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Western Animation: Monsters University
Before they were incorporated, they had to be educated.

Monsters University is the prequel to Disney/Pixar's hit animated film Monsters, Inc..

This film follows Michael "Mike" Wazowski and James P. "Sulley" Sullivan as college freshmen who enroll in Monsters University to be scarers. An intense rivalry ensues, which escalates until it gets them kicked out of the scaring program. To get back in and prove themselves, they join the fraternity O.K. (Oozma Kappa), made of other scaring rejects, and enter the Scare Games with a ragtag team. Along the way, Mike and Sulley become the best of friends.

This film was released in the US on June 21, 2013, with the animated short film The Blue Umbrella in front of it. It features many returning characters from the original movie, as well as many new monsters. It opened to reasonably warm reception from audiences and critics (though nowhere near the unanimous praise of its predecessor), and its opening weekend of $82.4 million was the second highest among Pixar films, behind Toy Story 3. However, it also became only the second Pixar film ever (behind, interestingly enough, Cars 2) to not be nominated for a Best Animated Oscar.

Now has a Characters page that desperately Needs Wiki Magic Love.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adorkable: Young Randall Boggs, even after he loses the Nerd Glasses. But then he joins Roar Omega Roar....
    • He still acts like this even after he's in ROR. When the teams are introduced for the first Game, we see him smiling sheepishly and giving a nervous little wave.
    • Oozma Kappa. All of them.
    • Mike. His eager and peppy attitude during his first days at the university really makes you love the little guy.
  • Adult Fear: Little Mike slipping into a child's bedroom in the introduction. It's the monster equivalent of a kid jumping into a shark tank.
  • Aerith and Bob: You've got fairly normal names like Mike Wazowski, James P. Sullivan, Claire Wheeler, Randall Boggs, etc., and then you have names like Dean (Abigail) Hardscrabble and Scott Squibbles.
  • All Monsters School
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Almost everyone to Mike, especially at the beginning of the movie.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Squishy's mom, Mrs Squibbles. In her first scene, she interrupts Oozma Kappa's Initiation Ceremony by turning on the basement washing machine and making Squishy have to yell over it.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Well, they are monsters.
  • AM/FM Characterization: More for monster society in general than for the character who actually performs the trope. While Mike takes the guys to Monsters Inc., Squish's mom stays in the car to "listen to my tunes", which are evidently Speed Metal.
  • Amusing Injuries: Touching the poison urchins causes the affected spot to swell up. Almost all the monsters in the first Scare Game emerge looking like balloons, and Squishy has the misfortune of swallowing one, which inflates him from the inside.
  • Anachronism Stew: Somewhat. The dance party scene is very distinctly 2010s-ish, with regards to the music and general atmosphere, but the first movie was made in 2001 and looked like it, and this film as a whole is meant to be a tribute to '80s college flicks.
    • Some have calculated from Mike's calendar and the technology that the film is set around 1987-1988.
  • April Fools' Day: On April 1, 2013, the M.U. website was hacked by rival college Fear Tech. They changed the color scheme to bright orange and pasted their logo and their mascot, Archie the Scare Pig, all over the site.
  • Angel Face, Demon Face: Randall, who was originally Adorkable, wore Nerd Glasses and was a Perpetual Smiler, becomes more menacing as the story goes on. Eventually, he loses the glasses and stops smiling, showing his gradual Start of Darkness.
  • Armour Piercing Question: When Hardscrabble asks Sulley if he actually thinks Mike is scary.
  • Art Shift: Continuing from the first film, the movie's opening credits are in traditional animation.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Librarian is actually a giant 50 foot tentacled monster and if you make too much noise she will throw you out. Literally.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Mike's main ability. He's extremely good at finding ways to use the environment to his and his friends' advantage.
  • Awesomeness Is Volatile: A monster is an awesome scarer if they can scare human adults. Just be sure to get out of there before the screams blow up the door.
  • Badass Boast:
    Worthington: When you lose tomorrow, nobody will even remember you.
    Mike: And when you lose, nobody will let you forget it.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The PNK and HSS teams make it through the first Scare Game unscathed.
  • Berserk Button:
    • You'd better be quiet in the library ... or else the Librarian will throw you out.
    • Subverted with Dean Hardscrabble's souvenir scare canister. When it's destroyed, she's disappointed but doesn't even raise her voice. It isn't even the reason why she kicks Mike and Sulley out of the scare program a few minutes later.
      • Although she does cut them down harshly and publicly in just under a minute each, rather than give them a fair go on the Scare Simulator. Though it does ultimately make it painfully clear that Mike and Sulley only speed up their inevitable explusion.
  • Big Bad: Subverted. There is no Big Bad, though Roar Omega Roar comes close. Dean Hardscrabble is stern and set up to be one due to her terrifying appearance, but ultimately shows herself to be gracious in defeat.
