This review is for the first two episodes of Monsters at Work.
Though Monsters, Inc. remains one of Pixar’s most loved properties, the world of Monstropolis has been surprisingly underutilized throughout the years. Though other beloved franchises like Toy Story and Cars have received several sequels and a plethora of shorts, audiences have never been given the opportunity to catch up with the world of Monsters, Inc. following the 2001 hit film. Pixar did offer a prequel twelve years later, but this was met with largely lukewarm reactions. Following an eight-year hiatus from Monsters content, Disney+ has finally given us the next chapter in the story of Mike and Sully with Monsters at Work. However, it quickly becomes clear that the story of Monsters at Work is really not about Mike and Sully. Though they do appear in the show, aspiring Scarer Tylor Tuskmon is our hero.
With the opening visuals and Randy Newman’s familiar music, Monsters at Work brings the viewer immediately back into the world that Pixar introduced in 2001. Indeed, the show picks up immediately where the original film left off- Scarers are out, and Jokesters are in. This leaves new hire Tylor Tuskmon, voiced by Ben Feldman, at a disadvantage. Tylor is a trained Scarer, freshly graduated from Monsters University with top honors and his dream is now in danger. With this unexpected snag in his plans, he is temporarily reassigned to MIFT (Monsters Inc. Facilities Team) which happens to be made up of misfits that (mostly) mean well.
Stepping into the place that can make his lifelong dream come true, Tylor sees that it may not happen exactly as he expected. With this, Tylor represents the young dreamer in all of us: we go out into the world and attempt to achieve our dreams, but sometimes are met with rejection or unanticipated change (which may even be worse). These struggles and Tylor’s relatability give the series genuine heart that we have come to expect both from Pixar and Disney. However, there is still lots of fun to be had in the upbeat dialogue which was written by creator Bobs Gannaway and experienced animation writer Bart Jennett in these first two episodes.
The series features a cast that is at the top of their game. The voices of MIFT itself include voice talent that ranges from industry veterans (Henry Winkler) to accomplished comedians (Mindy Kaling). Other members of the cast include the always-wonderful Billy Crystal and John Goodman returning as Mike and Sully, Jennifer Tilly as Mike’s girlfriend Celia, and Stephen Stanton playing the hilarious pair of Smitty and Needleman from the original film (replacing the late Dan Gerson). Familiar monsters are everywhere to be seen, often played by their original voice actor (Alfred Molina even makes a small appearance as his Monsters University character!).
One small note- there is never a recap or explanation of Monsters, Inc. (the film or the company), nor the city of Monstropolis. For instance, Mike and Sully’s experiences with Boo are not even mentioned in the first two episodes. This may leave some new viewers at a disadvantage, specifically kids who may be coming to the franchise for the first time and are unfamiliar with the way this universe operates. However, I don’t see this to be too much of an issue. The series quickly establishes itself as its own entity, and audiences- both kids and adults- will be happy to go along for the ride.
Monsters at Work represents an exciting future for animation, both for Disney and Pixar. As the Disney+ platform continues to grow, so does the potential for deep dives into animated properties and new ways to experience beloved characters. This makes Disney+ the perfect vehicle for this project. By allowing viewers to revisit this world over the course of several episodes, we can spend more time with the characters than we ever have before.
For longtime fans of the franchise, Disney+’s Monsters at Work is a return to the Monstropolis that we know and love.
The first two episodes will be available to stream starting July 7.
Be sure to check out our exclusive interview with Monsters at Work Supervising Director Stephen Anderson by clicking here!