Monsters, Inc. - Filmmakers Roundtable

Monsters, Inc. – Filmmakers Roundtable

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Oh we're right now at hidden city cafe which actually the film Monsters Inc was initially named hidden city and its was basically the Pixar commissary a lot of it and I had a cameo in the film does yes so it's about three blocks over the word Pixar used to be I've gotten I think probably more questions than then anything about the DVD release was was does the monkey work at Pixar yes monkey well the first thing it's not a monkey well and we talked about it we thought it would be hilarious it's just inexplicably we'd cut to a chimp just there yeah I would never acknowledged the champ the champ would be a part of what we were talking about it wouldn't always be there to be sometimes but not all the time well and a lot of people want to come to work at Pixar in the new hires that said you know the reason why I want to work at Pixar is you guys haven't said I had to pitch a sequence with the chimp there and you know hey Sully what are we doing and I look over and no one's holding the chip the chip is going up and knocking its knuckles into the world and I'm like I keep going for the camera so I kept pitching there are a lot of pictures of Lee looking so happy that was one of the best days of my life I have to say my earliest memories way back when were you going off to develop a movie and it was really weird at the time because we everything we had done between Toy Story and bugs life we were doing as a team mm-hmm and you were the first person to kind of break away from that group I was jealous because you guys would sit at this long table and you'd put newsprint down like ten feet of newsprint and you'd sit with crayons and and pens and pencils and just let your minds wander and just sit around and laugh and have fun you know every day we'd start by spreading it out and start drawing because initially that the concept was Pete you go off and figure something out I had no real clue of what I was doing so we just thought of a lot of stuff trash planet which eventually became wall-e was one of them and one or two other ones but monsters was the one that sort of landed the artwork over they were so cool I'm you just might be going over there and see it was kind of think Oh lesson two boo then on a bed and it was brilliant colors and he had Rasta hair kind of tons of cool artwork over there and I'm thinking that is one of the most imaginative things we've ever done and the story was writing with possibility it was a big deal because we had made Toy Story was this huge film and then you were gonna be the first person not John Lasseter to direct one of the movies for me becoming a director is probably the most taxing thing physically and emotionally that I've done in my life you know because it's a long race it's like five years of uncertainty the most of the notes we got we're like this is wrong and I still don't understand your main character and so I was sort of living in that world of like uh the whole thing is gonna fall apart at any moment you know that's what it felt like if you really care about it it's hard not to take it personally and feel like you the measure of the film is a measure of you as a person you know which is of course false but it's kind of the way you feel about it people somehow think that we just like spit out a script and then make a movie yeah and why don't we do that I remember that you guys were doing a teaser right from Sully Mike to get those characters out there nobody here there's no kid no kid this gets just check the schedule and you guys asked me to come on and cut that which was a great thing for us just because it helped in the story Department it helped define those characters but we had but we had John Goodman and Billy Crystal right so that was the thing it's like we really made that teaser sing and he came out really good and as his want with me as happened in several films I got started yet so amesh t' in the story and the characters and working with you that it was hard for me to leave so it wasn't long after that john asked me to come on to the movie and co-direct with you what's your favorite scene that that you worked on very early on when I first came on we were kind of reworking the whole initial reveal of the scare floor and how the scare floor worked and I had this idea I pulled a piece of jazz off a big band CD that I had and I cut this whole sequence of all the the monsters coming in and out of their doors and suddenly there was this whole cohesive the feeling of the mechanics of everything and yet when you really break it down it's just all kind of exposition like here's basically again all right now dance here's why we collect scream and how it all works the mechanics of it and that sequence made it just so fun to watch yeah and it also made this world which is out there monster world just more accessible it's just a factory that we're watching I don't think the scene is that much different now than it was at that point it was like finding that voice of the film but I seem to remember that being the beginnings of the kind of vibe we ended up going with my initial concept was they scare kids for living and everybody would say why and I'd be like because they do that's just the conceit of the film you have to buy it but then you know a lot of people and rightly so we're poking it well what's the economics of that how would they build a factory how could they afford to set up this entire to scare floor and the door vault and all that and I remember I understand came forward with the idea to scream energy is really what scream is what powers their world our city is counting on you to collect those children's screams without scream we have no power the other thing Andrew figured out he was really troubled with was figuring out kind of the the logic of all the different time zones all over the planet just because it's nighttime and this one part of the planet it's daytime on the other side of the globe and figuring out the idea of these these big clocks and and the different shifts yeah scaring around the clock our backstory was there were others like fear Co and scare masters they did the under the bed scares in the basement scary monsters big claim to fame was their patented through the closet door scare method that's hang that Henry J Waters the first invented and so how many of the kids around the world have have these closet doors therefore there'd be this many scare floors to handle all the kids if they're scared maybe one every other week about the blah blah blah and then that's what led to the vaults like where do they keep all these doors that's that was pretty early on I guess on my favorite sequence is the door vault sealants is so cool well as soon as we came up with that idea kids you know we store the doors somewhere right and we thought okay there must be a place and just visualizing that is like okay that's gonna be a cool scene we boarded it and it was fairly cool looks like we caught the Express I seem to remember that