Pixar Unveils First Look & Talks 'Monsters University' Designs at D23
by Alex Billington
August 21, 2011
Meet the new and improved Mike and Sulley! Or rather, the younger Mike and Sulley, college-aged buddies attending Monsters University in the prequel to Pixar's Monsters Inc from 2001. Yesterday at Disney's D23 Expo down in Anaheim, Pixar held a panel on the character designs for Monsters University, hosted by director Dan Scanlon and animator Ricky Nierva, that an included an early intro and discussion about designing younger versions of these two characters for the prequel in development now (but it's not due out until June 2013). We snapped some quick photos of the new designs during the panel, take a look below!
As confirmed during Disney's big movie presentation yesterday, Monsters University is in development at Pixar, with Billy Crystal and John Goodman returning as Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan, plus even Steve Buscemi as Randall. They explained that in designing the college world, where the story will explore how these two first became friends, the creative team toured to universities all around and wanted to make it feel like "all walks of life were right around the corner." In updating the 2001 characters for the prequel, they had to de-age them, and this is where the D23 presentation kicked in, as they explained how exactly they designed certain characteristics to make them look younger. Here's the younger Mike & Sulley:
As you can see, Sulley is thinner, scruffier, and as Neirva explained, he has the "bed-head" look. One of the funniest moments of their presentation came when they explained that everyone looked much different in their college years, and they showed a photo of each of them in college (Scanlon was shown holding a bag of Wonderbread, classic). Mike is slightly smaller, has less freckles and wrinkles, and most importantly has a retainer, which is something Billy Crystal mentioned talking about him last week. They showed some great comparison shots between the original 2001 versions and the new, younger versions, which are still works-in-progress, as this still has two years until it's supposed to be finished. Here are the comparison slides:
Scanlon explained that all designs start with the story. "Story is king" and they can't design the characters until they know the story, he said. As Peter on SlashFilm points out, they started designing these younger versions back in 2008 (as dated on the art) and have been working on them ever since. They design "from the inside out" and learned that in de-aging Mike and Sulley, "it's all about the subtleties." They tried different versions and showed us some of the sketches and sculpts of the different designs, as an animator usually tries all kinds of ideas when working with a character until they find something that really works.
"How do you make an eyeball look 18 years old?" was a question they jokingly asked. Here are some of the sketches of earlier versions of the characters that they showed. Their design process goes from sketches to clay sculpts for 3D modeling purposes. I just love seeing this kind of art from Pixar. Here's a few of them:
One of the major design changes for Sulley was the "fur cape" he has. They improved vastly upon the 2001 version in detail, and made it "less dirty" but said that they're still "dialing in the transitions." What can we expect for the prequel in general and the world they'll be working with? Scanlon says it's a larger world we get to see "they're going to be outside and they're going to be on campus." We're "going to meet Monsters like they've never seen before." As for a tone, they mention that this is meant to have a nostalgic feeling, at least that's what they're going for. As expected, there will be lot of references to college movies from the 80's. "If it works for this movie, it works for this movie," Scanlon says, reiterating how important story is.
Another interesting detail to come out of the later Q&A portion of this panel was that a favorite/familiar location from Monsters Inc will appear in Monsters University, "but in a different way." We're guessing it could be someplace like Harryhausen's. There will of course be all kinds of new monsters, and they showed us a quick glimpse of all kinds from jocks to geeks to professors to goths and so on. The voice cast also will include Dave Foley, Julia Sweeney, Joel Murray and Peter Sohn (the Pixar animator who voiced Emile in Ratatouille and directed Partly Cloudy). Here's a few more final glamour shots of Mike and Sulley:
The point of all this in-depth research, as Scanlon and Neirva kept saying, was so that they could find what, in detail, makes the characters so unique and "hopefully capture [that] essence and make memorable characters." I think they're definitely on their way to doing that. Even though these two are established and beloved characters, it's great to see them already getting an edge that makes them a part of this new prequel and exciting again. I can't wait to see what trouble Mike's retainer is going to cause. I'm glad we got to see this first look glimpse this early on, as I'm very excited for this. Though, I admit, I'm huge a fan of Monsters Inc, so I'm mostly just anxious to return to that world. Thanks for a great panel, Dan and Ricky.
Disney/Pixar's Monsters University is scheduled for release June 21, 2013. This presentation was a part of Disney's D23 Expo hosted at the Anaheim Convention Center this weekend. So who's excited for MU?