Monsters, Inc.

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Sulley and Mike are the number one ‘scare team’ at <b>Monsters, Inc.</b> — they jump out of closets to frighten kids and collect the scare energy which powers Monstropolis. However, when a (highly toxic) little girl gets trapped on the wrong side of the c


If traditional animation has enjoyed a tricky 12 months, then 3-D computer animation — Final Fantasy apart — is on a roll. And if the inaugural Best Animated Feature Oscar doesn’t go to a digitised freak, then something will be seriously amiss. But don’t be surprised if Pixar’s big, blue monster steals the award from DreamWorks’ grumpy, green ogre.

In some ways Monsters, Inc. — co-directed by Pete Docter, David Silverman and Lee Unkrich, with Pixar guru John Lasseter serving as executive producer — is everything we’ve come to expect from the Disney/Pixar axis.

It has a delicious premise, sumptuous animation and a mouth-watering voice cast. And yet this is a very different beast from Lasseter’s Toy Story movies. Where Toy Story was knowing and occasionally arch, this is wide-eyed and innocent. (It is telling that the human child featured here is an impossibly cute two year-old, compared to the Toy Story kids who were just starting to put away childish things.)

The familiar Pixar themes of childhood worlds of imagination are revisited but, unlike Toy Story, this is not an examination of the various threats posed to ephemeral pleasures. Instead, it is a joyful celebration of the power (literally, the power, as screams are the raw fuel of Monstropolis) of make-believe.

Sulley and Mike — brilliantly improvised by John Goodman and Billy Crystal — are bickering buddies in the Eric and Ernie mould. Funny, loveable and, above all, inseparable. This makes them a team in a way that Woody and Buzz were not. Woody and Buzz represented polar points of view and generated a genuine thematic tension which adults could grasp. Mike and Sulley are a more straightforward double-act. And, despite the monster menagerie on show, Mike and Sulley lack the fully-realised supporting characters — the something-for-everyone approach — that so ably assisted Woody and Buzz.

On the plus side, technical leaps have definitely been made since Toy Story, and Sulley in particular is the most vivid and textured CGI character yet created.

Similarly, the climactic scramble through a labyrinth of closet doors — each one containing another world — is a breathless action-comedy set-piece that’s several leagues ahead of the airport chase in Toy Story 2. And although Monsters, Inc. deserves to be seen on the big screen, arguably the definitive viewing experience will have to wait until DVD; only then will you begin to process the volume of fabulous sight gags tucked away in every corner of the beautifully detailed backgrounds. In other words, a treat for the eyeball.

Brighter and more exuberant than <b>Shrek</b>, this would be a worthy winner of the first animation Oscar. However, minus John Lasseter’s distinctive sensibility, <b>Monsters, Inc.</b> skews slightly younger than the <b>Toy Story</b> movies. Adults may fi