Book Review: The Art of Monsters University
This coffee-table collection of the concept art of Pixar’s latest, Monsters University, differs slightly from most of the other coffee-table books about one animated CGI feature or another. Since the movie is a “prequel” to Pixar’s 2001 Monsters, Inc., which “everybody” has seen and loved, the book assumes that the reader is already familiar with Mike and Sulley, the two main characters. Therefore the emphasis in The Art of Monsters University is on the new supporting characters, and on the MU campus.
There is certainly enough here to fill a book! As has become traditional for these art books, there is not a story synopsis per se of the featured movie, but the reader gets the basic plot as the book goes along. There is a brief (to page 15) synopsis of Monsters, Inc. and a comparison of Mike and Sulley then and now (or, since this is a prequel, should it be now and then?). The rest of the book is about the new movie. It starts with another brief picture of Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan, and their nemesis Randall, as college students; younger and thinner, Mike with retainers still on his teeth, Randal as a young geek who cheats on tests but is not yet the scheming, cynical villain that he has become in Monsters, Inc. Then the book blossoms forth to show all of the new characters; the dean and professors, the other students including the fraternity and sorority lineups, and incidental adults like the MU librarian and Mrs. Squibbles, the dorm mother. There are so many new characters that the book does not have room to show the preliminary character designs of all of them, but the important new characters are covered thoroughly.
The Pixar team designed a large and detailed monster college campus, with both old (from its seal, Monsters University goes back to 1313) and new buildings. This is comprehensive and very realistic. Some of the buildings and landscapes remind me of my college days at UCLA.
As is usual for these art books, each sketch, finished drawing, and maquette is identified to the artist who created it: Jason Deamer, Dice Tsutsumi, Shelly Wan, Ricky Nierva, Albert Lozano, Daniel López Muñoz, Greg Dykstra, Dan Scanlon, Daniela Strijleva, Michael Honsel, Chris Sasaki, Robert Kondo, Adrian Molina, Shion Takeuchi, Manny Hernandez, Octavio Rodriguez, and many more. There are quite a few storyboard sequences. The visuals in this book show more of a sense of humor than usual: there are photographs of John Lasseter, Pete Docter, and Dan Scanlon when they were college students; a drawing of Sulley attributed to Olivia Nierva, who I would guess to be about four years old; and a cartoon by Jason Deamer showing why Mike does not look good with any clothes on him.