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Monsters University - Dan Scanlon interview

Monsters University

Interview by Rob Carnevale

DAN Scanlon talks about some of the challenges of directing Monsters University, the prequel to Monsters Inc and why every Pixar film starts out horribly.

He also talks about his own favourite movie monsters and overcoming his own fears. He was speaking at a UK press conference.

Q. Why did you want to make a prequel and not a sequel?
Dan Scanlon: Well, we knew when we sat down and thought about [the film we wanted] to make, we knew we wanted to do something that explored the relationship with Mike and Sully first. And we really just thought the best way to do that would be to see the moment when they actually met. And then we quickly realised we could do crazy monster college [stuff, along with] that.

Q. This seems to be the perfect film because nothing seems obvious to change. Was there anything that you had to jettison in the edit?
Dan Scanlon: I think what’s nice about Pixar and the animation process is it takes a long time, so you have a lot of opportunity to fix things you don’t like. Also Pixar is very supportive, I felt that with Kori in my corner it gave me an opportunity to make sure we were dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t’. There really isn’t a lot, walking away, that I feel we could have done that. We knew we’d get a lot of opportunities, and we’re very proud of the crew and the whole movie and how it came out. So, there isn’t a lot.

Q. So, there’s not much on the cutting room floor?
Dan Scanlon: Oh we threw a ton out, don’t get me wrong. We had a million different versions of the movie, they were all horrible. Every Pixar movie is horrible in the early stages, it goes through an awkward teenage stage and then ultimately makes it out.

Q. Who is your favourite monster of all time, and why?
Dan Scanlon: I think King Kong, especially Ray Harryhausen’s [sic]… the stop motion King Kong was really creepy. Even the way stop motion characters moved was scary.

Q. The film is about overcoming fear in many ways. How do you control your fear?
Dan Scanlon: I think in my case, with regards to working on the movie, I think we just focus on story. There are a lot of distractions, there’s a lot of ‘this movie’ compared to ‘that movie’, and ‘that Pixar movie’ to ‘this’ and we don’t focus on any of that. We try to just focus on the story, our job is to raise the little baby that is the story, and make sure that it’s taken care of. I think that puts the fear to the back of your head.

Q. How did you tread the fine line creating all these creatures who had to be scary, but not too scary for a family audience?
Dan Scanlon: I think that the characters… hopefully, the ones doing the scaring are usually the characters that we’re with, namely Mike and Sully. So, hopefully the kids, they get it, they’re with these guys and these guys are fine. They’re following their story.

Read our review of Monsters University

Read our interview with Dame Helen Mirren