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C.D.A. G.U.Y. just sent me a Why For question earlier this
week that asked about some Pixar concept art that he'd seen back in January.
I got to see that "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" exhibit
just before it left the Oakland Museum of California earlier this year. And in
the "Monsters, Inc." section of this exhibit, I noticed that was a lot of concept
art that seemed to be about television broadcasting.
Copyright Disney Pixar. All rights
I know that there's that simulator / training room sequence in this Pete Docter
movie with all of those TV monitors. But this stuff looked different. Almost as
if Monsters, Inc. wasn't set in a factory anymore but at a television network
Was this concept art from an earlier, abandoned version of
"Monsters, Inc."? Or maybe for a subplot that got cut out of the final film?
What do you know all of this TV studio stuff that I saw?
Dear C.D.A. G.U.Y.
You got in one. That "Monsters, Inc." concept art that you
were looking at was from a very, very early version of this movie. The one that
Pete Docter and his development team had in the works on back in October of
Copyright Disney Pixar.
All rights reserved
Mind you, the proposed opening sequence (for what was then
known as just "Monsters," rather than as "Monsters, Inc.") was somewhat similar
to what we all saw in the finished film. It was supposed to go something like
Picture ... A boy wearing one sock asks his mother where his
other sock is. She tells him to check the laundry pile down in the basement.
We then see that missing sock lies, as bait, in front of
this pile of laundry. From deep within the pile, red eyes glow and a low growl
"Monsters, Inc." maquettes.
Photo by Rod Mongenel. Copyright Disney Pixar. All rights reserved
We now watch as that boy nervously creeps down the basement stairs
and is then frightened out of his mind as this giant hairy monster leaps out from
the laundry pile with a mighty roar.
That's a pretty great opening sequence, don't you think? So
where "Monsters" go to from there? Not to the Scare Floor at Monsters, Inc. But
- rather - to a late 1940s / early 1950s-era 1950s television studio. Which is
located inside of this theater in downtown Monstropolis.
As the camera turns, revealing an audience full of hideous
creatures applauding wildly, we then realize that this sock-in-the-basement scare
was just part of this wildly popular, live TV broadcast. Which is presented
nightly in the Monster realm to entertain all of the guys & ghouls at home.
Image courtesy of
Chronicle Books. Copyright Disney Pixar. All rights reserved
And who's the giant hairy star of this live TV show? A
monster named Barrymore. Who - just as Sid Caesar did at the end of "Your Show of Shows" and/or as Milton Berle did as "Texaco Star Theater" wrapped up its
weekly broadcast - stands in front of the curtain, acknowledging the audience's
cries of "Bravo!" and "Encore!," bowing graciously.
But when the applause ends and Barrymore steps backstage,
out of view of his adoring fans, this scare-actor is anything but gracious. As
Barrymore heads back to his trailer, removing his make-up and shedding his
costume, he belittles the show's crew. Complaining loudly about all of that
night's missed sound effects and lighting
As this TV broadcast's director, J.L. (As in "John Lasseter."
Get it?) runs along at Barrymore's elbow, trying to placate this rather pompous
performer (who - according to Pete Docter's October 1996 treatment for "Monsters"
- was supposed to have been modeled on Orson Welles during the latter part of
his career), this obviously egotistical scare-actor doesn't take any comfort
from hearing how great that night's ratings were. How many monsters were tuning
in at home. Barrymore continues to berate J.L. and the rest of the backstage
crew, letting them all know how completely unprofessional they are. How the
only things holding this show together is Barrymore and his enormous talent.
Please note marquee to
far left. Which reads "Barrymore in Mary's Room." Copyright Disney Pixar. All
And given how the backstage crew all quietly roll their eyes
as they strike the show's set (which is basically this giant mechanical screen.
Which then allows the monsters who are running this live nightly TV broadcast
to dial up any location in the human world) ... Well, this is clearly a rant that
they've heard hundreds of times before. Which they reluctantly put up with
because - after all - Barrymore IS the star of this show. More importantly,
because these creatures like being part of the team which produces one of the
more popular television programs that's shown in the Monster realm.
Now where this gets interesting is - while Barrymore is the
star of the live TV show that serves as the principal setting / provides the
spine for the story in "Monsters" - he isn't actually the lead character in
this proposed Pixar production. Hob is.
"And who is Hob?," you ask. Well, Hob is the newest hire on
the backstage crew for this Monstropolis TV show. As he goes on & on about
how great Barrymore was that night, reenacting key moments from this scare-actor's
performance, it's clear that Hob is a little star-struck. More to the point,
that he secretly dreams of someday being the monster in the spotlight. Entertaining
creatures all over the Monster realm as he scares little kids and then stars in
a show just like this one.
But in order for that to happen, Hob would first need a big
break. Which comes far sooner than expected when the next night's broadcast
goes disastrously wrong.
