Disney and Pixar transformed Hollywood Boulevard into the tailgate of any monster’s dream, Monday night. The blue carpet was bedecked with stately Monsters University columns and arches, the attendees all wore Monsters U royal blue, and a marching band and some acrobatic cheerleaders kicked off the evening with a custom Monsters U chant. Sulley and Mike Wazowski clearly made the right choice when it came to their higher education.
EW was on the scene and spoke to some of the cast and crew, new and old, about the film, the new characters to look forward to, and how to make a wholesome college film.
As a prequel to 2001’s Monster’s Inc, Monsters University finds Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James. P “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) on a college campus, trying to figure out what kind of scarers they’re going to become.
Monsters University is not your typical college film, though. It’s G-rated. Despite its focus on fraternity life, the movie obviously can’t really rely on any Animal House-style antics to propel the story forward. According to Monsters University co-writer Robert L. Baird, it’s actually not that difficult to make a wholesome college movie. “You focus on the life changing things that you remember from college. And the scary things. And meeting friends and leaving your hometown. That provides the heart of the movie,” says Baird. Billy Crystal, who returned to voice college aged Mike, took a similar approach. “You just remember how you felt when you were 17 or 18. When everything is possible and your dreams are starting to come true a little bit,” he says.
Setting the story in a prequel universe brought the opportunity to add a whole slate of quirky monsters and personalities for audiences to fall for. Co-writer Daniel Gerson is most excited for audience to meet Art, voiced by Charlie Day. “He became a character who we realized we could give any line to. The more extreme the non-sequitur, the better,” Gerson says. “You’re just waiting for the next weird thing he’s going to say.”
Baird adds that “Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) is awesome for a whole host of reasons. She’s just so intimidating and hopefully plugs into that one college professor that you had who just scares the heck out of you.” Interestingly, Gerson says that the part of Hardscrabble was originally written for a man, but that they changed it when they realized that the film was going to be very male-centric due to the fraternity setting. “We realized we wanted to get at least one significant female voice, so we made that gender switch and it just worked beautifully,” says Gerson.
Smash and Will & Grace alum Sean Hayes brought his voice talents to another new character named Terri, one half of a two-headed monster. Dave Foley voices the other head. “We’re part of the group that comes together to help Mike fulfill his dream of being the best scarer on campus,” says Hayes. Unlike many actors who voice characters in animated films, because of the unique circumstance of having a two-headed monster, Hayes worked alongside Foley in the recording studio. “It was the funniest time I’ve ever had in my life. We share a similar sense of comedy. He was just a genius and a dream to improvise with. We ended up using some of our improvisation in the movie.”
Hayes might not be new to animated films, but this was his first Pixar experience. And he doesn’t hesitate to gush about Monsters University, or his delightful experience on the film. “This, I believe, is the best Pixar film ever. They say Disneyland is the greatest place on earth and I say Pixar is the greatest place to work on earth,” says Hayes. John Ratzenberger, who not only voices Yeti in Monsters University, but has voiced a character in every Pixar feature so far, agrees. “It’s kind of like working with da Vinci. They create art that people will live on forever.”
Monsters University hits theaters on June 21.