July 28, 2014

‘Monsters University’ Director Dan Scanlon Explains Why Sulley Was Not Jealous Of Mike’s Good Looks In The 4th Grade

In early April, I was invited to visit Pixar to preview its upcoming films for the year, Monsters University and The Blue Umbrella, and to speak to the filmmakers that worked on them. One of the concerns (translation: nitpicks) that some Monsters, Inc. fans had after the announcement of prequel Monsters University was the comment Mike made to Sulley in the original film that inferred they knew each other in the fourth grade. With the prequel film revolving around the story of how Mike and Sulley met in college, there was a vocal minority that complained about what seemed to be a contradiction. After the break, read what MU director Dan Scanlon had to say about that!

Monsters University - Teaser Poster 2

There was a video released on YouTube last month that addressed just this. Called “The Problem With Monsters University,” the video plays the fourth grade comment scene several times, pointing out, that there was a contradiction between the two films:



As the video illustrates (a bit obnoxiously, I might add), in Monsters, Inc., Mike says to Sulley, “You’ve been jealous of my good looks since the fourth grade.” Scanlon told me that because of that line, early on in development, they considered a story where they did know each other during the fourth grade. They chose to set the film primarily during their college years because “so much of college is about self-discovery and figuring out who you are.” They still wanted to honor the fourth grade comment from the first film, so Scanlon and his team developed several different versions of the story where they met during their childhood and then the film jumped forward in time to their college years.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

However, Scanlon notes that with the time-jump between their childhood and college, “you sort of felt like you were missing [their] relationship grow.” Pete Docter, director of Monsters Inc., and studio CCO John Lasseter, spoke with Scanlon and told him that while making the franchise continuity an essential piece was honorable, he had “to do what [was] right for the story – do what [was] right for both stories in the long run.” They made a difficult decision, Scanlon says, and ultimately decided that having them meet in college was important, because then we could watch their relationship evolve on screen.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

The line still remains a part of Monsters, Inc., though. I would not count on the line being edited out of the film, George Lucas-style, as Scanlon has an explanation ready that maintains the integrity of that line. Stating that the fourth-grade line was originally put into the first film to show that the two had been friends for some time, Scanlon says that now the employees joke that “You’ve been jealous of my good looks since the fourth grade” is just a “monster expression” in that world. “That’s what monsters always say to each other,” Scanlon says sarcastically.

MU Press Junket - Dan Scanlon 2

Most importantly, the MU director says that when you watch the two films together, the spirit that runs through the prequel is loyal to the original film, and that is what they were looking to do. When the prequel film was first announced, I remembered briefly thinking about how the fourth grade line would be explained away. Pixar, a studio that thrives on consistency and attention to detail, would not throw away that line, I told myself. However, even before Scanlon explained what they did, I came to the understanding that it was just one sentence – while staying true to that comment would seem to pay tribute to that tiny line, Pixar is known for doing what it needs to tell a great story. If that means discounting that line, then so be it. If you find yourself waking in the middle of the night, in turmoil over how that quote was not given its due, tell yourself it’s a monster expression – it will help you get through the night.

Monsters University arrives in theaters less than two months from now, on June 21. Before that, you can expect in-depth coverage from my trip to Pixar. This is only the launch of the coverage, so stay tuned for much more on the making of Monsters University and The Blue Umbrella.

About Samad Rizvi

Samad is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Pixar Times and The Disney Times. His favorite films include The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Vertigo, Back to the Future, Children of Men, Pan's Labyrinth, and of course, Pixar's Monsters, Inc., WALL-E and Up.

  • Justin

    I still think they could’ve done something with Mike and Sulley briefly meeting in 4th grade, losing contact shortly after, and then re-connecting in college but, alas, I suppose I will have to be satisfied with the “monster expression” explanation. Regardless, reading this makes me more excited (if that’s even possible) for the film. I love how Scanlon’s mind operates.

  • Capital_7

    Well, they fucked that up pretty much. I have no interest in seeing this now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=17808331 Derrick Clements

    Great article, Samad, as always.

  • Jeff Atkins

    I first heard about this inconsistency from my kids who were complaining endlessly about it, which prompted me to find this article. I thought my son would appreciate hearing the director’s explanation, but it only made him more emphatic. Referring to the Monster’s Inc. DVD, he said “It says right there on Mike Wazowski’s scarecard that they were childhood friends! Does ‘childhood’ mean something else to them?”.

    He has a point. If we buy the director’s explanation, then we really can’t be sure that anything in Monsters’ Inc. means what we think it means. But we don’t buy his explanation of course. The article says what really happened. The old back story didn’t fit into the new vehicle, so the director cut it down a bit.

