With each film, Pixar have pushed new artistic boundaries in terms of sophistication of the form. Indeed, with each computer animated film from Pixar and other companies since Toy Story, it seemed as though there was an ongoing competition to push new boundaries of realism. The same year as Monsters, Inc. alone, Pixar faced heavy competition in the computer animation stakes from DreamWorks Shrek (2001), although both were outstripped by the amazing degree of photo-realism in the sadly underappreciated Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001). Certainly, Pixar show off technically and artistically here. Monsters, Inc. is worth watching for the technical skill that has gone into texturing the various leathery, slimy and reptilian skins of the monster characters, or giving a weatherbeaten look to the tiles in the bathroom and the cement in the basement. The way every hair of Sullys fur individually ripples with his snores when we first see him is dazzling in its detail. The backgrounds come with incredible detail if it was possible to freeze-frame the cinematic image one can read the paperwork handed to Mike, the stories on Rozs tabloid newspaper or the individual items on the menu in the restaurant. Contrast this to the relatively blank backgrounds in Toy Story and one can see exactly what quantum leaps in technical sophistication that Pixar have made.
Of course, a film that is merely a showoff in technical pseudo-realism is a dry academic exercise. Happily, as with most of Pixars product, Monsters, Inc. can also be appreciated for its sheer unabashed fun. The film has so much visual invention going on in the background and foreground that it is a constant delight. Few other films move with such cruisy pace as this does. Monsters, Inc. gets the humour and the cuteness down just right. The relationship between Sully and the three year-old girl running about calling him Kitty is surely one of the cutest and most delightful thing you will see on a screen.
The secret life of monsters in the closet was first done in the also appealing live-action film Little Monsters (1989) and, of course, both films hold lineage to the childrens tales of Maurice Sendak. When it comes down to it, Monsters, Inc. is a Sendakian film. Of course, being a Disney film, the monsters are never that scary or macabre, they are all big and cuddly. The masterpiece that got the Sendakian sense of the macabre right was Henry Selicks The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). Spike Jonze subsequently made a live-action adaptation of Maurice Sendaks Where the Wild Things Are (2009).
The film was theatrically rereleased in 3D in 2012. Pixar made a sequel with Monsters University (2013).