Monsters University

Director Dan Scanlon gives TFK the scoop on the Monsters, Inc. prequel, in theaters now

Jun 21, 2013 | By Kelli Plasket
©2012 DISNEY/PIXAR

Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) is an eager college student dreaming of becoming a scarer in Disney/Pixar's Monsters Inc. prequel, Monsters University

PG

Release Date: June 21, 2013 (in theaters and 3-D)

Directed by Dan Scanlon

Starring Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Dave Foley, Julia Sweeney

In Disney/Pixar’s 2001 animated hit Monsters Inc., Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) and James. P. Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman) are best friends who work together as scarers at Monsters, Inc.. But the monsters weren't always best buds. The 3-D prequel Monsters University takes audiences back to when Mike and Sulley met as college roommates—and didn't get along. When their rivalry gets them both kicked out of the scaring education program, they end up joining the Oozma Kappa fraternity, a group of rejected scarers. Now, Mike and Sulley must put aside their rivalry to help the Oozma Kappa monsters win the university’s annual scare games competition. TFK caught up with director Dan Scanlon to get the scoop on the making of the highly anticipated film.

Dan Scanlon directs his first feature-length Pixar movie with Monster's University.
JESSICA BRANDI LIFLAND/PIXAR
Dan Scanlon directs his first feature-length Pixar movie with Monster's University.

TFK:

Why did you and the Pixar team decide to take us back to Mike and Sulley's college days?

DAN SCANLON:

We knew we wanted to do (a movie) that got more into the relationship of these two guys. The more we thought about it, the way to do that was to go back in time and watch their relationship form. On top of that, how fun would it be to see a monster's college?

TFK:

What made Mike and Sulley clash as they first get to know each other?

SCANLON:

They are 18 years old (in Monsters University). Their philosophies on life are a little different. When we meet Mike, he really has to work hard. He wants to be a scarer more than anything, but he doesn't look like your conventional big, brawny, tough, fury monster. So he's really about studying scaring and a hard work ethic. When we meet Sulley, he is that tough-looking guy. He's a little more of a natural. He comes from a long line of scarers. Sully doesn't believe that scaring is something you can learn, so right off the bat their different philosophies just send the two of them apart.

TFK:

This is your first feature-length Pixar film as director. How did you feel about taking on the prequel to one of the studio’s classic movies?

SCANLON:

It was a total honor. I started at Pixar the month Monsters, Inc. came out, so this film has always had a special place in my heart. Plus, I'm just a fan of the film. I love the humor and emotion of it. So to get to tell a new story with those characters in particular was a dream come true.

TFK:

Do you have a favorite new monster?

SCANLON:

My favorite group is the Oozma Kappa team. They are a group of rejected scarers, scarers who aren't scary enough to stay in the scaring program. They are kind of these sad, goofy guys, but they've started their own fraternity, and Mike and Sulley end up stuck in the fraternity with them. I love the characters because they are all different in their own ways, but they are very sincere and eager. I find that it's fun whenever Mike and Sulley have to take care of someone. They took care of Boo in the first film, and now they are taking care of this group of misfits. We often said that Mike and Sulley are like the Mom and Dad to the Oozma Kappa, who are like the little kids.

Mike and Sulley party outside a fraternity house in a scene from Monster's University.
©2012 DISNEY/PIXAR
Mike and Sulley party outside a fraternity house in a scene from Monster's University.

TFK:

If you were a student at Monsters University, which club or fraternity would you want to join?

SCANLON:

I probably would be in the Oozma Kappa because in college I was not super popular, so I think I relate a little more to them. And they are just fun. They are not invited to every party, but they are going to make their own party.

TFK:

Your background is in art and animation. Visually, do you have a favorite scene or character from the movie?

SCANLON:

We have a new character Dean Hardscrabble (voiced by Helen Mirren). She's the dean of the scaring school, and she's also one of the greatest scarers ever. [Designing her] was a real challenge. To be the greatest scarer ever, she has to be terrifying, but she also has to be an intelligent professor that you would respect. I am so happy with the design of her character. She is sort of based on a centipede, mixed with a weird dragon thing. There is something eerie about centipede legs crawling around. I thought, “Oh yeah, this is the way to go.”

TFK:

What do you think kids will enjoy most about Monsters University?

SCANLON:

If if you like the humor of Monsters, Inc., this is in that ballpark of humor, but it's also a bigger world. We get to go outside of the scare floor and see a giant campus filled with a variety of monsters we didn't get to see in the first film. So it's a much more open world. I hope kids connect with the idea of figuring out who you were meant to be and how you become it.