A Few Thoughts on “Monsters, Inc.”

  by Chris Horst

Mind-bending chase scenes. Deeply corrupt industry executives. A coup plotted by an industry celebrity.

No, this isn’t a preview for a Bourne Identity movie. This is a preview for Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. In quintessential Pixar fashion, Monsters, Inc. manages to bridge the child-to-adult movie divide better than most family movies.

Monsters, Inc. stars James P. Sullivan, the monster with a soul-shaking roar. His patented bellow was the reason “Sully” was the very best in the scaring business. But as he produced one of his textbook yells, he saw for the first time the result of his work—fear.

Scaring sleeping children, his superiors told him, created the energy needed to power Monstropolis. Sully knew his job was to create reactions from unsuspecting kids, but his unlikely friendship with Boo, a fugitive toddler girl trapped in Monstropolis, forced him to really see his own work. In the turning point in Monsters, Inc., [SPOILER ALERT] Sully watches an instant replay of his scare tactics on a wall of freeze frames. He witnesses how his work and industry exploit children.

And he doesn’t like what he sees.

Sully wasn’t Boo’s father, but he certainly models a lot of dadcrafting qualities. Boo, like all children, has a powerful reforming quality on Sully. As Boo shuddered in fear at Sully’s roar, Sully knew everything had to change. Boo changed Sully, and Sully then changed the very essence of how his fellow monsters powered their world.

What We Loved

We loved how Sully (and eventually his best friend, Mike Wazowski) was willing to learn from a child in his midst. Sully showed tremendous humility in changing how he earned his living—and how his entire industry functioned—because of his relationship with a child under his care.

We also loved the friendship modeled by Sully and Mike. They have their typical ups and downs, but the two commit to weathering the storm. They challenge each other to do the right thing, not just the safe thing, and appreciate each other’s unique strengths and abilities.

What Can We Learn

The most significant learning moment of the film was in Sully’s journey. He moves from awareness to action in a manner that demanded he risk everything he had known and achieved. He challenges the cultural forces and norms around him.

As I discussed the film with my oldest son, this truth became a point of significant discussion. Each day, all our kids will face challenges and issues that will present them with an opportunity—to do what is right or to do what is safe. Will our kids simply accommodate wrongs they see in their midst? …or stand up, like Sully, for what is right and true?  

Things to Talk About

Finally, a few questions to discuss with your kids:

  • If you were Boo, what would you do when you were stuck in Monstropolis?
  • What character surprised you?
  • What part of the movie was the craziest?
  • How have you ever scared someone before? How did that make you feel?
  • Have you ever made someone laugh? How did that make you feel?
  • If you got to be a person in the movie, who would you choose to be?
  • How do you think Sully felt when he decided to protect Boo? Why do you think Sully made that decision? How have you protected someone?

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