A staple film from my childhood was undoubtedly Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. Much like many others, it is a film that I am rather protective of as the story and its themes represent fond memories and nostalgia from happy days. When the sequel series Monsters at Work was announced, understandably, we were all both excited and nervous to see how this continuation on Disney+ would affect the perfect ending of the original film. However, as soon as the music reminiscent of Randy Newman’s original score starts to play, my nerves eased as I was suddenly transported back to the early 2000s.
The show consists of 10 episodes and kicks off just after the events of Monsters, Inc. With Mr. Waternoose out of the picture, it’s time for new leadership at Monsters, Incorporated, and who better to take the reins than Mike and Sulley? Billy Crystal and John Goodman slip back into their adored roles and are joined by newcomers Ben Feldman and Mindy Kaling. Their characters, Tylor Tuskmon and Val Little, recently studied at Monsters University, Mike and Sulley’s alma mater from the 2013 prequel which received mixed reception. Now moving forward, the animation of Monsters at Work is fantastic but the visuals do take a while to get used to as Monstropolis looks slightly different in this upgraded and more modern style.
The series channels most of its comedy from the awkward stages of the company transitioning from creating scare energy to using the power of laughter. This is quite the drastic change, leaving everyone to find where and how they fit into the bigger picture. Tylor, who had been offered his dream job as a scarer, has his hopes stripped away on his very first day at work as he’s never heard of laughing energy. Hesitantly, Tylor is transferred to the MIFT team, the behind the scenes mechanics that keep operations running smoothly at Monsters, Incorporated. This is where he builds a dynamic with Val; she shows him the ropes as he looks for a new place in this changing world. The lovable and unique band of MIFT misfits he encounters are fantastic editions to the franchise’s reestablished range of characters, most of which also make cameos in the show.
When it comes to the protagonist in a light-hearted series like this, you want them to be someone you can root for and although Tylor represents those who are robbed of their dreams, he can often come off as bland. In comparison to the other carefully crafted characters, Tylor lacks the qualities and quirks needed to keep you invested in his journey. His personality does find time to develop towards the end of the second episode, yet he is still without a doubt the weakest part of the show. This is not to say that his arc may not become more compelling, but his whining and negativity feel out of place from the start.
Otherwise, all of the classic characters including Celia Mae and Roz are done perfectly. The story remains true to who they were in the original film without deviating in order to adapt to the addition of new roles. Their dynamics are just as entertaining as they once were. The story could definitely benefit from a bit more screen time with these familiar faces in a fusion of subplots as often the new and old characters are separated the majority of the time.
When it comes down to it, Monsters at Work is a nostalgic treat that will transport many back to their childhood while introducing this beloved and unique world to a new generation of kids. Despite its lacking lead, the show still finds ways to be endearing and enjoyable and continues to expand on the community that keeps Monsters Incorporated running. Even though nothing will ever be able to top Pixar’s 2001 feature, this series is a welcome addition to the franchise, certainly far from fans’ worst expectations.