Monsters at Work teams Pixar veterans with enthusiastic newcomers
Almost every workplace has a mix of longtime veterans and fresh-faced newcomers, and Monsters, Inc. is no different. When the new Disney+ series Monsters at Work premieres July 7, viewers will finally get to see what's been going on at the creature corporation since it transitioned to a laugh factory at the end of the original 2001 film Monsters, Inc. The 2013 prequel Monsters University showed fans what life was like for Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James "Sulley" Sullivan (John Goodman) before they became professional scarers, and now Monsters at Work will continue that story into the future.
Goodman and Crystal are back for the new series, picking up roles they originated exactly 20 years ago. After all this time, both legendary actors say they still have a great fondness for this world.
"Mike is one of my favorite characters, if not my single favorite character, to play, because he's just so fun to do," Crystal tells EW. "So a chance to work with John and the great folks at Pixar and Disney, knowing that the quality of the storytelling would be as great as it is, that was an easy decision."
For his part, Goodman says picking up the mantle of Sulley again just feels natural at this point.
"It's like putting on a great old baseball glove," he says. "It's comfortable, it works, you know it's gonna do you well."
But while Mike and Sully will appear frequently in Monsters at Work, they aren't the protagonists. That role belongs first and foremost to Tylor Tuskmon (Ben Feldman), an eager young man who just graduated Monsters University at the top of his class with a degree in scaring children… only to arrive just in time for his world's economy to turn upside down, with monsters shifting focus from scaring children to making them laugh. While he figures out what to make of this new state of affairs, Tylor ends up on the Monsters, Inc. Facilities Team (MIFT).
Like Tylor, Feldman is a newcomer to the world of Disney animation. He was cast back when the show was first announced in 2019, but Tylor's look has changed since then. Originally designed as tall and lanky, Tylor now seems like he could pack a punch.
"I kept doing the same thing, my shtick of nervous stammering, and then they adjusted," Feldman tells EW of Tylor's design evolving over time. "The character in the animation originally looked a little like that vibe, and then I think they decided to play against it. So he evolved into a much more intimidating presence."
One of Tylor's newfound co-workers, the enthusiastic MIFT team member Val, is voiced by Mindy Kaling. Kaling has been around the Disney animation block before, having voiced Disgust in 2015's Inside Out, but there's not much character overlap between Disgust and Val.
"They're kind of opposites," Kaling says. "Disgust was way more judgmental, and Val is relentlessly upbeat. I recorded all her lines during the pandemic, so it was just me in a booth, and she always cheered me up. She's just relentlessly positive."
Val immediately takes a liking to Tylor, and starts taking him under her wing even though she's not much older than him (in fact, they had a few classes together at Monsters University before Val ultimately dropped out).
"Val decides Tylor will be her best friend whether he wants it or not," Kaling says. "Tylor's a smart character with his own ambitions, and it's really funny seeing him thrown into the MIFT world, which even for monsters is considered not very prestigious. I think it's really funny seeing that character in that world."
Feldman adds, "What you want to see most from a series is an evolution for a character, and I think without Val, without that super-enthusiastic, really happy component, Tylor would never find a sense of home and place and happiness. He would just always be a little standoffish. So Val is the missing ingredient for Tylor as far as I'm concerned."
Along the way, Tylor also gets some important advice from Mike and Sulley as they too adjust to unexpected roles: Sulley has gone from high-performing scarer to CEO of Monsters, Inc., while Mike finds himself at the top of the food chain thanks to his comedic skills. So EW asked Goodman and Crystal for any advice they could share with actors just starting out with voice-over work for Disney.
"What I love about Pixar is we can give them how-abouts: How about this, how about that?" Crystal says. "'Where are they now?' 'Well they're working in the scare floor.' 'Could there be some ooze or slime on the floor?' They'll be like, 'Oh yeah!' Then you'll come back two weeks later and there's a big snail character that oozes across the floor. 'Can I say this, can I say that?' All they really have to do is press delete if it doesn't work. But they trust you."
But as Feldman and Kaling are already finding out, collaboration with costars is key too.
"That is the joy of playing with John — he's such a great catcher," Crystal continues. "For a trapeze team, I'm jumping and doing spins, but if someone doesn't catch you, you're gonna hit the net or the floor. That's the joy of working with such a great actor like John, you can just go off and trust he's gonna catch you."
Monsters at Work premieres with two episodes July 7 on Disney+, with subsequent episodes following on Wednesdays.
This post has been updated to reflect that Monsters at Work was produced entirely by Disney Television Animation.