Monsters University - An In-Depth Look at the Hidden Items, References and Details of the Film

Monsters University had a "Monsterous" opening weekend at the Box Office and with our multiple screenings of the film we wanted to highlight some of the amazing details that we spotted, as well as some of the fun hidden items we've come to expect (and a few unexpected as well). *Please note that if you are trying to stay away from SPOILERS avoid reading below as we discuss details within the film*

Hidden Items & References

One of the great things about Pixar films is finding the "easter eggs" hidden throughout the film - below is a list referencing the confirmed items we have found (as well as some that we are speculating may be additional hidden items).

  • In the beginning of the film, during the field trip scene - little Mike Wazowski exits the bus and says "Thanks Joe, good luck finishing you crossword puzzle" - now, we can't be 100% certain but we felt that this may have been a reference to the late Pixarian, Joe Ranft.
  • Confirmed - On Mike Wazowski's field trip he is partnered up with his teacher, Karen Graves. If this voice sounds familiar it's because it's non-other than Bonnie Hunt - who besides John Ratzenberger is the most frequent voice actor in Pixar films. Bonnie has provided her voice acting talents for A Bug's Life (Rosie), Monsters, Inc. (Flint), Cars/Cars 2 (Sally) and Toy Story 3/Toy Story Toons (Dolly).
  • Confirmed - In addition to the big three hidden items (Luxo Jr. ball, A113 & the Pizza Planet Truck), Pixar fans have also grown accustomed to viewing a hidden character or item from one of Pixar's upcoming films. With The Good Dinosaur scheduled for release on May 30, 2014 we were eagerly watching the screen for references of some friendly dinos and luckily TGD director, Bob Peterson tweeted a hint to "follow the toys". The first sighting is when young Mike Wazowski sneaks into the child's room with Frank McKay - there is a dinosaur skeleton on the floor as well as a stegosaurus on the shelf above Frank's left shoulder. The second sighting is during the final challenge of The Scare Games when the referees are sweeping up toys to reset between scares - there you will see several more dinosaur toys, one of which appear in The Good Dinosaur logo.

  • Confirmed - The famed "A113" can be seen when Sulley storms into class on the first day of Scaring 101. A113 refers to the former classroom of John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter and Andrew Stanton at CalArts. The number makes an appearance in every Pixar feature film.
  • Confirmed - Back in February, John Goodman was a guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and based on the clip of Monsters U that he brought, we got our first hint that Mike and Randall were roommates. The hilarious "Winds of Change" inspirational poster that Randy has hanging above his bed harkens back to Monsters, Inc. when he tells Mike & Sulley, "Shh, shh, you hear that? It's the winds of change". That is a great nod back to the original film - we would love to know who came up with the idea of the inspirational poster!
  • Confirmed - The Pizza Planet Truck has appeared in each Pixar film (with the exception of The Incredibles) and Monsters U continues this tradition. It took us until our third viewing in order to catch the truck parked in the driveway of the JOX fraternity house (as Mike is riding Archie into the house), but when we did, we were nudging each other quite vigorously to point it out.
  • Confirmed - When Don Carlton first explains his story of getting downsized to Mike and Sulley at the Oozma Kappa house he shows his "Sales" business card to Sulley - the address of his office was 1200 Dark Avenue and Pixar's address is 1200 Park Avenue.
  • During Mike and Sulley's initiation in the basement of the Oozma Kappa house, Sherry Squibbles abruptly turns the lights on. In the background you can see a poster of a car that looks a lot like Mike's car in the short, Mike's New Car. Since Monsters University takes place years before Monsters, Inc. we believe the car would resemble an older model of Mike's car in the short film. What do you think?
  • When Brock Pearson is very excitingly explaining that you will not want to touch the stinging glow urchins during the Toxicity Challenge, you can see the Pixar ball (also known as the Luxo Jr. ball) on the wall as they pan to the chest holding the glow urchins.
  • This next reference is one that we can't stop thinking about. In Monsters, Inc. when Sulley starts repeatedly slamming the door after he and Mike are banished, we couldn't help but draw a comparison to Monsters U when Mike is opening and closing the door of the camp closet realizing that they are essentially banished. We loved how in both movies that what they wanted most was essentially being taken away from them during this moment (Boo with Sulley and with Mike becoming a scarer).
  • Confirmed - It was great to see a few characters from Monsters, Inc. make an appearance in the film as well. 
    • George Sanderson appears as a JOX fraternity member and Monsters Incorporated employee at the end of the film.
    • Roz (dressed in a fully customized CDA outfit to fit her hair) explained that the CDA will be "watching these two...always watching".
    • Yeti - once Mike and Sulley begin to work their way up through the ranks at Monsters Incorporated we see our soon-to-be-banished friend, the Yeti (voiced by Pixar's lucky charm, John Ratzenberger) who says, "Alright newbies, quit goofing around. I'll have you know tampering with the mail is a crime punishable by banishment". What else is funny is that we hear how he may have been banished...tampering with the mail.
    • An image of Mr. Waternoose with a full head of hair appears during the epilogue as Mike and Sulley are working their way up through the ranks at Monsters Incorporated.
    • Additionally, a love note written to Mike with a quick image of Celia appears in Mike's locker during the epilogue as well.

