I Sat Down with Monsters University Producer Kori Rae at the #MonstersUEvent

Before I go any further I must tell you I was flown out to the Monsters University event, put up in a hotel and meals were taken care of by Disney. Opinions of the movie and anything I did while there are 100% my own.

Monsters University Producer, Kori Rae
Monsters University Producer, Kori Rae talks with press at Monsters University Long Lead Press Days. Pixar Animation Studios. Emeryville, California. April 10, 2013 (Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland/Pixar)

When I attended the Monsters University Press event in California last month I had the unique opportunity to be able to sit in on an interview with the movie’s producer, Kori Rae. I say sat in on because I did not actively ask any questions. My fellow attendees did a great job of asking questions and I couldn’t think of any. I’m much better one on one with people and not in a big group. I didn’t catch Kori at the reception after viewing the movie like I did with the movie’s director Dan Scanlon or with the director of The Blue Umbrella, Saschka Unseld. I’ll tell you more about those conversations when I write about those experiences next month. This post is about Kori Rae and what we learned from her. And by the way, Monsters University comes out on June 21, 2013. Then you can see what I’ve been talking about for the past month.

Monsters University Producer, Kori Rae
Monsters University Producer, Kori Rae
(Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland/Pixar)

Kori was very gracious in taking time to meet with us bloggers. She told us about her experience as a producer on the film. She got into the project very early on and it was something that she really wanted to be a part of. When asked how the movie came about as a prequel she explained that she was at a 2-3 day off site meeting with Pete (Docter), John (Lasseter), Dan (Scanlon) and Andrew (Stanton) bantering ideas when the idea of a prequel where we meet Mike and Sulley and get to know them and how they became who they were in Monsters Inc.

And so it was kind of a… Let’s, let’s go backwards, and, and then they just thought the college setting would be fantastic in a, in a world that we hadn’t really explored before

The overall central theme that I picked up on the movie was that this was Mike’s story. It was his journey and how he had a plan and a huge life goal. Mike wants to be a “Scarer”. We know that he isn’t one based upon the events of Monsters Inc. So what do you do when you know the outcome but want to make the story a compelling one where you root for the little guy even though he won’t accomplish his dream. I thought that was a very important story that was being told because for every person who goes out there and does 110% towards achieving a life goal there are hundreds of people who work just as hard but don’t. What Kori had to say on that subject was:

I think when we started to discover and really get into the story of Mike, and, how he overcomes, um, just the, the failure, and, and the not, not getting his dream, um, and kind of how he comes out of that, and how Sulley helps him. The story about what do you do when, when that one door really, really closes, and it closes hard, and how do you kind of find, um, what the next thing is, or what, what you were really meant to do.

It is an important theme that is explored in the movie and I don’t know of many movies that explore that theme where the underdog that you root for falls short of their goal no matter how hard they try. Finding out who you are and what your own greatness is, is something pretty powerful, especially for an animated movie.

It was very interesting to hear how Kori came to Pixar and what she did prior to becoming a producer. She had been an English teacher and a coach, two careers that helped her in her role as a producer. Here first gig at Pixar was managing the animation department for A Bug’s Life. So as she states

…my heart is always with the animators. I love that department, and it’s where the film really comes to life, so it’s always great to go to dailies and, and see what people are doing, um, when they animate a scene

"MONSTERS UNIVERSITY" (L-R) SULLEY and MIKE. ©2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
“MONSTERS UNIVERSITY” (L-R) SULLEY and MIKE. ©2013 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

When asked what she would attribute to Pixar producing consistently high quality movies Kori had this to say.

… you have to be willing to let go. You have to be willing to throw stuff away, and not get too attached to it. And you have to do that over and over again in order to get to the right, right place.

To me, that is the theme of what is happening in Monsters University which I think will be another one of Pixar’s successful movies.

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