Even before Monsters University opened in theaters in June, a few devout fans of the original 2001 movie expressed irritation that the prequel seemed to violate one aspect of Monster history. In Monsters, Inc., Mike playfully responds to an insult from Sulley with, “You’ve been jealous of my good looks since the fourth grade, pal.”
In Monsters University, however, the entire premise is built around the two monsters meeting for the first time in college. It was initially a problem for director and co-writer Dan Scanlon, who was determined to resolve the two storylines. “As much as we could, we wanted to be totally respectful of the continuity of the first film,” says Scanlon. “Our first inclination was to try to make it work, to do versions where they became friends in fourth grade. Basically, after trying it a lot, we felt like it was robbing the audience of the experience of really watching a relationship grow. And we realized we were going through all these hoops for this one line that doesn’t affect the story in a negative way. It was really [Monsters, Inc. director] Pete Docter and John Lasseter who said, ‘It’s not as important as you think. You’re not hurting the movie to ignore that line.'”
That Docter himself made the suggestion was crucial, since Monsters had been his baby and he remained involved as executive producer of the prequel. “I think Pete really pushed us to make big changes,” says Scanlon. “He was really good at standing back and going, ‘Oh, you want to make Sulley a jerk? Great.’ Nothing was precious. Pete was really a reminder of, ‘No, for characters to be interesting, they have to go through these changes.’ He really empowered us.”
But before the filmmakers decided that the fourth-grade zinger from Monsters, Inc. had to be ignored or simply written off as a flippant retort, playground scenes were written and artwork was commissioned. In the Monsters University Blu-ray, which comes out Oct. 29, one of the extras includes what could have been Mike and Sulley’s first childhood meeting. If you don’t want to wait until then, click below to see an exclusive video clip.