I can’t say I ever felt the need for another Monsters, Inc. movie. Oh, don’t misunderstand; I loved the original, but it was a movie that I felt told its story very well and didn’t seem at all incomplete. (Of course, I wanted to know how the Boo/Sully reunion turned out at the end of the movie. I mean, I’m not made of stone! Still, I couldn’t see a movie made out of that alone). Then the decade which passed after the original’s release pretty much solidified in my mind that Monsters, Inc. was a standalone film. As such, when news of Monsters University reached my ears I was certainly interested, as any “True 90’s Kid” is required to be, but perhaps not as ecstatic as I was when, say, Toy Story 3 was announced.
The movie had some convincing to do, in order to get me excited, and to put it simply: it has.
The fact that this movie is a prequel rather than a sequel is a large part of what has me interested. Even though it’s going in the opposite direction of where my interest lies after the first movie (Are Sully and Boo still friends? Did she outgrow, or stop believing in, her monsters? These are the things I need to know!) it has me interested mainly because of what’s being revealed about Mike Wazowski. Mike, as Monsters, Inc. fans know from the original, is employed as a Scare Assistant: the less glamorous employee who helps out the much-admired Scarers in their job of collecting children’s screams to be converted into energy. What’s interesting is that Mike appears to be very proud of his job in the original movie, if a little jealous of the recognition Sully and the other Scarers get. In Monsters University, however, it is revealed that Mike’s dream was to be a Scarer.
I think this makes the movie more interesting, because it throws a wrench in the workings of this character. One of the toughest things to get right about a prequel is to make it interesting when the intended audience essentially knows the “ending” thanks to the already released original movie. This character revelation about Mike presents an unexpected development, because even though we know where he ends up, we now know that it was not at all where he had planned to be. Because of this, the movie has the potential to make commentary on how dreams change and some of the harsh realities of setting yourself up for one goal and realizing that it wasn’t the right one after all; stories that aren’t often told in children’s movies but probably should.
While following your dreams is important and I don’t think we should ever teach our children to limit themselves, it’s also important to teach them that dreams can change and sometimes you can work for an ideal and find out down the road that it’s not quite the right fit. It’s good to teach them to be open to adjusting their goals, rather than doggedly pursuing one dream and ignoring other possibilities.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into this and/or putting too much weight on an animated movie, but I do take entertainment directed at kids pretty seriously, both for my own entertainment and for what message it sends to young people. From what I can see, Monsters University is poised to pay off well in both respects.