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MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

Making Monsters
While filmmakers were certainly able to hit the ground running when it came to creating their cast of characters for "Monsters University" -- they had three key returning characters and a blueprint for the monster world from "Monsters, Inc. -- they still had their work cut out for them. "We had to take Mike and Sulley back in time," says director Dan Scanlon. "We had to make them younger -- college age -- how do you do that with monsters?"

The question proved challenging for Scanlon and the production team. Artists pulled reference of some A-list actors with long careers to compare images of them at different ages. For Mike, they studied how frogs age to determine what he would look like in a younger incarnation. Then Nierva, character art director Jason Deamer and several members of the production team applied the knowledge they'd garnered in their efforts to create younger versions of Mike and Sulley. "We made them thinner, shortened their horns, removed age lines and made their eyes brighter and colors more saturated," says Deamer. "We made a bunch of subtle moves and were pleased at how different they looked standing next to the older versions. We thought the cumulative effect was huge. But it wasn't enough -- a slightly skinnier green ball with one eye was still just that. When you extract the essence of someone's likeness, whatever those basic elements are, that's what you remember ten years after seeing a movie."

So the team gave each of the returning characters what they called a "visual hook." For Mike, artists added braces for the grade school version, which graduated to a retainer by the time he landed on the Monsters University campus. Sulley was adorned with an unruly tuft of teenage hair, reflecting his laidback attitude. Randall -- known as Randy in "Monsters University" -- dons a pair of glasses, which tend to get in the way of his not-yet-signature disappearing act.

All of the characters -- both old and new -- were treated with Pixar's signature innovative spirit, creating a memorable cast that's ultimately brought to life by a talented roster of voice talent led by Billy Crystal and John Goodman. "Those guys were great," says Scanlon. "We recorded them individually early on in the process -- just to get them back into the groove of the characters and for everyone to find the slightly younger versions of Mike and Sulley. But when we got them together, it was wonderful. They really get along, and have a natural charisma together. It was great for me as a director to just set up the basic idea of the scene and let them run with it. I'd stand back and watch, making little changes here and there. The energy level was high. Recording them together really allowed for the kind of happy accidents that you don't often find in animation -- those great spontaneous moments."

Adds producer Kori Rae, "We were so lucky to assemble a cast like this. They have this uncanny blend of raw talent and experience -- and pure unbridled excitement for the project -- that makes a movie like this really take off." Another big dilemma for filmmakers was technology -- specifically how technology now afforded them luxuries they didn't have with "Monsters, Inc." "Fur was a technical challenge for the first film," says Nierva, who worked on the first movie. "We were allowed one furry character per scene. We've come a long way since then and in 'Monsters University,' we can put furry characters everywhere. So we did. But then [director] Dan [Scanlon] had to reign it all in because the world had changed too much from that of the first film -- so some monsters lost their fur along the way."

According to Nierva, there are 500 characters in "Monsters University" -- averaging more than 25 characters per shot, which is more than double the number in previous Pixar films. Artists designed and modeled many of the more than 400 background characters early in the production timeline, while the story team hammered out the details of Mike and Sulley's college adventure.

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