Monsters University appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a flawless presentation.
At all times, sharpness looked crisp and detailed. If any softness materialized, I didn’t see it, as I thought the image remained tight and well-defined at all times. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, and the movie lacked edge haloes or artifacts. Of course, no print flaws popped up along the way.
In terms of colors, University went with a broad palette. All those monsters allowed for a wide variety of hues, and the image brought them out in a vivid and dynamic manner. Blacks were dark and deep, and shadows seemed smooth and clear. This was about as good as it gets in terms of visuals.
Though not as impressive, the movie’s Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack also pleased. The film didn’t deliver a ton of opportunities for auditory theatrics, but we got enough to bring the mix to life with reasonable frequency. That was especially true during rhe “Scare Games”, as those allowed for a good variety of exciting soundscape elements. These blended together well and created a nice package of sound components from all around the room.
Audio quality was solid. Music sounded dynamic and full, while speech was distinctive and natural; no signs of edginess occurred. Effects appeared accurate and showed nice range, with solid low-end when appropriate. Though the mix never really threatened to reach “A”-level, it became a definite “B+” track.
Across two Blu-ray platters, we get plenty of extras here. These start on Disc One with an audio commentary from director Dan Scanlon, producer Kori Rae and story supervisor Kelsey Mann. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story/character areas, animation, influences and challenges related to a prequel, cast and performances, deleted/alternate scenes, set/character design, music, and connected topics.
No matter who participates, Pixar commentaries tend to be rich and informative, and that trend continues here. Too many discussions of animated films focus on technical areas to the animation, but this one balances those domains well as it lets us know about the creative decisions. The track tends to move briskly and tells us a lot of good notes about the movie. Heck, they even address the chronological inconsistency created by a scene in the first film!
Shown before theatrical screenings of University, an animated short called The Blue Umbrella runs six minutes, 46 seconds. We see a blue umbrella who develops romantic sparks with a red umbrella. We watch as other anthropomorphic entities try to get them together.
Umbrella has some charm, and it delivers stunning animation. However, the story doesn’t go much of anywhere other than as a way to lead us toward its inevitable conclusion. Its also feels a little too much like Paperman, the short attached to Wreck-It Ralph last year. Umbrella isn’t bad but it’s nothing memorable.
Disc One opens with ads for Frozen, The Jungle Book and Planes. Sneak Peeks also throws in promos for the Disney Infinity video game, Mary Poppins, Iron Man/Hulk: Heroes Unlimited and Pirate Fairy.
On Disc Two, we find a slew of featurettes. Campus Life lasts 15 minutes, 14 seconds and delivers a sample “day in the life” of the film’s creation. Mostly we follow Scanlon, though we branch off to see other facets of the production as well. This gives us a fun take on the operations of Pixar folks.
During the eight-minute, 38-second Story School, we hear from Scanlon, Mann, Rae, story artists James Robertson, Dean Kelly and Adrian Molina, writers Robert Baird and Dan Gerson, and editor Greg Snyder. They talk about various narrative/character areas that developed and changed throughout the production. They deliver a nice examination of the decisions and let us learn about altered/abandoned notions as well.
Next comes Scare Games. It goes for four minutes, 30 seconds and features Rae, associate producer Nicole Grindle, producers’ assistant Amy Ellenwood, production coordinator Anthony Kemp, director’s assistant Kiera McAuliffe, and production manager David Park. The featurette tells us about Pixar’s “real-life Scare Games”. Nothing significant emerges here, but it’s a cute look at the way the filmmakers let off steam.
Within Monthropology, we find a five-minute, 47-second piece with Scanlon, Robertson, supervising technical director Sanjay Bakshi, crowds animation lead Adam Burke, characters art director Jason Deamer, directing animator Andrew Gordon, supervising animator Scott Clark, and production designer Ricky Nierva. They discuss character design with an emphasis on Dean Hardscrabble and the many background monsters. We find plenty more good notes here.