Details, Details, Details

It's no surprise that we are floored by the details in Monsters University - the collaboration between all of the departments at Pixar allowed Monsters University to become the incredible film that it is. There were quite a few details that really stuck out to us, some which may go un-noticed, but we really wanted to discuss them because it's those details that really add to the depth and realism of the film.
  • The scene where Mike and Sulley are in the human world by the lake offers so many jaw dropping moments, it's crazy. The scene not only caught our eye because of the incredibly real water reflections and shadows, but the mud and dirt on Mike's feet was amazing. I have no clue how Pixar was able to create such an accurate look of mud when the scene is almost black, the ground is dark and now you're going to put dark mud on his feet as well - Mike's feet could easily disappear among everything else. Because of this detail, everything else in the scene is elevated to a higher level as well.
  • Additionally, in the lake scene there were two more moments that really caught our eyes. We loved how the moonlight streamed between the stacked canoes and projected thin shafts of light across Sulley's chest as he tried to convince Mike to go back to the cabin. Finally, in this scene, another astounding moment was when Sulley was running from the park rangers and was trying to climb up a steep hill. As he attempts to scratch and claw his way to higher ground, the way the dirt streams down the hill at varying acceleration rates based on his scrapes is beyond amazing. We really hope people notice this because someone had to animate this tiny detail - although it's small, if the dirt didn't look natural you'd notice it without a doubt.
  • During one of the first scenes in the film (the field trip scene), we get a great look at the concrete parking lot at Monsters Incorporated. Although the concrete seems so trivial, it rarely looks clean - it is dirty, has dried gum stuck to it and has small cracks throughout. As you can see from the screenshot below (from later in the movie), there are many imperfections, discolorations and even a crack in the lower right-hand corner. Additional textures are really highlighted in the wallpaper of the Oozma Kappa house - the small tears and how it is slightly peeling away from the walls really give the house that "lived in" look (look to the left of Art's head).
  • We've talked about the slug before, but on the larger theater screen we noticed the zippers movement on the slug's backpack. The subtle sounds of the zipper bouncing against the teeth of the zipper is so great - it's a subtle but again, an authentic element that adds to the realism. Mike's keychain on his backpack is also amazing as he first enters the ground of Monsters University. The movement of the keychain as he quickly turns his body left and right is great - even when he walks, the subtle bouncing looks so accurate.
  • The scene where OOZMA KAPPA joins the Scare Games is one of the most beautifully lit scenes. Set on a cloudy day with only little bits of sun peeking out, the team did a flawless job creating a mood that was so realistic that is captivated us - we nearly forgot to watch the characters as we were watching the overcast clouds in the scene (look at that rim lighting on Hardscrabble).
  • We absolutely loved the movement of the camera during a few scenes as well. First, when young Mike crossed the safety line at Monsters Incorporated and his teacher first catches a glimpse of him - we loved how the camera zoomed in had to take a moment to catch focus. It was a fresh way of effectively doing a double-take without having to show Ms. Graves' face. Additionally, we loved the camera movements when the OK gang was running from the security guards after their break in at Monsters Incorporated. The natural bounce, quick movements and lens flare from the flashlights as the action progressed was jaw dropping.
  • We could effectively go on and on about every detail but the last one we'll call out specifically is the early morning fog and the breath from the OK crew as they exercise. As you can see in the first screenshot below, there is a light fog that is hovering just above the grass as the scene zooms in. As you get closer, you can also see that as the gang works out you can see their "breath" condense in the morning air as they work out. It's not just steam coming up (like with Terry and Terri's hot chocolate), it's accelerating out at the proper rate for their actions - wow! The screenshot really doesn't show their breath all that well, but you can see it in the final trailer really clearly.

Related Posts:
- Monsters University fun facts
- Hidden items in Brave
- The Art of Monsters University detailed book review

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Pixar Post: Monsters University - An In-Depth Look at the Hidden Items, References and Details of the Film
Monsters University - An In-Depth Look at the Hidden Items, References and Details of the Film
Pixar Post
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