middle-aged returning student and the founding member of Oozma Kappa fraternity
Sean Hayes as Terri Perry, an Oozma Kappa fraternity member who shares his brother's body.
Dave Foley as Terry Perry, an Oozma Kappa fraternity member
Charlie Day as Art, an Oozma Kappa fraternity member
Alfred Molina as Professor Derek Knight
Tyler Labine as Brock Pearson, Greek Council vice-president
Nathan Fillion as Johnny J. Worthington III, president of Roar Omega Roar
Aubrey Plaza as Claire Wheeler, Greek Council president
Bobby Moynihan as Chet Alexander, a Roar Omega Roar fraternity member
Julia Sweeney as Sherri Squibbles, Scott's mother
Bonnie Hunt as Ms. Karen Graves, Mike's 2nd grade school teacher
John Krasinski as "Frightening" Frank McCay
Bill Hader as Referee, a slug
Beth Behrs as Carrie Williams, leader of Python Nu Kappa sorority
Bob Peterson as Roz
John Ratzenberger as The Yeti, a Monsters, Inc. mailroom employee
Plans for a second Monsters, Inc. film existed since 2005. Following disagreements between Disney CEO Michael Eisner and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs, Disney – which owned the rights to make sequels to all of Pixar's films up to Cars – announced that a sequel to Monsters, Inc. would be made by Circle 7 Animation, which was also working on early drafts of Toy Story 3 & Finding Nemo 2. Titled Monsters, Inc. 2: Lost in Scaradise, the film would have focused on Mike and Sulley visiting the human world to give Boo a birthday present, only to find that she had moved. After getting trapped in the human world, Mike and Sulley split up after disagreeing on what to do. Screenwriters Rob Muir and Bob Hilgenberg were hired to write a script for the film, and storyboarded an early draft of it. Disney's change of management in late 2005 – in which Eisner was replaced by Bob Iger – led to renewed negotiations with Pixar, and in early 2006 Disney announced it had purchased the studio. The Disney-owned sequel rights were then transferred to Pixar, leading to the cancellation of Muir and Hilgenberg's version of the film and the subsequent closure of Circle 7.
A Pixar-made sequel was confirmed in 2010. The film was originally planned for release on November 16, 2012, but the release was moved up to November 2, 2012 to avoid competition with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. On March 29, 2011, it was confirmed that the film would be a prequel and the title Monsters University was announced. On April 4, 2011, it was confirmed that the film will be released on June 21, 2013.
The feature was directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Kori Rae. Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Bob Peterson, and John Ratzenberger reprised their roles, and Bonnie Hunt voiced a new character. New voice cast included Dave Foley, Sean Hayes, Julia Sweeney, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Peter Sohn, Charlie Day, Joel Murray, Nathan Fillion, Aubrey Plaza, Tyler Labine, John Kransinski, Bill Hader, Bobby Moynihan, and Beth Behrs.
The plot of Monsters University details Mike and Sulley's first meeting, but this created a continuity error from the first film in which Mike tells Sulley "You've been jealous of my good looks since the fourth grade." Director Dan Scanlon said he had a dilemma with this line during pre-production, but he believed it was best if Mike and Sulley meet in college because, "we wanted to see their relationship develop when they were adults. And we also felt like college is so much about self-discovery and figuring out who you are." He added, "It felt like the perfect place to do this, but we had that line. So we tried versions where they met young and then we skipped ahead to college. And we knew we didn't want to make Monsters Elementary." Scanlon said during pre-production that, "Pete Docter, the original director, and John Lasseter ... finally said to me, 'it's great that you're honouring that, but you have to do what's right for the story.' So we made a tough decision to just have them be in college and put that line aside." Scanlon later retconned the line from the first film as "an old monster expression", saying that "it's what monsters always say to each other."
Monsters University is the first Pixar film that used global illumination, a new lighting system introduced as part of the overhaul of the rendering system used since the first Toy Story film. In the planning stage of the film, director of photography, Jean-Claude Kalache, asked "What if we made these lights just work?" Before the new system, artists had to build reflections and shadows manually, which became increasingly complex as the models and the setups became more technologically advanced. The new lighting system uses path tracing, a technique that imitates the behaviour of the light in the real world; this automatized the process, delivered more realism, produced soft shadows, and let the artist spend more time on models and complex scenes – some of which contained thousands of light sources.
