Pixar Unveils First Look & Talks 'Monsters University' Designs at D23

August 21, 2011

Sulley from Monsters University

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:

Monsters University

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:

Monsters University
Monsters University

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:

Monsters University
Monsters University

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:

Monsters University

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?

Find more posts: Feat, First Look, Hype, Pixar



Hey, this looks pretty cool. Major props to PIXAR for being one of the few "original story" advocates in Hollywood.

Big Boss on Aug 22, 2011


I love Pixar, but this is definitely not an original story, it's a prequel to an original story.  They're starting to expand upon their beloved franchise successes so I wouldn't call them original story advocates anymore.

peloquin on Aug 22, 2011


Prequel or no, it's still original...

Kamish on Aug 22, 2011


How can a story be original if it's based on already existing characters and material? 

peloquin on Aug 22, 2011


Because they made both of them? People are allowed to expand on their own ideas, or even other's ideas- it's what kids do every time, heck, every second they play and create. By your logic, nothing is original because movies are made based off of somebody else's work or material. In other words, almost nothing we do is original because something already preceded it to lead to that decision, AKA, "having a memory".

Hotchick on Oct 29, 2011


It's original because it's based on their own original idea to begin with.

Pixar fan on Aug 22, 2011


I really like where this is going and am super excited about a prequel.But I think it'd be kind of neat if we got an Monsters Inc in-joke where we found one of the teachers at the University exploring crack pot theories like "laughter research" but then is dismissed as a loon by the majority of the faculty. 

Anonymous on Aug 22, 2011


o·rig·i·nal [uh-rij-uh-nl] adjective 1. belonging or pertaining to the origin  or beginning of something, or to a thing at its beginning: The book still has its original binding. 2. new; fresh; inventive; novel: an original way of advertising. 3. arising or proceeding independently of anything else: an original view of history. 4. capable of or given to thinking or acting in an independent, creative, or individual manner: an original thinker. 5. created, undertaken, or presented for the first time: to give the original performance of a string quartet. 1. This is not the beginning of this idea. 2. This is not a new idea. 3. This does not exist independently from the first film. 4. The creators did not act together to creatively come up with this idea for a film and no introductions to the characters or story will be necessary. 5. This is not the first time we've seen these characters and we know what to expect going into this project. ...This is not an original idea

peloquin on Aug 22, 2011


By your logic, the new Smurfs film would also be an original idea because it's based on an original idea.

peloquin on Aug 22, 2011


You know Big Boss and Kamish are seven years old. You're getting mad at children for not knowing the dictionary definitions of words. I hope you're proud of yourself. And don't even try to imply you didn't know. This is a news post about a cartoon. Lighten the hell up

Richie G on Aug 22, 2011


I'm not mad, I'm teaching.  When my 5 and 8 year old children use terminology that's incorrect I correct them.  How else are they going to learn?

peloquin on Aug 22, 2011


Just because they're children does not mean they're stupid and I think it's insulting for you to think so.  Children like to argue with everything you say and need solid proof to be convinced.  My hope is that the children will read my post and spread the knowledge the next time he/she hears one of their friends incorrectly use the term in the future.

peloquin on Aug 22, 2011


 peloquin, get fucking laid dude.

Alantheonewhothinksyouregreat on Aug 22, 2011


I don't know peloquin, using your definitions above, this IS original. "Belonging or pertaining to the origin or beginning of something" - MU is the origin story of how Mike and Sulley became friends, which we haven't ever seen before. And, as someone else mentioned, Pixar created these characters from scratch anyway. "Created, undertaken, or presented for the first time" - Similar to what I just mentioned, we're seeing this story for the first time. Even the characters, this entire presentation was specfiically about how they're making them new again, and we're seeing this younger Mike and Sulley "for the first time". I get what you're saying that just because this is a prequel, it's not "original" but I would argue that maybe it could be considered an "original story" based around non-original characters created years before.

Alex Billington on Aug 22, 2011


I'll concede that the idea is original, but the characters are not.

peloquin on Aug 22, 2011


Fine with me. Plus, this whole argument about originality doesn't really matter here, because this is Pixar and it's going to be a wonderful story anyway! 🙂

Alex Billington on Aug 22, 2011


Like I said, I love Pixar they're my favorite studio in the industry right now which includes live action and animation houses.  I have been disappointed as of late with their latest decision to go the sequel route because they're better than that, but I got a breath of fresh air yesterday reading about their dinosaur and mind bending stories. I hope this one is more Toy Story 3 than Cars 2 because Boo from Monsters Inc really brought a tear to my eye and I thought they ended it perfectly.  I'm just not sure if I want another and I'm lashing out in the comments of your site ;o)

peloquin on Aug 22, 2011


ur a fucking idiot

jami on Nov 24, 2011


so if this is a prequel then will they have a sequel to MI? I was hoping for a sequel for MI not a prequel

Anonymous on Aug 23, 2011


Okay, so peloquin (whatever that is) is just arguing about semantics. Pixar is a business, like anything else in the movie world, and you could consider sequels/prequels to be like opening a store of the same format in which the original is successful- AKA "expansion". Creating a new movie is like a lone venture- creating an entirely new store with a new format, which has a much higher risk of failing, even after years of market research because execution may not happen as planned. Except one problem- once a movie is released, it cannot be altered very much, if at all, where as a store can. However, the difference between Pixar and Disney/Dreamworks/everyone else is that Pixar at least vies to make each expansion and venture worthwhile. They try to adapt to the times and successfully market to their segment instead of to the mass. Although I do agree, I feel that Cars 2 was a cash-in movie that ended with much repulsion from many Pixar fans, but with Toy Story, I did not feel that so much. Every movie, I felt I knew the characters better, got a better feel for their world, and felt genuinely entertained, like going back to a store that makes constant updates and improvements on their services and products. 

Sanfan on Oct 29, 2011


Rather than bitch about the film's originality, I am more than giddy awaiting the opening of this film. It is bound to be a lot of fun.

Andispyral on Jan 30, 2012


WTF no boo?

AMBER on Jan 30, 2012


They didn't even meet Boo yet... e_e

Coopjo443 on Mar 25, 2012

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