News Column

Billy Crystal sees 'Monsters University' as a true family film

June 20, 2013

YellowBrix

June 20--EMERYVILLE -- It's been a dozen years since the release of Pixar's "Monsters, Inc.," but it didn't take much for Billy Crystal to get back into the spirit to voice Mike Wazowski for the follow-up film, "Monsters University."

He's seen "Monsters, Inc." many times with his grandchildren. What was important to him was that he wanted to do a movie suitable for all grandchildren.

Crystal's sad there aren't a lot of movies in theaters that he considers true family films.

"We are seeing the disintegration of the family movie into these blockbuster things that kids should not be exposed to. The explosions, the carnage, the violence that's all taking place in movies. There are less and less of these kind of family movies being made, movies that are truly for everybody," Crystal says.

What Crystal sees as a family film is his new G-rated animated movie "Monsters University," which offers a look at Mike Wazowski and James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman) as they arrive at college. Sulley has the potential to be a Big Monster on Campus, but no matter how hard Mike tries, he looks destined to failure.

Crystal was told a second "Monsters" movie was going to be made three years ago at a 50th birthday party for Pixar Studio chief creative officer John Lasseter.

"He walked up to me and said, 'We have the sequel. It's a prequel.' And then he walked away," Crystal says. "It was a great idea because it would show us something we had never seen. Another adventure with them would have been fine, but it's not what they do at Pixar. It has to be a great story."

Crystal always hoped to do Mike's voice again, but he knew the chances were slim. Since the animation company's first major film release in 1995, "Toy Story," they have produced 13 films. The "Toy Story" and "Cars" franchises were the only films to have sequels.

"What I loved about coming back to him was that I got to play him at a special time in his life," Crystal says. "I got to play him at 18. He goes through things in this movie that he didn't go through in the first movie. I totally relate to his determination and don't-tell-me-I-can't attitude. When he handles disappointment, he handles it really well, and that makes him an adult."

A tradition Crystal started in "Monsters, Inc." continued with "Monsters University." Most animated films have actors record their lines separately. When Crystal showed up at the recording studio for the first time, he was shocked that Goodman wouldn't be in the booth with him, because Mike and Sully had so many scenes together. He was told Goodman had already recorded his lines and left. "So, if I had something new to say, I can't do it, because he's not here to answer it," he says. "I told them that wasn't going to work."

The studio called Goodman to see whether he could come and record with Crystal, and he agreed. From then on, they did everything together.

"It just popped," Crystal says.

7 / Movies

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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