For research, the filmmakers visited several colleges in the U.S., including Harvard University, Stanford University, and the University of Alabama, observing college architecture, student life, Greek organizations, and the teaching methods of professors and faculty. To research fraternity life, which is central to the film, many of the film's producers spent several weeks at a fraternity house.
The music for the film is Randy Newman's seventh collaboration with Pixar as composer. Walt Disney Records released the soundtrack on June 18, 2013.
The songs "Main Title", "Rise and Shine", and "The Scare Games" feature the drum line from the Blue Devils group "BD Entertainment". The recordings for the percussion tracks were done at Skywalker Ranch, and were written by Blue Devils Percussion Caption Head Scott Johnson.
The songs "Island" by Mastodon and "Gospel" by MarchFourth Marching Band are featured during the film but do not appear on the soundtrack. The songs "Party Hard" by Andrew W.K. and "Kickstart My Heart" by Mötley Crüe are featured prominently in the teaser trailers but do not appear on the soundtrack or in the film.Track listing
All music composed by Randy Newman, except where noted.
The first teaser trailer for Monsters University was released on June 20, 2012. Four versions of the trailer exist; in his sleep, Mike mutters excuses to avoid attending class in each one, such as "I'm not wearing any clothes," "My homework ate my dog," "Class President?", and "My pony made the Dean's List." A second trailer was released on February 11, 2013, a third on April 26, 2013, and a fourth and final trailer, which included scenes from the film, was released on May 30, 2013.
On October 8, 2012, Pixar revealed a fully functional website for Monsters University, complete with information about admissions, academic and campus life, and a campus store to purchase MU apparel. On April 1, 2013, the website was styled to appear as though a rival college, Fear Tech, had hacked and vandalized it. The first television commercial for the film was aired during the 2013 Rose Bowl Game, parodying advertisements for participating schools that are shown during college football telecasts. From June 27 until July 11, 2013, Disney's online game Club Penguin hosted a Monsters University Takeover event to promote the film. Players could dress up as their favorite monsters and take part in the Scare Games.
The film had its worldwide premiere on June 5, 2013, as a special screening at BFI Southbank in London with the director and producer in attendance. The film had its Asian premiere as the opening film of the 2013 Shanghai International Film Festival on June 15, 2013. It premiered in the United States on June 8, 2013, at the Seattle International Film Festival, and was released in theaters on June 21, 2013. The film's theatrical release was accompanied by Pixar's short film titled The Blue Umbrella.
Monsters University was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, digital copy, and on demand on October 29, 2013. It was accompanied by The Blue Umbrella, Pixar's short film which played alongside the film in theaters.
Monsters University earned $268.5 million in the United States and Canada and $475.7 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $744.2 million. Calculating in all expenses, Deadline.com estimated that the film made a profit of $179.8 million. It is the 56th highest-grossing film of all-time, the 12th highest-grossing animated film all-time, the seventh highest-grossing 2013 film, and the third highest-grossing Pixar film. The film earned $136.9 million worldwide on its opening weekend. Disney declined to provide a budget for the film; Entertainment Weekly speculated that it was higher than that of Brave ($185 million), mainly because of the high cost of John Goodman and Billy Crystal reprising their roles. Shockya and EOnline reported the budget to be $200 million—on par with previous Pixar films.
In the week leading to Monsters University's release, Disney projected an opening weekend gross of at least $70 million. The film opened on Friday, June 21, 2013 in first place with $30.47 million –including $2.6 million in 20:00 Thursday night shows– marking the fifth largest opening day among animated films. The film then reached first place with an opening-weekend gross of $82.43 million; the second largest among Pixar films, the second largest among G-rated films, the fourth largest among prequels, the fifth largest among animated films, and the fifth largest among films released in June. Monsters University remained at first place on its second weekend, declining 45% to $45.6 million. Facing tough competition from Despicable Me 2 on its third weekend, it dropped 57% to $19.7 million. As of December 2013, it is the tenth highest-grossing animated film.
The film earned $54.5 million in 35 markets on its opening weekend. It set a Pixar opening weekend record in Latin America with revenues of $31.7 million. In Argentina, the film set an opening weekend record among all films with $5.49 million. In Australia, where it had a simultaneous release with Despicable Me 2, Monsters University debuted behind the latter with $3.56 million in third place. In Hong Kong, the film set opening-day (HK$5.03 million), single-day (HK$7.93 million) and opening-weekend (HK$25.79 million) records among animated films, beating the previous record holder, Toy Story 3. In the UK, the film topped the box office during its opening weekend with a gross of GB£3.46 million. The film's largest opening occurred in China, where its $13 million debut ranked fourth among Disney films. The film's highest-grossing markets are Japan ($90.1 million), the UK, Ireland, and Malta ($47.2 million), and Mexico ($37.6 million).
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 78% approval rating based on 189 reviews, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads "Offering Monsters, Inc. fans a welcome return visit with beloved characters, Monsters University delivers funny and thoughtful family entertainment for viewers of any age." Another review aggregator, Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 top reviews from mainstream critics, calculated a score of 65 based on 41 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Audiences polled by Cinemascore gave the film a grade A. According to Disney, audiences were 56% female and 60% below the age of 25. Families made up 73% of business, and teens accounted for a solid 15%. The film played well with all ages.
Matt Zoller Seitz of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film four stars out of four, saying it "is true to the spirit of [Monsters, Inc.] and matches its tone. But it never seems content to turn over old ground." Trevor Johnston of Time Out gave the film four stars out of five, writing "It has enough of the right stuff to haunt the imagination long after the immediate buzz of its fluffy-furred cuteness has melted away. For a mere prequel, that's a result." Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film three stars out of four and said it "is cute, and funny, and the animation, though not exactly inspired, is certainly colorful." Jake Coyle of Associated Press gave the film three stars out of four, saying it "might not be as gifted as some of its other movies, but sometimes it's alright to be OK." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film three stars out of four, and said "It's all infectious fun, despite the lack of originality. In the art of tickling funny bones, Crystal and Goodman earn straight A's." Richard Corliss of Time gave the film a positive review, saying "This minor film with major charms still deserves to have kids dragging their parents to the multiplex for one more peek at the monsters in the closet. With Pixar, familiarity breeds content." Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic gave the film three and a half stars out of five and said it is "one of those movies that has absolutely no reason to exist, but once you've seen it, you're kind of glad it does." Alan Scherstuhl of The Village Voice gave the film a positive review, saying "Monsters University feels not like the work of artists eager to express something but like that of likable pros whose existence depends on getting a rise out the kids. It's like the scares Sully and Mike spring on those sleeping tykes: technically impressive but a job un-anchored to anything more meaningful."
Leonard Maltin of IndieWire praised the animation and art direction, but wrote that he wished "the movie was funnier and wasn't so plot-heavy" and that "Pixar has raised the bar for animated features so high that when they turn out a film that's merely good, instead of great, they have only themselves to blame for causing critics to damn them with faint praise." Michael Phillips of Chicago Tribune gave the film two stars out of four, saying "Monsters University, the weirdly charmless sequel to the animated 2001 Pixar hit Monsters, Inc., is no better or worse than the average (and I mean average) time-filling sequel cranked out by other animation houses." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a negative review, saying that it "never surprises, goes off in unexpected directions or throws you for a loop in the manner of the best Pixar stories. Nor does it come close to elating through the sheer imagination of its conceits and storytelling." Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film three stars out of four, and said it "may not be as inventive as Inc., but it's an amusing and amiable addition to Pixar's roster of animated coming-of-age stories." Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post gave the film three stars out of four, saying "It may be children's terror that powers the movie's fictional universe, but it's the energy of its stars that lights up Monsters University." Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A− and said it "is exactly the rebound Pixar needed after 2011's Cars 2 left some wondering if the studio had lost its magic. The delightful story of when Mike met Sulley puts those concerns to rest." James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film three stars out of four and wrote "Although it falls short of the best Pixar has brought to the screen over its long association with Disney, it's nevertheless worth a trip to the theater, especially for kids."
However, the film was not without its detractors. Richard Roeper gave the film a C+, saying "This is a safe, predictable, edge-free, nearly bland effort from a studio that rarely hedges its bets." Stephen Whitty of Newark Star-Ledger gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four and said "The artwork is accomplished, and intricate. The G-rating is genuine, without any gross-out gags. And there's none of the usual winks to the adults with tired, pop-culture references." Manohla Dargis of The New York Times gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of five and wrote "Both the originality and stirring emotional complexity of Monsters, Inc., with its exquisitely painful and touching parallels with the human world, are missing." Ty Burr of The Boston Globe gave the film two-and-a-half stars out of four, and said "This is not a bad movie, and to small children it will be a very good one, but it's closer to average than one would wish from the company that gave us Up, WALL-E, The Incredibles, and the Toy Story series." Rene Rodriguez of Miami Herald gave the film two stars out of five and wrote that it "feels half-hearted and lazy, like they weren't even trying. At least show a little effort, guys."