Back in 2001, Monsters, Inc. kept Pixar’s win streak alive, in terms of both box office glory and general critical reception; yet, it’s not commonly ranked so high on the computer-animation studio’s list of accomplishments. That’s more a testament to Pixar’s high standards, since Monsters remains an infectiously-buoyant toon that marries eclectic humor and tender sentiment; not to mention, memorable monster characters brought to life through expressive voice acting by such people as John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Tilly and Frank Oz, among others.
Disney continues its lucrative trend of re-releasing cherished animated titles in 3D (after Toy Story 1 & 2, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Finding Nemo) with Monsters, Inc. 3D. Hence, there are many people who became endeared to big-and-furry James P. Sullivan (Goodman) and one-eyed Mike Wazowski (Crystal) when they were younger – and now, wish to either take their own children to enjoy the film on the big screen, or maybe revisit it simply for nostalgia’s sake. But does the 3D post-conversion enhance or detract from the viewing experience?
Unfortunately, in opposition to Finding Nemo 3D (read our review), Monsters, Inc. does not benefit from the added depth (as a whole, that is). Moreover, the vibrant colors and exaggerated physics of Monstropolis and its citizens end up being weakened, as a result of the migration from 2D to darker 3D. The majority of scenes suffer from the conversion, resulting in blurrier action and eye-catching details – be they wooly hairs that cover Sullivan’s body or Mike’s scrambling legs – failing to pop off the screen or stand out as much as one might hope.
Of course, a big part of the problem is that Monsters, Inc. doesn’t play around with camera perspective or point-of-view in 2D. That puts Monsters at a disadvantage compared to Finding Nemo – where immense ocean is envisioned through the eyes of its smaller inhabitants – and the Toy Story installments, which allow viewers to see (and experience) how the world would appear to miniature child playthings. By comparison, Monsters revolves around human-sized characters; thus, visually, the emphasis is on sight gags and appearances, not so much the size or breadth of the world they occupy (meaning 3D doesn’t add much).
The only variation to that rule is during the film’s climax, which takes place within the Monsters, Inc. factory’s enormous storage center for doors that provide access to the human world. No doubt, that high-flying sequence looks great in 3D, but it’s not enough to justify the surcharge for a 3D ticket (as opposed to, admission to a 2D screening).
Monsters, Inc. 3D does benefit from what appears to be touched-up animation, so that small details (skin textures, lighting) are crisper and more refined than those in either DVD and/or Blu-ray versions of the film. The problem is that the enhanced sharpness of these elements are not so much as to overcome the darkening effect of 3D post-conversion, resulting in several scenes that are too murky and diminish improvements to the animation; though that’s also assuming the” improvements” aren’t just an after-effect of seeing the movie on a regular theater screen again.
Either way, it suggests the film on its own remains visually-accomplished enough to justify being shown on the big screen once more (for those who are interested in revisiting this particular Pixar story). However, there’s really little reason to check out Monsters, Inc. 3D in… well, 3D, rather than going for a good old-fashioned 2D screening instead.
SIDENOTE: The re-release includes the original short (“For the Birds”), “bloopers” and end credits sequence (ie. the Monsters, Inc. stage musical) that accompanied the film during its original theatrical run eleven years ago.
Here is the trailer for Monsters, Inc. 3D:
Monsters, Inc. 3D is now playing in theaters.