  • Big Entrance: Dean Hardscrabble loves these, the best being her introductory scene. She swoops in, quickly shuts of nearly all sources of light in a way that can only be described as "borderline telekinetic", and then slowly slithers up from the darkness. The best part is that her entire entrance leaves no room for discussion about her credentials as a Scarer.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Mike and Sulley are expelled, but they become best friends and get jobs in the Monsters, Inc. mail room. They work their way up through the ranks and eventually became scarers, thus fulfilling their dream. In addition, as a foregone conclusion, Mike never becomes an on-field scarer but he is treated as an equal to them.
    • Although their victory at the Scare Games turned out to be false, the rest of Oozma Kappa is admitted to the Scaring School and eventually become professional scarers, as shown by their "Scare Cards" in the credits.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Tampering with the mail is a big enough offense in the eyes of monsters to merit lifelong banishment to the supposedly lethal human world. With no supplies, as is suggested in the original film. In human terms, that's like being dropped in the middle of Darkest Africa without any food, water, protection, clothing, or contact with the rest of humanity. For the rest of your life.
  • Book Ends: Mike walks past the safety line in Monsters Inc. at his school field trip in the beginning and at his first day of being a scare assistant in the end.
  • Brains and Brawn: Mike Wazowski is the brains to Sulley's brawn.
  • Brick Joke: See The Stinger.
    • Another one appears in the ending credits: Near the beginning, there is a poster from a student who's lost an eyeball asking for passersby to help find it. Towards the end of the credits, another poster comes up from another student who has found an eyeball. Hopefully, the two of them will come across each other's posters.
  • Brilliant but Lazy/Book Dumb: Sulley is a naturally good scarer, having come from a long line of them, but is overconfident and makes little effort to improve himself until circumstances force him to start doing so.
  • Broken Aesop:
    • Some dreams are unattainable, physical limitations can't be ignored, and you'll be better off if you accept it. Fair enough, except for the fact that half the cast is made up of cuddly, awkward monsters — arguably more cuddly than Mike — who play their strengths and utilize creativity to become successful scarers. But for some reason, we're expected to believe that Mike is not scarer material and never will be.
    • Sulley's laziness in using the same roar every time is portrayed as a weakness he has to overcome in order to truly be a good scarer, yet both of the critical moments that depend on his scariness have him using that same roar, and Monsters, Inc. shows that years later as a professional scarer he's still not doing anything new.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": M.U.'s rival school, Fear Tech, has a mascot named "Archie the Scare Pig", who is bright orange. Interestingly, he seems to be mix of both pig and goat- he has a pig's snout, tail and squeal, but his horns, shaggy coat and rectangular pupils are all rather goat-like.
  • Call Back:
    • As Mike sits in the bus leaving M.U., Sulley jumps at the bus window similar to when he burst through Mike's dorm window with Fear Tech's pig. Sulley even alludes to the event shortly after his bus jump.
    • Hardscrabble retorts to Mike's insistence that he can surprise her is that she very much doubts anyone can surprise her. At the end, Hardscrabble admits that no one has ever really surprised her before, except for Mike. She notes that she will keep her eyes out for more surprises in the future, and that Mike should never stop surprising people.
    • Mike uses the same routine that Frank McCay uses at the start of the film to win the scare games, albeit the game being rigged by Sully.
  • Call Forward: Being a prequel, this movie is filled with these moments.
    • The slow motion Power Walk the monsters do on Mike's field trip looks like the one Sulley participates in in the first movie. This has the added context of emphasizing that Mike and, especially, Sulley are now in the jobs they've always dreamed of, after having the shot introduced in the previous movie.
    • Randall "ditching the glasses" early on gives a hilarious explanation for his squinty eyes throughout the first film; his formerly scary expression can now be read as him just not being able to see.
    • The poster over Randall's bed is a motivational poster that says: "Winds of Change: Shh, can you hear it?" — a reference to a line that Randall says in the original movie.
    • The room number of the dorm room that Randall and Mike share is 319 on the second floor, which references 2319, the CDA code that gets used as a Running Gag in the original.
    • When Sulley uses a roar in his final exam, Hardscrabble tells him that since the child in the question was afraid of snakes, a roar wouldn't make him scream, it would make him cry. In Monsters, Inc., Boo, the human girl who Sulley accidentally lets into the monster world is also revealed to be afraid of snake and reptiles (which is why Randall was her monster). So when Sulley accidentally scares her during a scare demonstration, she cries instead of screams (in a ''very'' heartbreaking way).
    • Mike puts his one-eyed bear up on his shelf when moving in.
    • The Scotch tape dispenser just above Mike's hand in this shot is the same kind sitting on Roz's desk in this scene from the original movie.
    • The DJ at the Roar Omega Roar party is seen on the scare floor in the first movie.
    • Mike's training program for Oozma Kappa is similar to the morning training he gives Sulley in the first film, complete with "Scary Feet" and brooms used as kid dummies.
    • When Randall accidentally takes on the pattern of the carpet below him in the final challenge of the Scare Games, it brings to mind a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment from the first film in which he runs into Sulley and accidentally takes on the pattern of his fur.
    • Mike has "File paperwork!" sticky notes in his locker which both remind us of a habit of his and look very similar to those he has there in the first movie.
    • There is a kid imitating a roaring monster.
    • Sulley has to go look for Mike again.