Welcome to MU fills six minutes, nine seconds with info from Scanlon, Nierva, set artist John Nevarez, sets art director Robert Kondo, lighting art director Dice Tsutsumi, sets modeling lead Dale Ruffolo, sets supervisor David Eisenmann, set dressing lead Nathan Fariss, graphics art director Craig Foster, sets shading lead Eric Andraos, and set dressing artist Amy Allen. They talk about aspects related to the creation of the MU campus in this brisk, informative piece.
The score comes to the fore for the seven-minute, 29-second Music Appreciation. It offers details from Scanlon, Rae, executive music producer Chris Montan, music supervisor Tom MacDougall, director of percussion Scott Johnson, and composer Randy Newman. We learn about the creation and execution of the film’s music. I’d like to hear more from Newman, but this is still a nice featurette.
When we shift to the five-minute, 16-second Scare Tactics, we hear from Scanlon, Gordon, Clark, Burke, Rae, directing animators Robert Russ and Michael Stocker, and animation fix lead Dan Nguyen. We learn a bit about animation techniques here, and the piece gives us another tight, informative program.
More technical material appears in Color and Light. It occupies five minutes, 16 seconds with comments from Scanlon, Tsutsumi, Bakshi, and director of photography Jean-Claude Kalache. As expected, the featurette examines how lighting and color usage influence the visual process. This one avoids the dryness that might mar it and becomes a solid clip.
Similar to featurettes on prior releases, Paths to Pixar: MU Edition runs seven minutes, 40 seconds and features on Rae, Tsutsumi, Scanlon, Nevarez, animators Aaton Hartline and Jae Hyung Kim, graphic artist Cassandra Smolcic and post-animation camera artist Sandy Karpman. They all tell us how they ended up at Pixar in this quick, delightful reel.
For the final featurette, we get the five-minute, two-second Furry Monsters: A Technical Retrospective. It gives us comments from Bakshi, chief technical officer Steve May, simulation supervisor Christine Waggoner, and simulation core architect David Baraff. They discuss the challenges involved with the rendering of monster hair. This leads us to another enjoyable, informative program.
Four Deleted Scenes fill a total of 22 minutes, four seconds. (That total includes intros from Scanlon.) We find “Rivalry” (4:45), “Recon” (3:13), “Movie Night” (4:18) and “Drama Class” (8:55). All are interesting but fairly unsubstantial. “Rivalry” offers the most intrigue, as it attempts to connect to the Mike/Sulley chronology from the first movie.
Advertisements appear under Promo Picks. We find “Monsters Mash Up”, “College Campaign” and “Theatrical Campaign”. “Mash” (4:01) simply shows a bunch of random little animated bits with the characters, it’s unclear where they ran – I’m guessing they were Disney Channel bumpers - but they’re entertaining.
“College” includes three segments: “College Commercial” (0:32), “March Madness” (0:27) and “Admissions” (1:33). “Theatrical” presents “Teaser Trailer” (1:10), “Back Then” (2:25), “One Night” (1:10) and “Japan Trailer” (2:23). The “College” ads are the most interesting because they feature the most cleverness, but all are worth a look.
Under Set Flythroughs, we get four sections with a running total of six minutes, 25 seconds. We can get a closer look at “The Campus”, “The Scare School”, “Frat Row” and “The OK House”. These give us tours of the locations sans characters. That may sound somewhat boring, but it’s actually fun to check out the virtual sets in this manner.
Disc Three finishes with an Art Gallery. It breaks into five areas: “Characters” (130 frames), “Color Keys” (30), “Development Art” (61), “Environments” (77) and “Graphics” (37). All offer good material, though I especially enjoy “Graphics”, as that domain lets you get a close-up look at various bits that might otherwise go missed.
A third disc provides a DVD Copy of University. It includes the commentary, Blue Umbrella and previews but none of the other extras.
12 years after the original Monsters Inc., we get Monsters University, a prequel that lets us know more about the characters. Though it comes with decent entertainment value, it never threatens to become memorable; it keeps us mildly engaged and that’s about it. The Blu-ray boasts excellent visuals along with very good audio and an informative set of supplements. University is a moderately engaging movie but given the Pixar track record, it disappoints.