God's Child, Our Joy

An adoptive family's journey in faith and life

Over Analysis of Monsters, Inc.

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If you don’t care about Monsters, Inc., haven’t seen it, seen it only once, or think a post about TV shapes is silly, go ahead and skip this post. If not please read on.

If you are into deep thoughts about Pixar movies, please read this post about Andy’s mom in Toy Story.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Tipping Point” discusses how a product or an idea can start small but evolve into a trend. One the factors outlined in the book was the Stickiness Factor, which describes how an idea must have value in the first place, and how it must get stuck in people for it to ever become a trend. For example, when Blue’s Clues was on Nickelodeon they would air the same episode five days in a row. Children that were surprised or confounded by the episode for the first viewing would be experts at following the clues by the end of the week.

When reading this my thought was that they’d be bored by the end of the week, but that wasn’t the case. Knowing what would happen next was actually a big plus for children. Now, what if you watched a show nine million times?

That’s where we are with Monsters, Inc.

Eva still loves this movie, although she calls it Boo (she was Boo for Halloween). She loves knowing what happens, and she still laughs at the same moments.

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Of course, I’ve also seen it multiple times which gives me ample time to analyze and over analyze everything about the movie. Thank God for Pixar. Pixar movies provide enough depth for multiple viewings without wanting to scratch my eyes out.

Without further ado, here is my over analysis of Monsters, Inc.

Wouldn’t it be more efficient to have all the doors on the scare floor out at first than having to wait for a new door each time?

How is Harryhausen’s less than five minutes from work?

How the heck are two scarers going for the record during a scare shortage?

What is the time span for the All-Time Scare Record?

At the beginning of the film we see that Sully and Randall are just under 100,000. What we don’t know is if the record is a lifetime record, a record for a year or something shorter. We can assume that it’s not a lifetime record because those are typically achieved at the end of someone’s career, and Sully/Randall both seem young and in their primes. It shouldn’t be a daily record, because the grossery employee talks about it before they start the day at work. So, what is it?

The work day is 8 hours long based on reasonable guesses from the information given:

Scaring starts at 9:00
They all are about to leave at 6:00
There is a half hour lunch from 12:00 to 12:30
Probably a half hour wind down from 5:30 to 6:00

Sully achieves 34 Scare Units (SUs) his first time through and 500 his first half hour. 34 SUs filled his first cylinder, so let’s assume the capacity is a rounder 35 SUs. This is about 14 cylinders for that half hour, but with the unusual circumstance of a slumber party, you can take away about 5 cylinders to get a more typical average of 315 SUs per half hour (9 x 35), or 630 SUPH (Scare Units Per Hour). This equates to about 5040 SUs a day.

They are at about 100,000 units when the movie begins, and using the average of 5040 SUs a day, this equals about 19.8 days.

Assuming that their months are arranged similar to ours, and their work weeks are similar, this means that the record is for a month (this month I’ll have 21 work days when you subtract the holidays).

Does time move at the same speed in each world?

There are two or three things that may imply they are different :

  1. When the movies (including the prequel Monsters University) follow the scarer into the room, that always seems to take longer than when the action is on the scare floor.
  2. More importantly, Boo is gone for a day in the Monster world. Did the parents not notice for a day?
  3. How old was Boo when Sully sees her at the end of the movie?

Of course, I can debunk all three of these.

  1. Maybe they really were just that quick on the scare floor.
  2. Perhaps the parents were in fact out looking for her, but at that point wouldn’t the room show indications of being searched by parents or police.
  3. The movie implies that a year has passed from the time Sully took over and when the door was rebuilt (the chart that Sully holds shows a year of growth). During my first viewing of the movie, I felt like more time than that had passed for Boo because of how much more clearly she could say kitty, but after having a two year old at home, I know it can take as little as a few days for a spoken word to become more clear.

I suppose I would prefer the version where the human world moves slower so you wouldn’t have worried parents. It also warms your heart to know that Boo remembers Kitty so vividly after year, but it would be even more poignant if more than a year had passed. But, I’d say they move at the same speed.

Is Randall an idiot?

In two situations where he is looking to see if someone is hiding from him in a room, he goes invisible essentially hiding himself. Then he makes himself visible for no apparent reason.

The first time was on the scare floor with Sully and Boo hiding. He goes invisible to climb under table next to Sully. Why not just run down the aisle, visible or invisible, and look.

The second time was in the locker room. He goes invisible, moves to the other side of the room, makes himself visible and opens 2/3rds of the doors. Why not stay invisible and look under all of them?

Different worlds shouldn’t have non-rectangles.

A personal pet peeve of mine. It actually started with Battlestar Galactica. In that show, each document, picture or playing card would be rectangular with the exception that all four corners would be cut off.

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What a waste of paper and time. Now, in this movie the screens are not squared, rather more like a mesa.

Sully and Mike on TV

Why? Because Monsters would rather look at larger borders at the top of their TV instead of a wider picture… I guess.

Does the title sequence fit thematically with the rest of the film?

Roger Ebert once did an interview with Martin Scorsese talking about Raging Bull. He railed on the idea that it was a “boxing movie”, that anyone who characterized a movie by it’s content like that was missing what the movie was actually about.

So, what is Monsters, Inc. about? It’s not a monster movie, but something deeper. I feel like the two major elements of the film is the relationship between Mike and Sully, and the relationship between Sully and Boo. Mike and Sully’s relationship is a fun, buddy relationship that gets tested by the predicament they encounter. The jazzy theme for the intro fits this well.

But what of the other element? The relationship between Boo and Sully. You can see the relationship between monster and human as an allegory to how we view the person from “across the tracks”. Monsters view humans as “toxic”, and try to keep their distance. Only after spending time with this human does Sully realize that they are not toxic but rather quite pleasant.

We tend to see life through the filter of our own life experiences, and we can see movies this way too. As an adoptive father, I see their relationship as a daddy/daughter relationship. I see a relationship that was not started because of shared looks or blood. It was started on fate, it grew because of love, and maintained because of faith. Should we assume that a year passed from the time they shredded Boo’s door and the moment Sully opens it again, that would mean that Boo never forgot “Kitty” and maintained that faith she would see him again for a full year, an incredible feat for someone so young. If this is the theme of the movie, then the jazzy intro doesn’t fit.

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