Measuring up Monsters
Since I regularly check out the reference DVDs for Sound & Vision, I was eager to see if Pixar's latest effort was up to the standards of its impeccable earlier releases. I wasn't disappointed.
Watching the retro-style 2-D graphics of Monsters, Inc.'s title sequence, you'd hardly expect what comes next: a computer-generated feature that pushes the art form to its technological limits. (For a review, see "Movies," page 000.) Every detail of the film - the monsters' movements and facial expressions, the surface textures and lighting effects - is pulled off with naturalistic polish, making it the first computer animation that let me get past the seams in the image-making technology and lose myself in the story.
Instead of making a transfer from film elements - the method used to make most DVDs - Pixar pulled the computer files used to make the film and transferred them directly to digital videotape. This accounts for the disc's unusually pristine, glitch-free images, as well as its robust color and contrast. Details like the individual strands of hair on the monsters' furry hides appear to float off the screen, creating the kind of 3-D effect normally associated with wearing polarized glasses. And outdoor scenes like Mike and Sulley's midmorning trudge to the office have a remarkable sense of depth due to the realistic play of shadow and light.
Gary Rydstrom, the man behind the sound design on many recent Spielberg and Lucas releases, created the masterful mix here. The disc's Dolby Digital EX soundtrack offers a convincing sense of ambience in each scene, and it's packed with exciting directional effects and dynamic flourishes. When the morning bustle gets underway in the Monsters, Inc. foyer, you hear the overall resonance of a large space while utterances of "good morning" issue forth from every angle. Later, when Sulley fears Boo has ended up in the garbage, the pounding bass of the trash compactor is larger than life.
I don't recommend using blue and green monsters as a reference point for judging system performance (human flesh tones are a better place to start). But if your home theater is already tweaked to perfection, this disc will look and sound stunning.
- Al Griffin
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