As most kids know, a closet door is one of the few things capable of keeping monsters at bay. With this simple dividing line, the Pixar team created worlds for both sides of the door. Each side had its own rules, the most important of which was forbidding anything from the human world to cross into the monster world.
To successfully create a believable world in which monsters live, work, dine, and date, each individual prop and element of architecture had to be part of the whole approach for Monstropolis. The world needed to echo the human world and yet be monster specific. Details of Mike and Sulley’s apartment, one of the first sets to be developed, exemplified the depth of the thought process that played a part during the design stage of production. Brick buildings reinforced with steel, like those from the 1900s, felt like they could support monsters who weighed as much as 800 pounds. Household appliances ran on scream energy instead of electricity—so everything like the TV, stereo, and lighting hooked up to conduits that suggested a supply source similar to natural gas.
For Boo’s room, Pixar artists strove to create a little girl’s room that was both appealing and inviting. The room reflected her personality and creativity; an easel stood in the corner, her artwork covered the walls, and evidence of interrupted pretend-games were strewn on the floor. It needed to feel personal, but also a bit idealized, to work with the story point that her room resembled a simulator room in the scream factory.
Meticulous care went into choosing every detail of the door that needed to be distinguishable from every other door in existence. The curves of the outlined contours, the shapes and placement of the flowers, and color choices were all intentional and deliberate.
The factory took its shape inspired by images of post-World War II America and the dawn of the baby boom. The filmmakers decided Monsters, Inc. would have expanded heavily during this golden age of children to frighten. Then with the advent of violent films, television, and video games, the expansion would have stopped, leaving the Monsters, Inc. factory with its vintage assembly line and architectural design.
When the Pixar team set out to create a city of monsters, the possibilities were limitless. But they soon decided Monstropolis made more sense with a few facts: (1) Monsters have been around for as long as there have been frightened humans. The city should reflect this long history. (2) Monsters come in all shapes. Doors, telephones, and lockers must be usable by two-foot-tall monsters with tentacles as well as eleven-foot monsters with claws. (3) Most monsters are very heavy. The city would be built with strong, durable materials like brick, stone, and steel.
A colorscript is a sequence of small pastel drawings or paintings used to emphasize color in each scene and establish a film's visual language.
For Monsters, Inc., Production Designer Harley Jessup teamed with Art Director Dominique Louis and Lighting Director Jean-Claude Kalache to explore the visual contradictions between a drab, workaday industrial town setting and its population of bright, candy-colored monsters straight out of a child’s imagination.