Dan Scanlon Talks Monsters University
And then the size of the film was tough. It’s this huge world, not just with a crowd of people but with a crowd of monsters. They all have to be very diverse. So their rigs are different. That was very complex. Then, it’s also a big cast. Even from the writing point of view you’ve got a lot of different characters and personalities to deal with. But again, definitely, without question, the story was the hardest part. But it was also the most rewarding in the long run. It’s not always big laughs in the story room, even getting to jokes sometimes. It can be such a grueling process because “fun” comes out of it.
Dan Sarto: Plus, it’s hard to be funny. There are a lot of lazy ways that you can get a laugh, but that doesn’t mean it’s worth sharing with anybody besides your annoying friends. Switching gears a bit, were there any tech advances that came out of this film?
Dan Scanlon: Um, backpacks apparently. At one point, we were talking with the simulation department and they said backpacks are really hard, especially on fur. And I thought, “Really?” So there are backpacks in the movie, but apparently they’re very difficult. Not as sexy as water and hair and explosions. But that was one thing. The other thing was just the size of the movie. On the first Monsters we couldn’t have that many monsters in the background. This movie was set in a college. So we had to fill it with every kind of monster, which was also kind of difficult. They all use different rigs and set ups, tentacled ones, sliding slugs. And so the scope of the movie was the trickiest part. We also had great technological breakthroughs with the lighting. This was a movie we did for the first time with Global Illumination, which is this software that allows the film to look richer. That was a big leap forward on this movie.
Dan Sarto: With the film about to open, looking back, what about this production gave you the most personal sense of satisfaction?
Dan Scanlon: Honestly, just seeing everybody’s work pay off. As I’m hearing people say they like it, I just feel the pride of all 250 people that worked on it. You see all their hard work. That’s the big gamble for me. All these people are working really hard, doing good work. If this doesn’t work then you feel a little bit like it’s your fault. So to see the pride that they can have in their work really makes me happy. Also, to see the pride of the people that didn’t work on it at the studio. To see them excited, people I didn’t even see while working on it, it’s a thing that you can share. After the fact, it’s looking at all those little decisions that people made in the movie, to see them paying off so they can point that out to their spouse or their kids and say, “I did that.”
Dan Sarto is editor-in-chief and publisher of Animation World Network.