Dan Scanlon and Kori Rae on Telling a Compelling Story #MUScareGames
*Disney/Pixar provided me with airfare and hotel accommodations to attend a press day at Pixar Animation Studios. Pictures are used with the permission of Pixar. All thoughts and opinions are my own.*
In order for a film to have a strong and believable story, a certain amount of research must be done before a script is written. But that doesn’t only apply to live action films—it’s essential for animated films as well. In speaking to Dan Scanlon (director) and Kori Rae (producer), we learned exactly what they did in the sake of research to lend authenticity to Monsters University, the prequel to Monsters Inc. Monsters University is now available on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack as of October 29, 2013.
This was the first time that Dan and Kori had worked together on a film. Dan said that he was entrusted to direct this film because he had worked closely with John Lasseter on Cars. Kori was involved with Monsters Inc. and wanted to be involved on the prequel.
They began their research for Monsters University by watching ‘80s college flicks. They then took it a step further and visited several nearby colleges, observing students on campus, attending classes, going to the dorms, and attending fraternity and sorority parties. What was most impressive to me was that they were able to make a film in a college setting with a G rating. College is a time of experimentation and testing boundaries; without going too into detail in that respect, the monsters in the film show a rambunctious and dangerous side with their parties, and especially during the Scare Games.
As with any film, there were scenes that were cut, but not because they crossed any boundaries. We were shown an interaction between Sulley and Mike that was cut mainly because they felt that they could not base an entire movie around a line from the first film, which was a reference to the length of time that Sulley and Mike had known each other.
In regards to casting the voices for the film, voice actors were brought on when the script was ready, about two to three years after they had started making the film. To cast the voices, they listened to recordings and matched the voices to the characters on the page rather than trying to match any physical similarities from the characters on the page to a specific person.
As a writer, I often experience writer’s block. I was comforted to know that even the writers at Pixar go through it as well. Dan and Kori described their process to us, which was very much like my own. Sometimes they all would sit together in a big room and stare at blank papers and remain silent for extended periods of time while thinking. Then eventually someone would throw out an idea—good or bad—and they would proceed from there. As the director, Dan had the final say on what would stay and what had to go.
We asked if they had any favorite scenes from the film. Dan did not have a particular favorite, but was more generally in love with Mike’s story line of having a dream and not exactly achieving it in the way he thought that he would. He especially liked this because it’s not a story that is often told in movies, making it a more unique movie experience.