Who is Monsters University aimed at?


1It might be the holidays, but this summer’s cinema won’t let you leave education behind; last week’s release The Internship allowed us to watch Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson gain work experience instead of doing it ourselves, and this Friday Pixar’s Monsters University will deliver a slice of US campus life complete with scales, fangs, and horns.

But exactly what demographic are the Disney animation house aiming at with this prequel to 2001’s Monsters, Inc.? It may be hard to believe, but it really has been twelve years since Mike and Sulley (voiced respectively by Billy Crystal and John Goodman) first graced the big screen.

By flashing back in Mike and Sulley’s friendship to examine their university years Pixar cannily exploit the fact that many children who loved the monsters’ first outing are now teenagers or adults, and may have lived through university themselves. Yet the animated format (and summer release date) means the studio can also rely on parents to take younger children along to see the film.

As if this didn’t already secure financial success, the film will be released in 3D as well as 2D (as is all too often the case these days) allowing for a boost in box office revenue through mark up on 3D cinema tickets as opposed to 2D ones, not to mention the charges for 3D glasses (which you will invariably forget the next time you see a 3D film).

2In an incredibly lazy (and money-grabbing) marketing move earlier this year Pixar re-released Monsters, Inc. in revamped 3D format. Despite the not negligible technical achievements of 3D film makers in recent years, I find it difficult to see re-releases given 3D rush jobs as anything but a symptom of greed (I’m looking at you James Cameron).

More thoughtful and impressive marketing work has also preceded the Monsters University release, however. The film’s accompanying website mimics those of actual academic institutions, boasting animated scenes of campus life and inviting prospective students to apply to the ‘School of Scaring’. The imitation of a university’s online platform is a technique only likely to be recognised by those over a certain age, whereas the klutzy comedy of the film’s trailers is likely to tickle children far more than adults.

Pixar’s animations have always had a fairly universal appeal, attracting and entertaining many age groups. For instance, in 2010 the belated addition to the Toy Story saga reached out to old fans whilst drawing in the next generation (and brought about the sale of a new wave of Woody and Buzz costumes).

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So, whoever you are, I guess I’ll see you at the cinema on Friday, in order to watch Mike and Sulley’s scaring antics all over again, albeit in their shrunken forms. I’ll be the one not wearing 3D glasses.

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