34 geeky things you didn’t know about Monsters University

From hidden cameos, to design inspiration and house music, here are 34 nerdy things you may not know about Pixar's Monsters University...

Impress your friends! Wow strangers on the bus! Be the toast of any dinner party! All with the help of thirty four fairly geeky facts we’ve gleaned about new Pixar release, Monsters University

1. Director Dan Scanlon has one line in the film, playing an improv student who tries to recruit Mike for the drama society at the MU freshers’ fair.

2. When designing the look of First Grade and university-age Mike, the character design team researched the ways young frogs differ in appearance to adult amphibians. His skin is thus clearer, brighter, and more elastic.

3. The sound-effect for Sully’s major roar towards the end of the film was made using a blend of tiger, bear, and human.

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4. Back when Monsters University was a Circle 7 Disney project, it was reportedly going to be a sequel titled “Monsters Inc. 2: Lost in Scaradise”. The premise was rumoured to have found Mike and Sulley trapped in the human world and searching for Boo after discovering that her family had moved house, an idea with more than a touch of Toy Story about it.

5. The character Helen Mirren voices, Dean Hardscrabble, was originally designed to be male, but switched gender to redress the balance of there being no major female Scarers in the original film.


6. The Pixar team kept an Amazonian giant centipede – the creature on which Dean Hardscrabble’s bottom half was based – on hand during her character development. Only when a dangerous insects specialist visited the campus and warned the designers about the toxicity of its venom was the creature transferred from its loosely-sealed plastic box to a proper tank.

7. Mike Wasowski’s parents were originally developed as characters for Monsters University, and Billy Crystal was to have provided the voices, but the couple was dropped to simplify the story and make Mike’s character seem more up against it arriving at college without comforting parental support.

8. While the film was in production, to continue the college theme, the Pixar team went through friendly university-style fraternity ‘hazings’, or initiation tests organised by department heads. The playful humiliations ranged from cross-dressing as Mrs Doubtfire to one employee having to carry around a cardboard cut-out hunk and introduce it to everyone she met as her boyfriend.

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9. Amongst the many iterations of the film during development was ‘Monsters Elementary’, a version of the story in which Mike and Sulley meet as young children, then separate and reunite at university.

10. The address on mature student Don’s business card is shown as 1200 Dark Avenue, a reference to the address of Pixar’s Emeryville campus, which is located at 1200 Park Avenue.

11. The texture for Oozma Kappa fraternity character Squishy, designed to represent undeclared students unsure of what they’re going to become and with no clear identity, was based on Japanese Mochi sweets. Eating sushi one mealtime, the character designers brought a glutinous rice sweet back to the texture artists as inspiration.

12. There are an average of 3.7 eyes per monster character on campus.

13. The monster designers delineated 6 basic species of monster, then made them distinctive with the addition of limbs, horns, eyes, and wings.

14. There are well over 400 characters in the film, and an average of 25 in each shot, making it Pixar’s most populated picture to date.

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15. The lighting was designed expressively, with all of Mike and Sulley’s obstacles, including Dean Hardscrabble and the Scare School, back-lit. Light equates to intimidating experiences and goals for the characters.

16. The use of colour was loosely expressive too, with the film’s heroes characterised by the colour green, obstacles by the colour red, and goals and aspirations by the colour blue.

17. Following the Pixar tradition, a sneaky nod to the next film on their slate is included. This time, it’s a dinosaur toy you can spot on the floor of the fake child’s bedroom in one of the scare simulators, for Pete Docter’s 2014 The Good Dinosaur.

18. Monsters University was originally scheduled to come out six months after Brave, in November 2012, but Disney swapped it for Wreck-It Ralph, giving MU the summer 2013 tent-pole slot.

19. Each frame of the film took an average of 29 hours to render, and were one single computer with one single processer to try to render the film, it would take it over 10,000 years.

20. Sensibly, Pixar used more than a single computer, so many in fact, that their render-farm had to be doubled in size to make the film, which took a Pixar record of over 100 million CPU hours.

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21. Though Monsters Inc. features the line from Mike to Sulley, “You’ve been jealous of my good looks since the fourth grade, pal”, it was decided to ignore it rather than warp the prequel to make it fit. Director Dan Scanlon joked that “since the fourth grade” was just a popular monster saying. He also jokingly suggested they recall all of the Monsters Inc. DVDs and reedit them to reflect events in the prequel.

22. There are faces, some obvious, others less so, hidden throughout the Monsters University campus. In buildings, on cars, and even in the foliage and trees, you’ll find faces, along with eyeball and horn details.

23. Look closely at the houses and buildings in the film and you’ll see scare meters and pipes running throughout them to transport the scare energy on which the monster world – at this point, anyway – is run.

24. To our knowledge, Randy Newman’s soundtrack for Monsters University is the first from Pixar to feature an electro dance track. Swedish House Mafia’s Roar was composed for a frat party dance scene in the film.

25. Director Dan Scanlon recalls Billy Crystal and John Goodman, in the recording sessions they were together, improvising a number of lines he describes as “incredibly inappropriate”. No hope of any of it ending up on a ‘too hot for Pixar’ DVD extra we suppose?

26. The storyboard artists drew anything between 500-1000 drawings per scene of the film, and the total number of storyboard drawings stands at over 227,000. As head of story Kelsey Mann told us, they throw away a lot.

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27. Like Finding Nemo, Cars, WALL-E and Brave before it, Monsters University has a post-credits gag.

28. Trapezoid shapes, echoing the heft and weight of many of the monster characters, are a motif in the design of the film’s architecture. They find their way into building designs, including the gates to the university and pillars on campus, as well as furniture design in the posts of Mike and Randy’s dorm room beds, and are even the shape of the bricks in the walls on campus.

29. Sulley’s fur was one of the most praised technical aspects of Monsters Inc., and in Monsters University, the number of his individual hairs has increased five-fold, to 5.5 million.

30. Similarly, because cloth simulation is one of CG animation’s trickier aspects, there was only one real garment – Boo’s t-shirt – in Monsters Inc. In Monsters University, there are 127 garments all interacting with the monster world.

31. The design of Archie the Scare-Pig, mascot of rival college Fear Tech, was loosely based on director Dan Scanlon’s Japanese Spaniel, Carol.

32. The design of the Monsters Inc. scare floor is highly reminiscent of the atrium in Pixar’s Emeryville campus, as director Dan Scanlon has noted. The idea of finally being able to step into a coveted workplace that represents a pinnacle of achievement in your field is one used in Monsters University, and has real parallels with the experience of many working at Pixar.

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33. All the expected Pixar Easter Eggs are there to be found in the film, from A113 being used as the Scare 101 classroom number, to the Pizza Planet truck being parked outside the house at the film’s first frat party, the Luxo ball featuring in an illustration explaining the toxicity of human children and their belongings, and of course John Ratzenberger making his characteristic voice cameo.

34. [SPOILERS] John Ratzenberger isn’t the only character from the first film to reappear, we’re also given a brief glimpse of a seventies-themed Henry J. Waternoose III, and a younger version of wing-tipped glasses-wearing Roz.

Monsters University comes out in the UK on Friday the 12th of July. Read our review and interview with the director and producer, here.

Please, if you can, support our charity horror stories ebook, Den Of Eek!, raising money for Geeks Vs Cancer. Details here.