Monsters University, the prequel to the Pixar classic, Monsters Inc., brings viewers back to their favorite monsters, Mike and Sully, as they navigate the terror that is college in a funny, sweet and thoroughly enjoyable film.

Monsters University finds young, fresh-faced Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) embarking on their first year of university at Monster’s U. Mike’s eye widens as he arrives at his dream school, and, though his fellow monsters discount his scaring ability due to his small size, Mike’s study skills quickly move him to the front of the class.

Meanwhile, Sully seems like the big guy on campus, but he looses favor with the cool monster frat after he flunks every test. What Sully lacks in smarts, he makes up for in natural ability to roar and scare the scream out of small children.Mike is, predictably, better at scaring in theory than practice, and the two are bitter enemies from the start. But, when Mike and Sully find themselves out of favor with the terrifying Dean Hardscrabble (voiced impeccably by Helen Mirren), they must team up to compete for spots in the ‘Scare’ major in the Scare Games (essentially Greek Games in the Monsters world).

Any Pixar fan knows how Monsters University will end for Mike and Sully: they will become best friends who end up living together and working as a team at Monster’s Incorporated. You’d think that, as such, Monsters University would feel repetitive, but leave it to Pixar to make a thoroughly enjoyable prequel that brings something new to the core relationship that makes Monsters Inc. so great.

That’s the genius of Monster’s University: by shifting the dynamic of Sully and Mike’s relationship without losing the characters that made Monsters Inc. enjoyable. But, what makes the film extra fun for Monsters Inc. fans are the hidden gems that hint at what’s to come: Mike’s over-excitement, an appearance by Roz and a cameo by a pre-banishment Yeti. Other highlights include new monsters voiced by Charlie Day, Aubrey Plaza, Nathan Fillion and a particularly delightful appearance by John Krasinski as Mike’s idol, Frank McCay.

Monsters University also gives Pixar the opportunity to try their hands at college humor, putting them in a whole new environment. Pixar has never done a movie set in college before, and the change is refreshing, if not a bit strange. It’s an oddly mature setting for a children’s movie, but, I suppose, so is a scare factory in which monsters harvest the screams of children for energy.

Another highlight from the DVD is The Blue Umbrella, the short that was shown before Monsters University in theaters. The sweet and surprisingly simple animated short is unlike any Pixar short I have ever seen, with a mix of live-action and animation giving the short a completely real-life feel. Watching The Blue Umbrella honestly feels like Pixar has managed to animate the real world.

Special features include a commentary, deleted scenes and plenty of fun behind-the-scenes featurettes that will make you want to work at Pixar. ‘Campus Life’ is a day-in-the-life segment following Monsters University director Dan Scanlon and provides fans with a fascinating look at what goes into directing an animated film. Plus, behind-the-scenes features give Pixar dreamers glimpses at the Pixar studios – complete with a huge statue of the famous lamp featured in their Pixar title card and a cereal bar. I’ve always wondered what directing an animated film is like, especially because it would be impossible for one person to animate every frame. It’s very cool to see a director really work on and tweak a frame of animation, and it’s great to see a behind-the-scenes featurette that credits the work of the entire team. Other behind-the-scenes featurettes take the viewer on a tour of the different departments that work on Monsters University, including story, lighting, production, etc.

A lot of the behind the scenes features seem made for all the twenty-somethings who were kids when Monsters Inc. was released, and are now old enough to apply for jobs at Pixar. (Similar to how Toy Story 3 followed Andy as he left home for college and was made to be entertaining for children and young adults who grew up with the original films.) Watching Monsters University and all the behind-the-scenes features feels a bit like watching a recruitment video: how could one resist wanting to be a part of creating something so awesome?

Monsters University will be available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, Oct 29.

Read more about: