What is Monsters University about?
Billy Crystal (BC, voice of Mike Wazowski): I think it’s about accepting yourself and growing. It’s easy to think that these characters can’t possibly have any depth or feelings because they’re monsters, but they do. They’re young men figuring out who they are and what they want in life-and then what life actually has in store for them. What’s great about Pixar’s movies is that they don’t just entertain, they also have a wonderful message.
John Goodman (JG, voice of James P. Sullivan): It’s a great underdog story about two guys whose friendship makes them better. I think the reason they work so well together is that they complete each other. Sulley really needs Mike – especially because he’s not a fully-formed monster yet in this film. They help each other learn to adapt and let go of whatever they thought they were supposed to be, and just be who they are. One of the movie’s big themes is, ‘When one door closes, another one opens’. It took me forever to learn that. It’s true, I know, but I still bang my head against a closed door every now and then.
Mike and Sulley find themselves on the outside, teaming up with misfits. Can you relate?
JG: I was a drifter for a while, just desperate to fit in with a group. I was lost, trying to find my way. I wanted to play football, but it didn’t work out. I didn’t know what I wanted until I found acting in a theater department. Then everything fell into place and I had a passion about something. That’s when I started living my life.
BC: I was a little bit of a misfit. I was a film-directing major at NYU, but I really felt like I wanted to be in front of people. Once I found a theatre group, I became a theatre rat, which is like a gym rat. I figured out who I was. That’s the most important part about this movie. Mike has a dream and the dream may not work out, so he has to readjust and recalibrate. And he does that with the help of his friend, who knows Mike better than he knows himself.
How did it feel returning to these characters after so many years?
BC: Mike is my favorite character I’ve ever played. I can do anything with him. I get to do emotional things. I get to be funny. I sing. And I missed him. It was so fun to revisit these characters at this time in their lives – in college. I think the reason Mike and Sulley’s relationship on screen is so great is because it’s the real thing. I love working with John. We’re not just reading lines, we feel them. We have a good time together and it’s great to be in the same room.
JG: I like being with people that make me laugh. Working on a Pixar film is like being part of an exclusive club. The stories are well crafted, they’re on the cutting edge of technology and they’re funny. I worried about finding a higher register for [Sulley’s 18-year-old] voice, but it just took care of itself. I’d come in and read a few lines and we’d go on to do the rest of the script. But we’d always come back and get the original lines at the end because by then the character had found itself.
What’s it like working with director Dan Scanlon?
JG: Dan has a great sense of humor, a great sensibility. He knows what’s funny.
BC: Dan is from a different generation – he’s like a Fifties kind of hipster guy. He’s fun; he gives you really good visual cues as to where you are in a given scene. And he’s offbeat. He gave us opportunities to get away from the script and just go-that’s trust. I love that.