    So what’s a tentacle more or less? It was only a single line in the original movie (plus some promotional materials). The problem is that although it was unseen, it was a pretty big tentacle. Most of us had imagined Mike and Sully growing up together. It added poignancy to the fact that Sully chose to help Boo even though it might end his childhood friendship with Mike. That’s a lot to change in the original movie.

    It’s disappointing because I can envision Mike and Sully at University together after being childhood friends. They would have never bunked together before, so their relationship would still grow. Why couldn’t the director envision this?

    I suspect it’s because instead of telling the characters’ story, the director was using the characters to tell his own story. I don’t count that as a cordial sin if the story is good, but if he has to tear tentacles off the original movie to do it, then all I can say is it better be a great story.

    • Jessica

      I agree with you. Plus, their friendship being from childhood is enforced by the way Mike speaks to Sully’s mom on the phone. I am not friends with many of the moms of my college friends, but I am with the moms I grew up with. It’s not JUST a line, its the way their friendship was presented.

      • Paulina

        What the fuck? How is their friendship presented as something other that best friends? It doesn’t matter if they met in preschool, college or out in a bar, they’re still best friends and every interaction they have is because they trust and love eachother, strong friendships don’t depend on the amount of time or the circumstances you’ve met, they depend on the chemistry and the trust between both parties.. Just because you didn’t get close to your college friend’s moms when you were in college doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, it’s stupid to think otherwise.

  • Jeff Atkins

    I meant “cardinal” sin.

  • PlayerNumber3

    Well, I didn’t want to see a 3D movie anyway, so now I have a reason not to go. If you can’t be true to your characters and your audience, it’s not writing, it’s a job. Might as well give Mike two eyes.

    • James_Bartlett

      You don’t have to see it in 3d and saying “now I have a reason not to go” is stupid. Your reason not to go is simply ‘I don’t want to go.”

      So there’s an inconsistency. Oh well. Movies have plotholes all the time. Is that going to make it a bad movie? no.

      Get over yourself.

  • shalayne

    I think it would have been better if he had just said that in the “Monster” world, the Fourth Grade is college, that would be MORE to the original Movie than to their “phrase the monsters say”.

  • Firdaus Rizal

    I wish Monsters University will also in IMAX 3D because it is an IMAX film.

  • Firdaus Rizal

    Please, Dan Scanlon. I wish Monsters University will also remaster into IMAX 3D. Only the best screening ever.

  • Jason Autwell

    just because you where in elementary together doesn’t mean that you actually knew each other. they may have been in diff grades of which one was in fourth, or they may have been in diff clicks. they never actually met or where forced to interact together until the pig. just a thought, seems more real…

  • Tim V.

    Here’s one explaination! Mike and Sully were in the Mail Room chatting one day and discover that they attended the same school together in fourth grade but never really noticed each other. Mike of course exagerrates that he’s suprised Sully doesn’t remember him because of how handsome he was. Boom, problem solved!

  • Jeff Atkins

    Okay, I’ve just seen Monsters University and I see why they tore the tentacle off the first movie. The movie starts out with Mike as a serious student and Sully coasting through school. It would be hard to believe they would have stayed friends like that since the 4th grade. The writers could have made them more like acquaintances, but although that would be truer to the words in the 1st movie, they would still be tearing off the important childhood friendship part and adding a distracting complication to the 2nd movie. Or they could have set the story in the 4th grade, but then they would lose the voices of Billy Crystal and John Goodman.

    It’s a tough choice. Leave one question blank and hope to ace the rest or answer everything and not do as well overall. I won’t know for sure how I feel about it until I watch Monster’s Inc. again, but I have to say I really enjoyed the 2nd movie.

  • BAL

    This scene out of Monster’s Inc. wasn’t what caught my attention; it was the conversation between Mike and Sulley in the trailer when they are discussing the difference between Magnolia and Mongolia. Sulley remarks to Mike that he would have know the difference had he been paying attention in 5th grade rather than passing notes to Susie Boyle. Sulley could have moved away and come back to college not having his life together, and MU could have continued the story line it began.

  • Jack K

    I noticed this after watching the film Today and call me stupid but it has frustrated me.

    I’m sure this issue could have been easily resolved. At the start of the movie when mike and his school friends go on the school trip to the scare floor, why didn’t they just put sulley there.

    They could have been showed as friends but they fell out over something. This could also add to the point that they were enemies during university.

    Hardly a massive story changer and the two films would still be consistent

  • Mark Anthony M. Agustin

    Mike is intelligent in Monsters University, how come?
    When in Monsters Inc. it somehow seems like he’s an idiot? =_=

  • Annie Wilkes

    They could have easily solved this if in the opening scene Sully got off the bus before Mike and walked off with a different group of kids. Then throw in a line when they meet in college like didn’t I go to Monstermentary school with you. Now its always going to stick out like a sore thumb. “They didn’t go to the same COCKADOODIE SCHOOL!”