    • The way Mike steals the key card to the door lab is very similar to the way he got the card to the door with the yodeller inside in the first film.
    • Roz appears at the end as one of the CDA agents arresting Mike and Sulley, and remarks to Dean Hardscrabble that she will be "always watching" them.
  • The Cameo:
    • George Sanderson appears as a member of Jaws Theta Chi. His fraternity gets disqualified for using protective gel on the first challenge, and he's the one who the ref uses as an example. Shame he didn't hang on to it when he started working at MI.
    • Roz as the leader of the CDA, as seen in the first film, and the Abominable Snowman, who becomes Mike and Sulley's boss in the mailroom, and tells them that any trip-ups will result in banishment.
    • One of the photos of Mike and Sulley after becoming scarers shows Sulley shaking hands with Mr. Waternoose, now sporting a mustache and afro.
    • There's a photo of Celia in Mike's locker.
  • Carload of Cool Kids: All the members of Python Nu Kappa pull up to the Oozma Kappa frat house in a convertible to ask if they had heard about a party for the top fraternities.
  • Cerebus Retcon: In Monsters Inc., Mike served mostly as a comedic Butt Monkey and seemingly second-fiddle to Sully's position. But then the prequel reveals how much grief and failure Mike experienced to get his position, come to terms with his shortcomings, and ultimately be treated like an equal to the on-field Scarers despite only being a coach.
    • Also, whereas the Monsters' fear of "toxic" children is a main comedic plot point in Monsters Inc., M.U. treats it more seriously when Mike encounters children at the end. It is played mainly for drama, and not just because of the fear of the alleged toxic danger.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: One fraternity is disqualified in the first round when it was discovered they were cheating. Double Subverted with Oozma Kappa. Sulley secretly cheated to win the last round, but decides to confess when his teammates' disappointment in him filled him with guilt.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Mike's ability to not be seen which he demonstrates as a kid, is helpful in setting up a big scare for Sulley at the end.
    • Everyone in Oozma Kappa has one like Terry and Terri's amateur magic skills and Terri's dance cheorography or Squishy's ability to move completely silently
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Art, who is full of expressiveness, gives Mike and Sulley notebooks with unicorns and glitter, and is distracted by butterflies during hide-and-seek.
  • Coattail-Riding Relative: As his father Bill Sullivan is a legendary scarer, Sulley shows symptoms of this at the beginning of the film.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The first round has the teams run through a tunnel full of toxic sea urchin-like creatures. As the hosts tell them over and over to not touch them, Art yells excitedly about how much he wants to touch them. He does and is promptly poisoned.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: For Mike and Sulley. Set on a campus comedy.
  • Conjoined Twins: Terri and Terry.
  • Continuity Nod: The pose Sulley and Mike make on the poster is almost identical to the one they make on the poster for the first movie.
  • Cosmetically Advanced Prequel: Averted; some of the technology is a lot less advanced than it was/will be in the first movie, like the scare training dummies (which move very mechanically and are clearly made of wood here, whereas in Inc. they look exactly like real children).
  • Covered in Gunge: This is part of Roar Omega Roar's prank against Oozma Kappa.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The credits play alongside a series of trading cards featuring the various scarers seen in the film, including the team at Oozma Kappa, who officially got into the class at the end of the movie. Also doubles as a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue.
  • Creepy Doll: The kid-like crash test dummies used in the final Scare event. Like the more realistic one from the original film, these dummies can move and scream as if they were real kids - which is kind of the point, but it's still creepy.
    • The walking girl doll used by Mike and Sulley to creep out the human police at the end.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Plenty around the campus, especially the PNK sorority girls. Of course, they're less cute when they show their Nightmare Face.
  • Dean Bitterman: Dean Hardscrabble. She gets better.
  • Determinator: Mike.
    • Played for laughs with the yellow slug monster.
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: The first Scare Game is a race where you have to avoid poisonous sea urchins. Mike and Sully run ahead of the rest of the team, cross the finish line, and at first it seems that they won... but then they're informed that the entire team has to cross the finish line for it to count, and the rest of Oozma Kappa arrives last. Since each game ends with the worst team getting kicked out, it seems that all is lost... but then it's revealed that one of the teams used a gel that rendered them immune to the urchins, resulting in their disqualification. Hence, Oozma Kappa manages to win after all.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Though it doesn't have any G-Rated Drug effects aside from causing immunity to pain, the protective gel used by a rival frat during the purple urchin obstacle course seems like a steroid metaphor.
    • Art spaces out easily, knows the layout of the campus sewers, has been to jail, and gets defensive and secretive about his life outside Oozma Kappa
  • Don't Think. Feel: Sulley tries to get Mike to go about Scaring this way.
  • Doomed by Canon: Mike is going to fail to become a scarer, as known from the first film. Some cited this as a key flaw that just makes it depressing to watch.
  • Down to the Last Play: The score is all tied up before the last duel between Mike and Johnny Worthington.
  • Dumb Jock: Played with; Sulley is actually talented and learns to grow out of his academic incompetence. This is averted by the ROR group, who are implied to take good grades seriously as they are disappointed with Sulley's grades.
