Thoughts On Pixar’s The Blue Umbrella and Monsters University

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Pixar have been coasting of late. Brave, the most recent effort from the Emeryville outfit prior to this weeks Monsters University was the studio’s least interesting movie to date , in spite of a laudable shift in gender focus for the studio, while the film that preceded that, Cars 2, was also something of a misfire (contrary to popular opinion I actually really rate Lassters original Cars, and consider it the best of the studios output after Up and Wall:E ). While scepticism greeted the announcement of yet another Pixar sequel, in the shape of Monsters University, it’s actually a surprisingly entertaining piece of work. 

Monsters University is accompanied by a wonderful short, The Blue Umbrella directed by Saschka Unseld. A typically charming tale of an umbrella in love, I couldn’t quite believe that it wasn’t a work born of live action, such is the level of photo-realism in the animation. It’s as stylistically innovative as Paperman, the Oscar winning cartoon that played in front of the non-Pixar Disney animated film Wreck It Ralph, and suggests that Unseld is a talent to anticipate, with the short forcing a smile as tho one were mandatory for permission to stay seated in the theatre, and really emphasises the ability of the studio to provoke an emotional response from the everyday. 

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Monsters University, while not *as* successful as The Blue Umbrella, at the very least bucks the trend for mediocrity in the current strand of Pixar features. It’s strongest feature is its convincing sense of a self-mythology and world building. Monstropolis feels like a real place, with its own social economy. 

It’s quite surprising just how comforting it feels to be back in the company of Mike and Sully, the films two main protagonists and stars of Monsters, Inc. the earlier Pixar film to which this movie acts as a prequel. While the core group of players is expanded, it is the relationship between Mike and Sully that is the focus of the piece, and 12 years on from the original film it feels like a genuine pleasure to be entertained by those characters once again.

2014 promises an original tale from the undoubtedly talented team at Pixar Animation Studios, in the shape of The Good Dinosaur. Here’s hoping what we’ve witnessed here in Monsters University is the first sign of a once-dominating force in world cinema finding their feet again. 

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