A Monsterous Opening at the Box Office for Disney•Pixar’s ‘Monsters University’

Disney•Pixar’s Monsters University (MU) debuted domestically with a huge $82.4 million this weekend – to become Pixar’s second-best opening weekend ever! The film’s first-place finish continues the animation studio’s winning streak – they’re now 14 for 14 straight No. 1 openings.

The college-set comedy, a prequel to the Disney•Pixar classic Monsters, Inc., also opened in Germany, Australia, Russia, Mexico, Spain, Brazil and a number of other territories around the world. Its total cumulative global box office is $138.7 million.

The storytellers at Pixar were intrigued by the idea of uncovering the story behind the lovable best friends Mike Wazowski and James Sullivan, aka Sulley, from 2001’s Monsters, Inc.

“When we create an original film at Pixar, by the time we’re done with it, we know the characters—they’re like family,” says executive producer John Lasseter. “It’s so much fun to start thinking of new ideas that you can do in a world you already love.”

New ideas were plentiful – not just about the story but about all the new characters and locations that would be brought to life. But boundless creativity must eventually come face to face with logistics. Led by director Dan Scanlon and producer Kori Rae, the filmmaking team took on the monstrous task with relish.

Advances in technology enabled the artists to create more complex sets and characters than ever. The team adopted a more accurate lighting process called global illumination, and adapted their computer workflow to be able to handle the demands of using it. For perspective, it took 100 million CPU hours – 10,000 years if done by a single computer – to render Monsters University, which makes it literally the biggest film Pixar has done.

All in all, MU features nearly 500 different characters!

To create younger versions of three key characters from Monsters, Inc., the team studied the physical transformation of several A-list actors over their long careers – and for Mike specifically, the aging process of frogs.

Perhaps one of the film’s most unique-looking monsters is Dean Hardscrabble, head of MU’s School of Scaring, who had up to 12 people working on her. The artists studied various creatures including moths and owls, but the real spark of inspiration for the character’s design – which included 30 legs and a frightening wingspan – came from a creepier source: the Amazonian giant centipede. And Pixar’s penchant for research brought the artists face to face with one on the studio’s campus in Emeryville, California.

Now that’s a scary story, but I’ve been assured the animators kept their distance!