    • According to their official description, Jaws Theta Chi (JΘX) plays this straight. Chet might qualify.
  • Dramatic Irony: When Mike meets his roommate, he states how "his lifelong best friend is just behind this door" and opens the door to reveal Randall.
  • DreamWorks Face: Sulley makes it on the poster.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Mike, Sulley, Randall and a few other small cameos from Monsters Inc. all seem to have gone to MU. Justified because they're studying for their future career, scaring, and MU is allegedly the most respected school in the business (possibly tied with or outdone by Fear Tech).
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Dean Hardscrabble's first scene sees her swoop into the classroom, pull down all the curtains and make the room very dark, stand by her bust and trophy to show her earned credentials, and give a stern lecture about how she expects only great things.
    • The Oozma Kappa Brothers are first seen at the OK booth trying to recruit new members... by offering cake. Everyone just walks by them. One giant monster eats the whole cake and leaves. Then a balloon deflates and lands on Squishy's face.
    • When asked what makes an effective roar, Mike comes up with a five-point strategy. Sulley just roars.
  • Evil Former Friend: Randall to Mike, who were room-mates together, only for Randall to abandon Mike once he started hanging out with the "cool kids".
  • Exact Words: The Library Challenge's only rule is "don't get caught by the librarian". It's okay to distract her and keep her from deciding which "distraction" to catch.
  • Expy:
    • Squishie looks surprisingly similar to Russell and is voiced by Peter Sohn, who inspired Russell's design.
    • According to an interview, Dean Hardscrabble takes much inspiration from Maleficent. The artists even gave her Maleficent-style horns at one point in development, but ultimately decided that this was going too far.
  • Explosive Overclocking: What happens to the door that Mike uses to prove himself after he and Sulley cause the rangers to scream.
  • Extranormal Institute
  • Extraverted Nerd: Mike.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Randall starts as Mike's friend and roommate, but eventually ditches him for the "cool kids" in Roar Omega Roar. At the final event of the Scare Games, Sulley accidentally interferes with Randall's scare simulation, resulting in an embarrassing loss and touching off his grudge against Sulley.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: It seems that The Abominable Snowman was banished to the Himalayas because he tampered with the mail.
  • Fictional Sport: The Scare Games.
  • Flat Scare: One eliciting a scream from the simulator is what tips Mike off that there's something wrong with it.
  • Flat "What.": Early in the movie, Frank McCay drops one when he comes out of his door, and is confronted by the CDC.
  • Foregone Conclusion: If you've seen the first movie, you'll know that Randall's relationships with Mike and Sulley will sour, and that whether he wins the Scare Games or not, Mike won't end up being a scarer. That said, the movie takes all the leeway it possibly can; for example, a big twist is that Mike and Sulley are expelled and instead climb the Monsters Inc. ladder the hard way.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Mike enters the human world to prove once-and-for-all that he's scary, he fails to scare a child, who just tells him that he "looks funny." This is possibly a reference to how he and Sulley solve the energy crisis in the first movie.
    • When Mike and Sulley get back to the monster world from the summer camp, there's a shot of Mike's Monsters University hat, destroyed. Minutes later, we watch the two leave the university.
    • Not to mention, continuing on the above point with a hint of Fridge Brilliance: when Mike lifts the entry card from one of the students, one of them is lamenting "that door took me all semester!" That's the door Mike uses, and she's upset because it's too dangerous for even an advanced Scarer, and thus is a failure as a project.
    • When Dean Hardscrabble makes her first appearance she's hidden in self-created darkness, enhancing her demonic appearance. However, when she leaves, she's shrouded in light, hinting she might not be as bad as she lets on. This is given a subtle callback at the end when she flies off after encouraging Mike and Sulley. She's similarly shrouded in the light of the sun.
      • Also, Dean Hardscrabble tells Sulley during the Scare Simulator exams that his only method of scaring would cause the child in her scenario to cry instead of scream. This is exactly what happened when Sulley accidentally scared Boo during the scare demonstration in the first movie.
    • Randy's first establishing shot shows him briefly cast in a sinister shadow.
    • Sulley and Randall are paired against each other in the final Scare Games round.
    • The Yeti appears at the mailroom of Monsters Inc. He warns Mike and Sulley that tampering with mail will result in banishment.
    • Sulley brings up the idea of cheating to win the Scare Games by "making some other guys look like these guys", and then immediately realizes it's a stupid idea. Still, it does show that he's willing to cheat to win the Games, which he later does.
      • Worthington's mocking remark that "they're always hiring in the mail room".
    • Throughout the film we are subtly shown the importance of a scarer creating an atmosphere of tension and unease, which Sulley is very bad at but Mike has spent years studying and is one of his strengths. At the climax they use every tool and tactic they can that Mike can think of to get home.
    • Squishy often scares Mike and Sulley by sneaking up on them. This becomes his scare tactic in the final Scare Game challenge.
  • Freudian Excuse: The promotional material for the movie was almost perfectly geared towards giving one to Randall Boggs; however, the trope is averted. He may start out nerdy and good-natured, but his Face-Heel Turn is all him. His humiliation in the final Scare Game hardly justifies his later actions.
