The Art of Monsters University – Detailed Book Review

The Art Monsters University Book Review

If you’re a regular reader of our site you know that we are immense fans of the concept art behind Pixar’s films. We love the rich visual history of the artwork, the inspiring talent of the artists, and that you can see the film come to life as you turn the pages. Such is the case with The Art of Monsters University – the book is filled with creativity from beginning to end. From the early character development and the background elements to the color scripts which define the overall mood of the film – it’s all there. Well, I guess I can’t say that it’s all there since the film took over four years to create, but you can certainly get a good feel of the movie’s evolution.

Monsters University Concept Art
OK concept art by Shelly Wan © 2013 Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The 168-page book (11.25″ Width x 9.25″ Height x 0.875″ Depth) is broken down into the following areas:

PREFACE – 1 Page – (by John Lasseter and Pete Docter)
John and Pete take a high-level look at making a prequel, Dan Scanlon’s perfect fit for the role as well as other key players of the movie.

FOREWORD – 1 Page – (by Dan Scanlon)

Dan briefly explores the evolution of how Monsters U became Mike’s story – and the failure that ensues. I think the best line in the Foreword comes when Dan says, “I’m proud to work with a studio full of these ‘failures’ – failed musicians, failed doctors, failed athletes – each one of us is now living a life far different and more wonderful than the one we imagined.” Wow – powerful words that really ring true about how life’s twists and turns lead us in different directions, yet we find our fate…much like Mike’s story in the film.


This section gives a high-level overview of the story, a re-introduction to Mike and Sulley, the sets and the overall feel of the color tone of the film.

Monsters University Concept Art Mike Wazowski
Young Mike concept art by Jason Deamer © 2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

INSPIRED – 6 Pages

School busses, field trips and young Mike Wazowski – what more could you ask for? If you love the adorable first-grade green-guy than you’ll love Jason Deamer’s amazing work showing the evolution of Mike. The pages are full of pencil sketches and digital creations (like the one shown above) that truly bring young Mike to life.

In addition to the details on Mike, there are several other storyboards and color scripts that highlight Mike’s special scaring adventure on his field trip.

Monsters University Randy Concept Art
Randy concept art by Ricky Nierva © 2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.


The section really delves into the development of the main characters, look of the MU campus, campus life (clubs, transportation around campus, night life), as well as the hundreds of background characters. The struggles of Dean Hardscrabble’s development are also highlighted – from her beginnings as a Male character to her ultimate shift are shown in great detail across four pages of sketches, all the way to her final digital likeness.

I have mentioned it previously, but Peter Chan’s pencil work on several campus layouts and parties are simply stunning and I really could dive into the details for hours – the layering, architecture and perspective are all there. Additionally, this section highlights some of Pixar’s research trips to local Universities for detail gathering and artistic inspiration. This inspiration is spread across 14 pages of concept art focused on everything from dorm rooms to classrooms.

Monsters University School Concept Art
Sulley and Mike concept art by Peter Chan © 2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

GREEK LIFE – 40 Pages

The Greek Life section has to be one of my favorite sections in the book – whereas the last section looked at the college life and the film’s main characters, this section digs into the development of the wacky characters within the fraternities and sororities (ROR, PNK, JOX, EEK, HSS and OK). Speaking of Oozma Kappa, if you’re looking for pages upon pages that highlight the OK gang, each character has a two-page spread with tons of sketches showing their (sometimes) massive changes. Just look at Art below – he’s gone through quite the transformation on his way to becoming the furry rainbow shape we’ve come to love. On a side note, it was great to also see the official artwork for Art’s Dream Journal (by Craig Foster) – this would have been handy to have when we were creating our own custom, professionally printed Dream Journals.

Monsters University Art Concept Art
Art, Chris Sasaki. Courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios © 2013 Disney•Pixar.

In addition, the Greek Life section also shows the amazing architecture-style drawings of the University houses as well. We were so excited to see an amazing piece that Robert Kondo completed of the JOX fraternity house – his pencil creation is almost the exact same style as the Library piece that we won at the Monsters University charity screening (first image below). Robert’s piece is like a Where’s Waldo piece and you can search for quite some time before you’ll find Mike and Sulley chasing after a wryly Archie the Scare Pig. Archie fans shouldn’t fret as there are four pages of concept art and storyboards dedicated to the crazy mascot that brings Mike and Sulley together – there’s even the initial piece of concept art that Dan Scanlon drew in 2008.


Of all the sewers on campus, this one’s always been my favorite.” – Art

If you thought The Scare Games were as hilarious as I did, this section will be equally enjoyable – from its look at Claire Wheeler and Brock Pearson (one of my favorites), to the amazingly gritty set for the Toxicity Challenge, this section has many pieces that will draw you in. Heck, you even get a look at the development of the massive Librarian – and as Michael Stocker says, “The librarian has a very small part, but she makes a big impact“.

Full-page set designs and several pages of storyboards/color scripts punctuate each of the events in The Scare Games. I personally connected with Stanley Moore’s Storyboards of the Toxicity Challenge – you can sense the hilarity as the characters dodge the impending glow urchins. I even loved the detail of the red highlights to signify when the characters had been hit by a glow urchin.

FIELD TRIP – 12 Pages
Throughout the book, there are little pieces of information that really let you know the level of detail that goes into the development of the film. One of those moments in the book is clearly highlighted when Ricky Nierva mentions, “We wanted to make Monsters Incorporated feel older in this film, since it takes place about twenty years before the first movie. Instead of being a bank of televisions, the leaderboard is one of those old flip displays that you used to see in train stations.” I think we can all see why Pixar’s films take over four years to create now – every little detail is thought of and implemented.

The section shows some amazing artwork of Monsters Incorporated as the gang breaks in and gets a peek at their idols. Dice Tsutsimi’s work here is nothing short of amazing as the rich, warm tones and “night scenes” pop off the pages against the black backgrounds. Finally, I promise that if you like architectural-style drawings that are reminiscent of some classic comic books, the black and white artwork of Kristian Norelius & Robert Kinkead will not disappoint.

This section completely makes you feel immersed in the film again. The storyboards from Dean Kelly paint a perfect picture of the progression of Mike leaving the monster world, to his and Sulley’s struggles to get back. Additionally, Robert Kondo’s set design of the human world gives you a perfect sense of scale – you can honestly visualize (from a birds-eye view) the path that Sulley takes as he escapes the cabin and rushes to the lake.

EPILOGUE – 4 Pages
The epilogue highlights the story moments when Mike realizes that his dreams are not going to materialize the way he had originally imagined. The section also shows some great storyboards and color scripts that helped bring this scene to life in the film.


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The images above are comprised of the raw talents of many, many artists. My review didn’t even scratch the surface of all of the artists (in the book) that helped shape the film, and because of that we highly recommend this book (by Chronicle Books) for fans of Monsters University, fans of Pixar, or fans of amazing concept artwork as well.

Pick up your copy of The Art of Monsters University on Amazon.

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