If you know me, then you know I’m slightly obssessed with Pixar. Their movies, their storytelling techniques, their support of young talent, pretty much everything about the studio. But don’t worry, this post isn’t going to be a big fangirl fest. (Though I could fill up several posts.)
Of the many things they are excellent at, overlapping story arcs is a big one. It’s most obvious in their ability to tell stories that appeal to both children and adults. It’s evident in every single one of their movies, including Monsters University, the sequel to Monsters Inc.
For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a story about two very different monsters, Sully and Mike Wazowski, and how they learn to work together to achieve their dreams. Although, if you haven’t seen it, you should probably go watch it before reading the rest of this post.
Don’t worry. I’ll wait.
Is it done yet?
Okay, let’s continue.
Beneath the many obvious themes is a not-so-obvious underlying message this movie makes. You see, even though all Mike has ever wanted in life is to be a scarer, he never actually becomes one. Not even in the original movie is he a scarer.
Most kids movies usually involve some form of the theme “you can be anything.” Ratatouille, The Lego Movie, How To Train Your Dragon, Planes. (Okay, so I’m obsessed with animated movies in general. What can I say? I’m a nerd.) And there is absolutely nothing wrong with those themes.
The sursrising message Monsters University shows kids is that it’s okay if we don’t achieve our dreams. It shows them how to continue on when hard work and dedication isn’t enough. It’s the personification of the quote, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land in the stars.”
Mike didn’t become a scarer. He didn’t even manage to graduate from Monsters University. But he did learn that not achieving his dream didn’t make him worthless. He learned to see worth in who he was, rather than who he wanted to be.
He didn’t become a scarer, but he did end up working for the company he admired so much. He learned that even though he didn’t reach the moon, he still wound up in the stars. And the stars are a pretty awesome place to wind up.