  • Friend to All Children: "Frightening" Frank McCay was the only Scarer who took the time to greet and interact with the visiting children. He also was the one who inspired Mike to become a Scarer and gave him his MU hat. Of course, he's no friend to human children.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The various fraternities/sororities. Examples include Oozma Kappa, Roar Omega Roar, Python Nu Kappa, etc.
  • Genki Boy: Terri, much to Terry's chagrin.
  • Genre Savvy: When Oozma Kappa is invited to the Roar Omega Roar party after surprisingly making it to the second Scare Games round, Sulley points out it's a bad idea and they shouldn't go. He is proven right when everyone there proceeds to humiliate them after letting them feel appreciated.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Randall initially wears glasses, but Mike recommends he remove them to look scarier. Randall takes his advice and subsequently adopts his trademark squint.
    • More importantly, the glasses ruin his "disappearing act" by not turning invisible when he does.
  • Girl Posse: The Python Nu Kappa (PNK) sorority.
  • Goth: Claire and the Eta Hiss Hiss (HSS) sorority.
  • Graduation for Everyone: Subverted. Mike and Sulley are expelled. Instead, they work their way up at Monsters, Inc. until they reach where they are in the first film.
  • Growing Up Sucks: Mike has to move on from a life-long dream, and even through he turns out fine by end, it does not make the pain any less significant.
  • Ha Ha Ha No: Mike laughs at the accusation of having kissed Sulley's hand, then shuts up the latter by, in turn, accusing him of shedding.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Played With. Due to hard studying from an early age, Mike has more technical knowledge than any other student. Unfortunately, his size and looks don't help him out in the field. On a more uplifting note, his hard work does bring him working on a Scare Floor and be respected as an equal to the on-field Scarers.
    • This is also averted late in the film. Mike and Sulley work themselves up from mailmen to a full-fledged scare team at Monsters Inc.
    • This is the opposite case for Sulley, who has a lot of natural talent as a scarer but fails precisely because he refuses to do the technical work.
  • Heel Realization: Sulley again. He does not truly abandon his Jerkass attitude until he realizes that Mike is currently suffering a nervous breakdown, due to how Sulley's cheating undermined Oozma Kappa's victory.
  • Heroic BSOD: Mike when he attempts to scare a group of human kids at a camp, only for them to laugh at him.
  • High Hopes, Zero Talent: Mike is constantly told he can never become a scarer because he simply isn't scary.
  • Horny Devils: The PNK sorority girls resemble succubi.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Sullivan's initial assertion regarding his rigging of Mike's scare simulator. He quickly changes his mind upon witnessing Mike's ensuing breakdown and his teammate's grief.
  • Identical Strangers/Inexplicably Identical Individuals: The PNK sorority. None of these "sisters" are biologically related, apparently.
    • Palette Swap: Their only visible differences appearance-wise are that each have slightly different pastel color schemes.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Mike.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Randall. Preferably if they're cool.
  • Incest Is Relative: Don ends up marrying Squishy's mother. When Squishy gets annoyed about how awkward this feels, Don attempts to cheer him up by saying "Don't think of me as your new dad! We're fraternity brothers first! Just think of me as your brother who is married to your mother. Wait, that doesn't sound right."
  • Informed Flaw: The characters constantly tell Mike that he is not scary, but he does not stand out as being any less frightening than most of the other cutesy monsters in this film. Of course, this depends on how many of those cutesy ones are scaring majors, and compared to the top scaring students Mike indeed does look sorta wimpy. But it can come off as an informed flaw when the summer camp human kids think Mike looks funny, since a green eyeball goblin-thing COULD look pretty creepy.
  • Initiation Ceremony: Squishy gives one to Mike and Sulley to welcome them into O.K. In his mother's basement no less.
  • Inspirational Insult: After Roar Omega Roar pulls an embarrassing prank on Oozma Kappa, one of the pranksters jokingly suggests that Mike's frat can find work in the mailroom at Monster, Inc., instead of being scarers. This gives Mike the idea to sneak his Oozma Kappa members into the factory and raise their morale before the next Scare Games events.
  • Insult Backfire: Worthington mockingly suggest to Mike that the only way they'll end up working in a Scare company, is in the mailroom. But by the end, Mike ultimately proves Johnny's insult "correct" and becoming a top Scaring team with Sulley due to their starting job as mail-workers.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Don Carlton with the other Oozma Kappa members despite being old enough to be their dad. he ends up being literally Squishy's dad by the end of it.
  • Ironic Echo: "They're always hiring in the mail room." The first time is a mocking insult. The second time, it is a glimmer of hope.
    • A rare example of the echo occurring immediately after the original line:
    Frank McCay: (Stern) I didn't even notice you were in there!
    (Young Mike pouts)
    Frank McCay: (Impressed) ...I didn't even notice you were in there.
    • During scare classes, Sulley makes a good attempt at a scaring face and the teacher congratulates him. Mike glares at Sulley, who just smirks at him, points with two fingers, and makes a clicking sound. Next time, Mike does well and when the teacher tells Sulley to do better, Sulley stares at Mike in disbelief and Mike does the same gesture Sulley did to him.
