Monsters, Incorporated – We scare, because we care..
The commercial slogan of the biggest power authority in Monstropolis sounds like a common saying that could also be heard in our TV and Radio programmes. And this slogan is not the only odd similarity between our human world and the movie Monsters, Inc. (2001). The movie, one of the latest works developed by Pixar Animation Studios in cooperation with Walt Disney Pictures, is an animated movie for children that sets in a parallel universe, namely a world of monsters: Monstropolis. While this movie was not only extremely successful in the Box office and nominated for an Academy Award in 2002 for Best Animated Feature, there is a lot more to discover beyond its surface.
Considering the fact that “Monsters, Inc.” is a movie made for young people, especially for little children (rated TV-G in the US) the film needs to meet some expectations. It is clear that this movie is supposed to be funny, entertaining and suitable for children. At the same time it should be fun for the whole family, not only for the kids, because the parents form the audience that pays for the movie. Additionally, movies for kids are generally expected to fulfil a pedagogical task, as most of Disney’s movies do. There is always the plea for tolerance, equality and kindness in Disney-films, like in Mulan, Tarzan or The Beauty and the Beast. The story in Monsters, Inc. however, is set on a much more complex basis than the movies that have been produced by Disney so far. The image of the monster behind closet doors and under the beds of little children – usually rather nightmarish material - is used to create a whole world beyond the scary creatures.
This term paper serves to provide a closer look at how the monster is presented in the movie and how this typology can be compared to the common image or stereotype of a monster as well as providing a re-framing of the concept on the basis of monster theory in literature. There will also be a short discussion of how the characters in the movie are adopting human qualities while creating an everyday-life and whether this device is only applied in entertaining the audience. In a final step, there will be an examination on how this fact influences the story in an inverse manner and thus creates a comical and ironic view on the common concepts of a monster. The paper attempts to show that Monsters, Inc. can be seen as an ironic comment not only on the motif of the monster itself – with all the clichés and horrific constructions in so-called “monster movies” - but also as a parody on the entertainment industry and the way it deals with fears and the image of the monster.
The story of Monsters, Inc. sets in a parallel world that can be found behind little children’s closet doors, in the world of Monstropolis. The city of Monstropolis is dependant from the “Monsters, Inc.”, the power authority that provides electricity – “scream heat” - for the whole town. This power is obtained from the screams of children, which is the reason why the monsters sneak into the rooms of little boys and girls at night to scare them. The screams are then canned in containers resembling gas bottles. However, Monstropolis currently has to suffer from “scream shortage” because the human kids are getting harder and harder to scare. What the viewer would not expect of the big powerful monsters at first glance is that they are incredibly scared of human children. Of course, no human being is aware of that fact, but a judicious monster would never touch a child. Despite their fear, some brave monsters sneak into the bedrooms every night in order to light up Monstropolis. Consequently, it is no surprise that “top scarer” James P. Sullivan – Sully – is the undisputed star in the monsters world because he – with the help of his assistant and sidekick Mike Wazowzki - is the scariest monster in Monstropolis. Sully is a big blue furry creature with purple spots and two horns. His best friend and “scare assistant” Mike is a green eyeball with arms and legs and a big mouth. In due course, the successful work of the two main characters is endangered when a little girl sneaks through one of the closet doors into the world of Monstropolis and creates chaos in their peaceful world. After overcoming their aversion, Sully and Mike try their best to bring Boo – a telling name that Sully gives her – back to her bedroom, but the antagonist and Sully’s hardest competitor – Randall Boggs – has different plans with the child and wants to absorb all the power he is able to get out of the little body. A race against time begins, as Sully and Mike discover that Waternoose, the boss of Monsters Inc. and a father figure for Sully, teams up with the enemies in order to save his enterprise. When Mike and Sully find out that Boo’s laughter even creates more power than her screams, they manage to fight Randall, rescue the child and even save the enterprise in creating a whole new power source: child laughter. Instead of scaring the kids they send out monsters in order to make them laugh. And in the end, Sully even gets the opportunity to meet his little friend Boo again.
So what are the general expectations a viewer could have from a Box office children’s movie? How could these expectations be related to the theoretical concept of the monster as a figure of western culture? First of all one has to ask the question what a monster really is. The fact that there is no official or clear definition for the term leaves room for speculation. Etymologically, the word “monster” derives from the Latin words monstro - which means to show or to point - and monstrum which bears the meaning of both miraculous and direful sign. So even though it does not necessarily have a negative connotation, the originally neutral meaning of the word has turned over the centuries into denoting a negative and threatening being, hence the first association with the term “monster” for many people would be a threatening ugly beast. For instance, famous monsters in literature and movies, such as Frankenstein’s monster, King Kong, Yeti or a zombie, others may think of fire-spitting, slimy, disgusting creatures with big teeth and claws that combine all possible personal fears and menaces. The monster emerged in the minds of human beings, describing what is different, alienated and mysterious. Paul Goetsch describes this fact in his article “Menschen und Monster”:
 Stowasser, J.M, M.Petsching, F. Skutsch.: Stowasser : lateinisch-deutsches Schulwörterbuch. Auf der Grundlage der Bearb. 1979. Gesamtred.: Fritz Losek. Aufl. 1994. Wien : Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky; München : Oldenbourg. 1994: 322-323.