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In ‘Monsters at Work,’ the Scary Part Is the New Business Model

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“Monsters at Work” begins the day after a pivotal event near the first film’s conclusion, when the Monsters, Inc., staff, which had been harvesting energy from children’s screams, learns that laughter is a superior power source. Now the goal is to become little ones’ comic dreams instead of their worst nightmares. But poor Tylor has trained his whole life to be scary.

“Great stories are told when there’s lots of change,” said Bobs Gannaway, the series’s developer and executive producer, in a phone interview. But he also wanted the series to be character-driven, centered on Tylor’s struggles to adapt after he realizes, “‘I was going to be the quarterback, and now I’m the water boy.’”

Tylor’s relegation to the Monsters, Inc. Facilities Team, or MIFT, is like being assigned to the mailroom — only dangerous. Fans of “Monsters, Inc.” will recall the factory’s rapid conveyor belt of doors that through high-tech mechanics and supernatural mojo become portals to the human world: specifically, children’s closets. The business has had many unfortunate accidents.

“When I was writing the pilot, and Tylor is taken down to meet his new co-workers, I wanted to have something that just made him run for his life — the idea you could actually die on this job,” said Gannaway, a Disney veteran.

Tylor, of course, survives, but has many cartoonish mishaps. He also feels vastly uncomfortable around his MIFT colleagues, including the so-called Banana Bread, who speaks only in toots that sound suspiciously like flatulence, and Duncan (Lucas Neff), a resentful antagonist who often cuddles a small, snarling creature that looks like a glowering ball of fuchsia yarn. When Tylor questions Duncan’s right to keep pets on the job, Duncan responds in outrage: “Pets! He’s my emotional support animal!”

This combination — of silly slapstick and wry humor, of a children’s fairy tale and an adult office comedy — is at the series’s core. From the computer-generated design, which exactly mirrors that of “Monsters, Inc.,” to the neon pastel palette (Gannaway described it as more sophisticated than a juvenile show’s primary colors), Disney is aiming for not only young viewers but also grown-ups.


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