  • Jerkass:
    • Sulley is a major one to Mike at the beginning. He gets better.
    • Roar Omega Roar and later Randy Boggs to Oozma Kappa.
    • The other fraternities and sororities at the beginning.
  • Jerk Jock:
    • Surprisingly, Sulley is this to Mike. He gets better.
    • Johnny Worthington III also fits this role. Because scaring is an academic discipline, this creates the unusual scenario in which the jock is also a high-achieving student and proud of it. In general, this seems to be the main trait of Roar Omega Roar.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Sulley during his time bonding with Mike and the others.
    • Dean Hardscrabble
  • Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: While MU does offer other majors besides scaring, and we meet plenty of non-scarers, scaring is still considered the most prestigious career of all of them.
    Dean Hardscrabble: Scariness is the true measure of a monster. If you're not scary, then what kind of a monster are you?
  • The Lancer: Played with. As Sulley admits, while most people think this is Mike's role in their relationship, Sulley realizes he's the lancer and that Mike is the one making most of the decisions.
  • Large Ham: Brock
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: If you watch this movie before Monsters, Inc., then you now know that Roz is actually a CDA agent. If you watch Monsters, Inc. first, you know Mike never gets to be a Scarer.
  • Late for School: A yellow slug-like monster desperately tries not to be late on the first day by slithering as fast as he can...at about 1 millimeter per second. He doesn't arrive until the end of the year.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Dean Hardscrabble's record-breaking scream canister was doomed the moment she started talking about how important it was to her.
  • Living Legend: Dean Hardscrabble, current holder of the All-Time Scare Record.
  • Loophole Abuse: In the second round of the Scare Games, the goal was to not get caught. While supposed to encourage stealth, Oozma Kappa instead created distractions while one of their team members went to catch the flag. The students narrating the games actually state that the only rule is "Don't get caught", there Ain't No Rule against OK intentionally creating noise, one member to the next, so the librarian looks the every which way at the noisemaker(s) way while your team gets the flag.
  • Lovable Jock: Brock.
  • Luck-Based Mission: The first event of the Scare Games for Oozma Kappa. A rival fraternity cheated, which disqualified them and made Oozma Kappa catch up.
  • Masquerade: This movie emphasizes the need to keep monsters' existence hidden from humans. Several scaring lessons focus on how to avoid suspicion, since a professional scarer must be competent in doing so. Its importance is even incorporated in several events of the Scare Games.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The Oozma Kappa frat brothers are a genuine group of guys, they're "OK".
    • The fraternity Roar Omega Roar, the acronym if which is also ROR, clearly indicative of their skills in scaring- one of the best known techniques of which is roaring.
    • The guys from Jaws Theta Chi (JΘX) are all "jocks".
    • The girls from Python Nu Kappa (PNK) are all cheerleaders who dress in "pink".
    • The girls from Eta Hiss Hiss (HSS) are all goths that "hiss".
    • "Hardscrabble" means "Little or no appreciation for great effort". The Dean's reasons for this behavior are justified to an extent, however. Mike just isn't scary, and Sulley is arrogant and relies only on roaring, before knowing to study the information for each child for the proper scare tactic.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The movie opens with an elementary school-aged Mike going on a field trip to Monsters Inc., where he gains his inspiration to go to Monsters University and become a scarer.
  • Misfit Mobilization Moment: When Mike takes the Oozma Kappas to Monsters Inc., they become inspired to work hard.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: All over the place. Some examples include Brock, who looks like a minotaur-bird hybrid; The Librarian, a humanoid snail-kraken hybrid; Fear Tech's Scare Pig mascot, a six-legged goat-eyed pig; and Dean Hardscrabble, a humanoid centipede-dragon hybrid.
  • Mood Killer: Squishy's mom. Pretty much a Running Gag.
  • Mook Horror Show: We get to see Sulley and Mike scaring the hell out of a bunch of armed sheriff's deputies in a last-ditch attempt to get home.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The Librarian.
  • Multiple Head Case:
    • Terri and Terry.
    • The two-headed pigeon in the beginning of the movie.
    • The monster representing the debate team is a blue two-headed monster.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Sulley, when he finds Mike in the human world and realizes how devastated the latter truly is.
  • Nerd Glasses: "Randy" Boggs. However, Mike tells him to lose the glasses early in the movie.
  • Nerds Love Tough School Work: Mike studies hard and in a montage adds studying to many tasks in his day.
  • Never My Fault: Sulley initially blames Mike for getting him kicked out of the Scare program, even though it was really his fault for neglecting his studies.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted when Mike enters the human world.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Mike tells Randall not to wear his glasses, because they give him away whenever he disappears. Also, the Funny Background Event where someone accidentally makes Randall look foolish (like getting splattered with cupcakes, or getting startled in class) become less funny when you see how Randall reacts after the Scare Games.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: After being pranked by ROR, Oozma Kappa lose all confidence in their abilities. While mocking Mike about this, Chet gives him the idea of taking everybody to Monsters Inc., where the OKs get their confidence back and Mike and Sulley realize they have to start working together, ultimately leading to Oozma Kappa giving ROR a real run for their money during the remainder of the games.