You see, Barrymore is slated to scare a brand-new human
child, Raymond. Who's this 8-year-old boy that's always been fascinated with
monsters. Which is why -- when this acclaimed scare-actor enters Raymond's
bedroom and roars - the little boy doesn't scream and shriek. Raymond just
stares up in wonder.
And as it turns out, it's Barrymore who winds up shrieking
when Hob accidentally closes the closet door on this scare-actor's tail. Which
then causes Barrymore to lose his place in the scene, so the scare-actor exits prematurely
without having actually scared Raymond.
This - as you might expect - doesn't not go over all that well
with the audience in the theater. They boo when Barrymore tries to take his curtain
call. What's more, the ratings for that night's broadcast are abysmal. As
viewers all over the Monster realm quickly turned off the program when it
became obvious that Barrymore wasn't going to be able to frighten this boy.
And when the trades the next morning are full of headlines
like "Has Barrymore Lost It?," this scare-actor locks himself in his trailer
and then refuses to come out. According to what he shouts at J.L. through the
door, it was the crew's fault that he wasn't able to frighten Raymond. Their
unprofessionalism is what threw him off
And since Barrymore is now refusing to come out of his
trailer and take part in that night's broadcast, J.L. is panicking. After all,
when viewers all over Monstropolis tune in that evening, they're going to
expect to see Barrymore. Or - at the very least - a monster that looks &
sounds like Barrymore.
Color thumbnail sketches for "Monsters,
Inc." Photo by Rod Mongenel. Copyright Disney Pixar. All rights reserved
That's when J.L. looks on the ground and notices a shadow
that looks just like Barrymore. But when the director seeks out the source of
this silhouette, J.L. discovers that it's just Hob. Who - as he stands in front
of a spotlight changing a bulb - with the help of a hat rack & a few nearby
props, Hob looks just like Barrymore. Sort of.
Which is when J.L. has an idea. He drags Hob into the
make-up trailer. Where - after Lucy (the show's make-up girl) spray Hob's hair
green and then glues some horns on his head & a tail to his skinny butt -
the new hire stagehand does actually look like Barrymore. Which is when J.L.
rushes Hob to the set and then begins rehearsing him for that night's scare
Meanwhile - in the human world - Raymond tries to tell his
parents about the monster that came into his bedroom last night. Holding
Raymond's new baby brother, Mom glances knowingly at Dad. Clearly they think
that Raymond's crazy story is just a bid to get their attention.
More "Monsters, Inc."
maquettes. Photo by Rod Mongenel. Copyright Disney Pixar. All rights reserved
Which is why - after his parents brush him off - Raymond decides
to take matters into his own hands. So -
as he climbs into bed that night - this 8 year-old boy hides a flashlight and a
baseball bat under the covers.
What with Hob under-rehearsed and Raymond prepared for
battle ... Is it any wonder that that night's broadcast goes worse than the one
before? I mean, Hob is so unsure of his lines that he actually walks into
Raymond's bedroom carrying the script for that night's show with him. And when
this 8-year-old boy shines his flashlight in Hob's eyes, the would-be
scare-actor immediately becomes blinded. And as he stumbles along all over
Raymond's bedroom, crashing into the furniture as Hob tries to avoid that
baseball bat that the liitle boy keeps poking the monster with, he then drops
his script before Hob quickly exits the bedroom.
As you'd expect, the monster audience in the theater just
hates what they saw onstage. They actually pelt Hob with fruit when he tries to
take a bow during his curtain call. Embarrassed and ashamed, this monster is
further humiliated when J.L. comes up to him with the ratings for that night's
show. Which are the worst that this program has ever received. J.L. even got a
call in the control room from an executive at the Monstropolis television network.
Who suggested that - unless this program starts improving and fast - the
network may wind up cancelling this show.
Color tests for Sulley's fur. Copyright
Disney Pixar. All rights reserved
Sensing how badly the new hire stagehand feels about blowing
his big break, J.L. tries to let Hob down easy. "Hey, at least you tried, kid,"
the director says. "But some of us just aren't cut out to be scare-actors."
As J.L. and the rest of the stage crew wander away, Hob sits
alone backstage. His dreams crushed. He wonders aloud "Could this night get any
Actually, it could. You see, it's that this point in the
story that this monster realizes that he left the script to that night's show
behind when Hob exited Raymond's bedroom. Which is when this monster decides to
sneak back into the human world so that he can then reclaim this script.
Concept sketch for Sulley and
an 8-year-old version of Boo. Copyright Disney Pixar.
All rights reserved
But when Hob returns Raymond's bedroom, he discovers that
8-year-old boy sitting up in bed reading the script via flashlight. The monster
initially tries to frighten the boy into dropping those pages. But without the
TV program's sound effects and lighting, Hob is even less frightening than
before. And to make matters worse, Raymond tells Hob that the script he was
working off of wasn't really all that scary.