the doorbell being the first time we really shot that like a live-action sequence where we just did a ton of coverage and we kind of mapped out big big swaths of blocking and what the characters were doing and then we just covered it from lots of different angles and found some dynamic cameras in them and then cut it as if we were cutting live-action I remember being so proud of it when it was done it's just the camera work that I thought I thought we see it we see that we know how cool he's gonna be what was your favorite secret spot cave yes when you bring up you at his cave there's always a sequence in every film that you just can't get right and the one where Sally and Mike meet the Yeti but you got the characters at their lowest point right they've they've completely broken up they're angry at each other and then how do you how do you remedy that how do you that's the scene that's all about mending that yeah he was like a closeted therapist you know I'm sensing a lot of anger in this cave you guys gotta get over it it's like my buddy sasquatchy always says you gotta face it embrace it and erase it jerk Mike and Sulley we literally then had them break off stalactites and start like fighting each other oh I can't wait to tell Bigfoot about this all you ever talked about was getting me back of the scare floor literally there were like 25 versions of this sequence that weren't we'd approved it we had to go we laid it out and it was cut we were we were a hair's breadth away from starting to animate the sequence and we finally pulled the plug again said this is just not right one of my fond memories was that we were getting ready to do that whole sequence where Mike and Sulley are fighting and they roll down the hill mm-hmm and there was I mean in the drawings we had snow flying a wind buffeting them and it was this crazy thing and I remember they the technical people called us into a meeting and said okay let's talk about what you really want here and what we can really give you yeah and I remember you and I we're talking about what we were hoping for but we knew is just gonna be technically nearly as possible okay we want you to build the entire side of a mountain with all the plants and footprints and snow blowing and all this stuff what I remember that yeah and the technical people were all like really trying to tell us well we can't really do this but this is what we can give you and I remember they all went away and it was a big lesson for me a Pixar that basically with the technical people if you tell them if you set the bar low and you say well yeah I know it's really hard I really don't think you can do this that becomes a challenge for them because we had signed off on okay he won't get snows that was hair it's just impossible at this point you know we're lucky to have hair at all so ya know when and then in the end of course but you watch it it's about the believability I mean you believe the moment because it is just so real and it's the lowest low moment and so drives at home and I remember at the wrap party when that moment came on the screen and the whole audience just erupted in applause in honor of yetis cave every sequence that's now impossible to do is called yeah he's gay and you were asked me what my favorite sequence was and I would say you know the one that that I had influenced on that was really fun to do was Mike and Sulley when they first wake up in the morning I remember sitting at my my desk and I got a call it's like you got five minutes through an opening and it's like I want it hung up try this try this – this call yes you came up gave me a kiss and then we threw it in yeah that was the character introduction but we had had the preview and he used to be introduced by water nurse who says I need scarers who are confident ten anxious tough intimidating I need scarers like like James P Sullivan and then you saw him and it was confusing to the audience they're like who's that then we're cutting – where are we cutting what write the silliest thing I liked in there is fight that plaque fight that plaque scary monsters don't have plaque scary monsters don't have plaque Sulley in the very early days before I was even on the movie Mike was a skis character was totally different I mean you were playing him kind of more like a hip urban kind of sidekick it wasn't Billy it wasn't Billy's voice at all I mean when you can satelli he was wholly different character yeah he was a similar kind of guy who was very impetuous and instinctive and just all he knew was what was right in front of him and that was all important and everything else just disappeared and then as soon as he looked away that was all important when we came back from that story meeting from Disney and they're like you know the the execs there had said come up with a buddy for Sullivan hmm there's a Rickey near of a drawing and there was a there was just this one night guy in the back of that drawing and then something about him rang out do you remember that did you yeah we sort of settled on it and then we split all that remember that we split the story team up into pairs right and we said okay we don't have a sequence but you guys go off and basically do improv with Sully and Mike which is very situation it's great thing to do in any of these movies just go play with right I remember Jason Katz all he did is one assignment and Jeff pigeon was pick a tie you have to wear a tie for the evening what's that tie and it sort of brings out the differences I was like I don't know what about that Mike's just that one oh really because I wasn't even sure I should have put that one out oh you always do this you asked me for my opinion and then you ignore it there's an early animation test yeah I'm a lux test yeah that a totally different look than what the film ended up looking like and Mike had one eye in that but he had no arms right because initially the concept was I don't want this to look like a bunch of guys running around in suits right we got to make these take advantage of what monsters are and really push that so we took a sphere with two leg arms and so he would walk and then he'd grab whatever he needed and you know so in the end it became very limiting and Sulley at the same time had the tentacles no choice hilari it was just like they're there again okay I had no guy on a suit this is how was he gonna walk it's gonna be different and that's another thing how many sewing maquettes did we make and how many like the background monsters remember that against tons of drawings and different artists that we'd contact and doing different design work and finally of course like everything comes down to kind of economics of okay you have this many weeks to build 5,000 background characters how are you gonna do it well you don't which is why you go to Harryhausen's and it's all the guys from the scare floor so how did you arrive at John and John Goodman and Billy Crystal as we started talking about his scarer who was this big tough guy but sort of with a hard soft heart at the core Goodman just sounded sort of like he had this