  • Nightmare Face: PNK have one.
  • Noodle Incident:
    Art: I can't go back to jail!
    • The Abominable Snowman in the mailroom saying that tampering with the mail is punishable by banishment. Considering his appearance in the first movie...
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught:
    • The second event in the Scare Games is to quietly go through a library without getting the attention of the Librarian. The monster must capture the flag without the librarian noticing and knocking them out. It is shown that anything goes, as long as you don't get caught by the librarian. Oozma Kappa ends up winning by each member distracting the librarian from the next until Squishy gets the flag.
    Terry: They said don't let her catch you!
    Terri: But they didn't say how!
    • Sulley is shown to believe this when he suggests Mike trade the OK members for better ones. He eventually admits his cheating at the final Scare Games round.
  • Not So Stoic: Twice, for comedy and then for drama.
    • The deadpan and goth Claire Wheeler contrasts her Large Ham partner Brock... until Oozma Kappa wins the final game, upon which she goes nuts with excitement.
    • Dean Hardscrabble is the sternest, strictest, and most unflappable monster in the school. But when Mike and Sulley create a scream of such power that it not only activates a door from the human side, but fills up every scream canister in the laboratory until they and the door explode, she goes into wide-eyed shock.
      • Later, as she bids them good luck in their future endeavors, she informs that she believes in them because they did the one thing she thought was impossible: surprising her.
  • Offscreen Inertia: Probably one of the most extreme examples out there: The slug monster "racing" to school does just that until after the movie ends, or in other words, for a full year.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Squishy does this numerous times in the film, which Mike mentions after like the fourth time he does it.
    Mike: Boy, we need to get you a bell.
    • Later becomes a useful skill for the library and last event.
  • Only One Name: Art is the only character to not have a full name on his trading card in the credits.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: The Perry brothers, Terri and Terry. The former is energetic, optimistic, and theatrical, where the latter is calm, cynical, and intellectual.
  • Prequel: The first that Pixar has ever produced.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: Dean Hardscrabble's scream can; her one souvenir of a lifetime of scaring.
  • Putting a Hand over His Mouth: Sulley to Mike while hiding from the "Fear Tech dummies".
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Mike during his Heroic BSOD.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Oozma Kappa.
  • Rant Inducing Slight: Mike practically explodes at Sulley when the latter claims to "know how he feels."
  • Reality Ensues: Being expelled but pulling an incredible record breaking feat the likes of which the world has never seen won't get you back in school. At best, Mike and Sulley just get a "good luck" from Dean Hardscrabble.
    • How Mike and Sulley's course goes until they team up. Sulley initially wowed everyone with his natural talent and good name. But not taking the schoolwork seriously he falls behind on the technical aspect of the job. Mike gets very good grades but Hardscrabble still drops him because he lacks any physique or natural ability to scare. Much like a basketball player "you can't teach seven feet tall".
  • Recycled In Space: Animal House WITH MONSTERS!!
    • More like Revenge of the Nerds WITH MONSTERS!
  • Red Herring: When Mike and Sulley are expelled, the mentions of an alternative Monster Colleges are not hinting that they would or could simply enroll in a different institution.
    • Possibly justified in that getting expelled from school doesn't exactly improve your odds of getting accepted at another school.
  • Retcon: Fans were crying Pixar foul once it was revealed by the trailer that Mike and Sulley meet in college, when the first film subtly explained that they had actually met in the 4th or 5th grade. A Pixar member at a con explained that it only came from a single line by Mike that was pure hyperbole, and that the writers ignored that detail to fit the story in the prequel.
    • They storyboarded a scene of Mike and Sulley in the fourth grade together, but for some reason, they felt that including it would require a further exploration of their past, so they came up with a Handwave of making the 4th grade line a "monster expression". This was approved by Pete Docter.
    • There was at least one trailer for the original Monsters Inc movie that implied Mike and Sulley were Childhood Friends.
    • In the first movie Sullivan and Waternoose both stated several times Sullivan learnt from Waternoose, which was a major reason why Sully was so loyal to him. It turns out Waternoose taught Sullivan almost nothing and Mike taught him. [1] The two exit a door and find they are in the wrong location. Sulley then chides Mike for not paying attention to geography during fifth grade (he claims Mike was more interested in getting to know a female classmate.)
    • Also note that there is a dopey-looking blue fuzzball in Mike's kindergarten class. Maybe he just got his memory [[Pun fuzzed up]].
  • Role Reprisal: Monsters University brought back Billy Crystal as Mike, John Goodman as Sulley and Steve Buscemi as Randall. Bob Peterson and John Ratzenberger also come back as Roz and the Abominable Snowman, respectively.
  • Rule of Scary: The record-breaking scare engineered by Mike at the summer camp near the end of the movie. It really makes no sense if analyzed—disturbed curtains, a self-playing radio, and a walking doll suggest a ghost, if anything...but then a giant turquoise bear with horns pops out of nowhere and roars in your face? Justified, since Mike was just trying to make things as scary as possible with very little time.