"Oh, I suppose you could do better," the monster snorts. And
- to Hob's surprise - Raymond does. Right off the top of his head, this
8-year-old boy comes up with several suggestions that would have punched up
that script. More to the point, would have radically improved that night's broadcast.
Impressed by what this boy came up with, Hob comes clean to
Raymond. Explaining the whole monsters-scare-kids-because-that's-how-we-entertain-ourselves-back-in-the-Monster-realm
concept. More to the point, Hob lets Raymond know that the live TV show that he
and his friends work on is in real danger of being cancelled unless it starts serving
up far more entertaining scares on a nightly basis.
Another early version of Sulley
was showcased on the "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" exhibition sign. Photo by Rod
Mongenel. Copyright Disney Pixar. All rights reserved
That's when Hob & Raymond strike a bargain. The boy will
now work with the monster to help make his nightly scare broadcast seem that much
more entertaining IF Hob then hangs out with Raymond on a regular basis and
teaches him about what goes on in Monstropolis.
Mind you, this is only Act One of the 1996 version of "Monsters."
Act Two deals with what happens when Barrymore is booted off the program
because Hob - with Raymond's help - is pulling in much higher ratings. Which is
why the scare-actor - in authentic Orson Welles-like Shakespearean tones - vows
revenge on the former stagehand.
Whereas Act Three dealt with what happened when Barrymore
exposed Hob. Revealed that this now white-hot Monstropolis TV star had been
collaborating with a human. There is, of course, a huge scandal. And given that
Raymond now knows all sorts of secrets of the Monster realm ... Well, there's
some earnest discussion about whether this 8-year-old boy can be allowed to
Concept painting of Downtown
Monstropolis. Copyright Disney Pixar. All rights reserved
Which - I know - sounds kind of grim. But accoding to the
story that Pete D. & Co. mapped out, Hob ultimately stands up for his human
friend. Which is why Raymond is then allowed to live. What's more, because Hob
is banished from the Monster realm and forced to find work elsewhere ... Well, it
turns out that the monster and the 8-year-old boy will still get to see one
another. Since Hob gets hired by the Tooth Fairy.
So, okay. That's what Pete Docter's early, early version of "Monsters"
would have been like. Now you have to admit that this proposed Pixar production
had some interesting ideas and concepts. But - then again - there was just a
lot of stuff here that was flat-out unworkable.
But given the story process at Pixar (i.e. that they try and
make as many mistakes as possible early on. Which is when story problems are easiest
to fix), Docter & Co. kept refining & refining their concept for "Monsters."
Finding all sorts of way to make this story, these characters and their world that much more
appealing & accessible to audiences.
And the finished version of this film - I'd have to say - is
one of my absolute favorite Pixar films. Whenever "Monsters, Inc." is on, I
inevitably find myself being sucked into this movie yet again. Marveling at all
the humor and the heart.
Speaking of which ... If you haven't seen "Monsters, Inc." in
a while, this Peter Docter movie is actually having its world premiere on ABC
Family this Sunday evening. This Academy Award-nominee will be
screened twice on that cable channel that night. Once at 8 p.m. ET / PT and then
again at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Which means that you can then double-up on the fun of
watching Sulley, Boo and Mike battle and then defeat Randall Boggs.
FYI: Given that I've such a huge fan of this particular
Pixar film, I've actually collected a number of treatments for "Monsters, Inc."
over the past 10 years. Some of which suggest that Pete Docter & Co. were
considering taking this project in some very interesting directions.
Image courtesy of
Chronicle Books. Copyright Disney Pixar. All right reserved
If you'd like to see some additional JHM articles about
those other proposed versions of "Monsters, Inc." ... Well, please let me know by posting a
comment here. And I'll then see if I can go dig those treatments out of my piles
... er, files in the basement.
Sounds a lot like Ratatouille!
I'd love to hear more about earlier versions of Monster's Inc! This was extrememly interesting and I really enjoyed reading it!!!
yes, more treatments please
Yes, please! (C'mon Jim, did you really think you had to ask??) And more Why For, to boot!
Yes, please Jim!
Thanks in advance!
I'd love to read more on earlier versions of Monsters, Inc. This article alone was extremely enjoyable
Yes please!!! Monsters Inc is my favourite film EVER - no joke!
I would also love to hear more about earlier versions of Monster's Inc. Along with any other treatments you might have about any other Pixar films. I am fascinated by their development process.
Awesome! Thank you so much for this insightful goodness!
YES. MONSTERS. LOVE. MONSTER LOVE. TREATMENTS!!!!!
Thank you, sir...may I have another.
Monsters Inc is my favorite Pixar movie! So interesting how far the movie came from this early concept. Would love to read about the other ideas. Post more!
Please post more Monsters Inc treatments! It's my 3rd favorite Pixar film, and Pete Docter is my favorite member of the Brain Trust.
"Monsters, Inc." is actually my least favorite Pixar film by far. But I found this article fascinating, nonetheless, and I would definitely like to know of other treatments.