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Creating a <I>Monster</I> of a DVD

6 Jun, 2002 By: Dan Bennett

When you start with a Laurel and Hardy premise in your movie, you have a big advantage: If done correctly, people laugh. Add state-of-the-art technology, some of the most creative minds in computer-graphics-animated movies, a talented voice cast and a solid story, and the original premise gets even better.

“We are all big fans of Laurel and Hardy,” said Pete Docter, the director of Monsters, Inc., the computer-graphics-animated box office smash scheduled to bow in DVD and VHS Sept. 17 (direct prebook July 9; distributor prebook July 23).

“We're trying to entertain people with a story and a delivery that they can relate to on some level,” Docter said. “If we can find several levels, all the better.”

The DVD will operate on several levels as well. In one feature, “Monster World,” viewers can become an employee at Monsters, Inc. and train for their first day at the factory. In “Human World,” viewers tour the Pixar Animation Studios and meet Docter and his team.

Docter made his directorial debut with Monsters, Inc. He's served with Pixar since 1990 and was the supervising animator on Toy Story. Docter also led the storymaking team for Monsters, Inc. “We all grew up with the vague notion of monsters in the closet,” Docter said. “You translate those early fears into fears you might have as an adult. I wanted to have some fun with that, maybe as a way of lightening fears.”

Docter began with the character of Sulley, voiced by John Goodman. Originally intended to be a janitor at the monster factory where the story takes place, Docter instead made him an official scarer, although not a very good one.

In Monsters, Inc., Sulley lives in Monstropolis, where workers use “Scream” as fuel and get it by visiting the human world and bottling the screams of the kids they scare.

“We can all relate to a guy like Sulley, somebody who means well but is involved in something he's not very good at,” Docter said. “Most people have felt like that from time to time. Then you add the character of Mike, who bosses Sulley around, and there's a new element.”

Another new element should show up nicely on the DVD: software that allowed animators to make fur, hair and clothing that appeared real and also allowed for individual movement of each piece of fur and hair.

“For the monster fur, with 2.3 million pieces of hair, it's going to be very difficult for an animator to make each one move the way it should,” said Docter. “This new technology allowed us to do that.”

Casting was also a coup, as the director and his collaborators found a way for both Goodman and Billy Crystal (the voice of Mike) to be in the same room when they recorded their voices.

“Most of the time you have a problem with microphone spillover, but we found a way to prevent that,” Docter said. “So John and Billy were able to ad-lib with each other, and they came up with great stuff.”

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