I can’t be the only one who thought that school settings in TV and film never seemed realistic, right? As I watched portrayals of school throughout my childhood, I noticed the surprisingly complex social networks and traditions alongside events that did not even come close to mirroring my own experiences. And of course, this is normally in the service of creating a more interesting plot. But since getting to university, it has become clear that creators are using their own experiences as students to enhance their representations of school life. In many ways, Monsters University feels like an ideal form of this, as something for all ages that encapsulates university culture via an actual university setting, albeit one filled to the brim with colourful animated creatures.
Pixar often creates a cast of highly expressive characters, but that is especially the case with Monsters University. As we follow Mike Wazowski, voiced by Billy Crystal, through the film’s version of a freshers’ fair, this becomes especially clear. Much like the numerous societies at Newcastle’s own freshers’ fair vying for attention, there are monsters delivering vibrant sales pitches to Mike. Similarly, Pixar does a great job of giving the monsters varied personalities that both express the cliques that form via societies as well as the many aspects of individual people.
As the film moves into the main event of the ‘scare games’, a distinctly different side of university life is explored, which are reflected in the competitive nature of many aspects of student life. Feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty emerge as Mike struggles to stay part of the team, which are then overpowered by determination and a sense of comradery alongside personalities that are very different to his own. And just as the teams in Monsters University learn about each other when looking for ‘scare games’ venues, what else can unite you with fellow students like figuring out the location of a lecture theatre?