weight to of a strength and he had that much range as an actor yeah did Billy say yes right away when you commented the deal with Billy Wright is that he was originally offered the part of Buzz Lightyear right on Toy Story I mean John John did a whole animation – that was the last thing John ever animated all right John Lasseter animated an early version of Buzz Lightyear doing some Billy Crystal dialogue from When Harry Met Sally of course Billy now says that was the you know the biggest mistake of his life as I was not taking Toy Story oh yeah I was the fastest one out there of course I was the ball but that was the ball was the ball look I'm a ball look at my head he loves that character boy you know he talked about Mike Wazowski all the time the other thing that we did and I don't remember exactly how this came about but Toy Story and whatnot we had never recorded two actors together right and a lot of people think we just get all the actors together in record but of course you know because of everyone's schedules and everything you can you can never get them in the room at the same time so we got them together I seem to remember at least three sessions where we got them together yeah all the things you really wanted to work all the scenes where they had to interact and you know the whole concept we actually had them together and it's just like it takes it to a whole nother level if if you've got a chemistry their only choice we did we were all about like who can out funny the other one and there were but they're also they also balance each other really well like the locker room scene before they go out on the scare floor that you know and stink it up it's a wet dog that all just was improv right then and there hey can I borrow your odorant yeah get smelly garbage your old dumpster get the low tide how about wet dog yep stick it up and boo is so awesome you can do her song uh are you done in there she was initially like seven or eight and we aged her down to about two the girl that we were deported to do the voice was Mary daughter of Rob who's working with Mary I thought okay it's gonna be like normal I'll have my script and we'll walk in and we'll do the lines and she'll stand there and maybe I'll save them and she'll paradigm well she didn't stand still she just ran around so we ended up picking the microphone up and following her around and I just tricked her into doing the sounds by playing with puppets or soft toys it wouldn't make a lot of noise and so we couldn't really plan for like if you needed something specific too bad I just had to kind of get what you got and then you had the fun of finding all the little bits and pieces so should we talk about 911 oh yeah that was quite late into the film we were in the middle of our sound mix the day that that happened on 9/11 so as I remember coming into you know we all found out about it and I you know everyone was like oh I'll do it do we go to work do we you know what do you do but like a lot of people we did end up going to work I remember the prevailing feeling was that what we were doing was so trivial this day in history September mm so intense seems kind of bizarre to be making cartoons yeah it does it was really hard to get momentum and get excited about finishing the movie because there were such big things happening in the world and the other thing that ended up being scary was that our movie was coming out basically 60 days after the towers fell we just wanted like are people even gonna want to go see movies right such a dart or the mood in the world even later with some of the scares about the anthrax right and so here are a fundamental element of the film are these big suited guys no one can and we're making this movie for years and this thing just happened to happen right at the end of making the movie you change the scene right oh that's right we have a scene at the end of the sushi restaurant scene where Buu escapes in the restaurant the CTA attacks they come in that the one guy says all clear for decontamination and as the running away mike says Sulley there could not have gone any worse in the way it was in the original was my fireball of the restaurant being imploded you know which was hilarious like we showed it it was the most unfunny thing well we ended up doing like a plasma kind of effects in the background yeah but we got as far away from an explosion as possible because it's just just so not something anybody even then it was so uncertain at the time you're looking at it going do we change it will this be funny again ever the thing that I remember most fondly about that time is that when the movie did finally come out we had so many people come to us and say thank you thank you for giving me something I could we could go out and do as a family you know because people had you know sheltered their kids from the news and and again the mood was so dark in the world people people weren't going out but they went out to see monsters in droves we had so many people come to us we're so happy that we gave them an escape from everything that was going on it was escapist but it's also talking a lot about how to face fears and I think especially with kids you hear a lot that this is a way that you know Mike and Sulley are a way that they learned how to not be afraid you know and especially at that and it definitely feels like a Pete docter film to me yeah even you know and I and you animated that last shot I know of Sully's face and I think that sums it up for me just how much heart that you put in this thing and just how interesting this world was I always wanted to do a scene in the film but you know the days are pretty packed so it's hard to do and that almost didn't come to be right we were arguing about whether Sully should go in and we see boo or not and then you have this idea that you ran with showing it at the preview with an audience it was just on boards and I remember that being one of the points of contention that a lot of audience members we want to go in we want to go in with Sully and Cebu cuz it was they felt like it was a work in that relationship was really working and so say well then we should do it we go Cebu because lots of people want to see that yeah and there was a lot of discussion a lot but it I just knew that no matter what we did it would never be as good as what was in people's heads and it was actually a fairly simple scene to do which is another easy way yeah it was just an emphasis on the acting and I think the story did a lot of the work for you you know yeah that by the time that that he opens the door and his face lights up you're sort of primed for that you know that the story had worked to that point and it sort of resolves in a satisfying way that hopefully allows the audience to kind of create what happened next that's why I like it it's hope for the future of yeah that's gonna happen Thanks yeah I cry every time I do I cry every time I was trying to kitty when I see his art and monsters name like the monsters yeah let's do it again [Laughter] you

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