  • Running Gag:
    • This film continues (or originates, depending on how you look at it) the gag of Mike being out of view in pictures of him, only for him to not care.
    • Mike getting startled by someone while they yell "Wazowski!" Which is also a Call Forward to Randall's introduction in Monsters Inc.
    • Squishy appearing out of nowhere and startling Mike.
  • Scare Everything That Moves: What screws PNK over during the "Don't Scare the Teen" event; participants are only supposed to scare young children.
  • Scary Librarian: That's putting it mildly.
  • Shorter Means Smarter: Mike is one of the university's shortest monsters, and he's also among the smartest, most studious ones.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Librarian is humanoid/sluglike from the waist up, and a giant octopus from the waist down; a shout out to Ursula from The Little Mermaid.
      • And in one of the Scare Games competitions, "Don't Scare The Teen", wooden boards swing out with paintings of human teens on them; one girl is recorded to say: "But Daddy, I love him!" Ariel says this almost word-for-word to her father.
    • The prank pulled by ROR brings Carrie to mind.
      • The end credits reveal that one of the monsters from the university is named Carrie. She's a member of the PNK sorority.
    • The urchins inflating whatever part of your body they touch is reminiscent of the "goo balls" used to subdue Mr. Incredible in The Incredibles, including how Sulley pulls off one stuck to his shoulder, only for his hand to inflate.
    • A Creepy Doll walking around in one scene may remind viewers of "Big Baby" from Toy Story 3.
    • A green worm-like monster rushing to the final exam is reminiscent of the Worms in Men in Black. He's even DRINKING COFFEE.
    • At the party, Squishy does a dance similar to "Gangnam Style".
    • Mike and Sulley getting stuck at a human's summer camp at one point may come to mind.
    • Mike's mumbling in his sleep about "You're a princess and I'm just a stable boy" is evocative of The Princess Bride.
      • Doubly so, since Billy Crystal had a minor role in that film.
    • The German Sulley says to Mike about Oozma Kappa: "These guys fell into the fabric conditioner as kids!", using the same wording with which Obelix's magic potion accident is usually described in Astérix.
    • The mobile in the Scare Games Simulator room (for OK) brings Boo's fish mobile to mind.
    • Towards the end of the movie, you can see the address of Monsters University is 1313. 1313 South Harbor Boulevard is the address of Disneyland California.
    • Intentional or not, the comment "They're always hiring in the mail room" shares similarities to Hollywood Shuffle.
  • Shrinking Violet: Randall, initially.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: "Frightening" Frank McCay (played by John Krasinski) is only seen at the beginning of the film, but he's the one who encouraged Mike to be become a scarer in the first place, thusly setting off the plot of both this film and Monsters, Inc. as well.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Around the third act, after the revelation of Sulley cheating and Mike's ensuing breakdown and venture into the human world, Oozma Kappa help Sulley into the human world and it is then Sulley and Mike share a introspective moment alone in the human world while their Oozma Kappa brothers await in the monster world.
  • Start of Darkness: Randall after Sulley accidentally humiliates him in the final round of the Scare Games.
  • Stealth Pun: Terri and Terry (Terri, more obviously) take their names from terri-fy.
  • Stock Scream: As Mike is studying while riding a sweeper down the hall, one of the monsters he runs over lets out the Wilhelm Scream.
  • Super Coach: Mike Wazowski to Oozma Kappa, if only to protect his own dignity. And then eventually to Sulley when they are employed.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Though Mike gets a few short ones throughout the film from various monsters, the one he gets from Hardscrabble hits him the hardest and is what drives him to take on the Scare Games. Especially painful as it indicates Mike only sped up his inevitable expulsion.
    Hardscrabble: As for you, Mr. Wazowski, what you lack simply cannot be taught. You're just not scary.
  • The Stinger: Remember the incredibly slow slug who didn't want to be late to class on his first day? He finally gets there after the credits... only to find out that it's already summer break.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Mike is the Technician to Sulley's Performer.
  • Technology Marches On: In-universe. The Scare Simulator dummy here is a dirty crash test dummy, but the one seen in the previous film almost exactly resembles a real child.
    • Also, in a Freeze-Frame Bonus, the monitors in the Monsters Inc. Scare Floor look more low-tech than the ones in the first movie.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Mike really doesn't want Sulley on the team. At first, at least.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • "I'll have you know tampering with the mail is a crime punishable by banishment!" - Mr. Snowman/ The Yeti.
    • After the first event, Oozma Kappa, the team Mike and Sully are on, comes in last place, which means they would get kicked off the Scare games. Dean Hardscrabble taunts him, saying it would take a miracle for them to not be booted from the competition. Then one of the other fraternities happens to get disqualified for cheating, allowing Oozma Kappa to continue on.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Don trying to make Squishy feel less awkward about Don becoming his stepfather.
    Don: Just think of me as your big brother that's marrying your mother... wait. We're brothers that share the same mom/wife. (beat) That's worse.
  • That Poor Cat: Can be heard when Sulley tosses Mike's textbook out the window.
  • Those Two Guys: Claire and Brock, the hosts of the Scaring Games.
    • Both Terry and Terri qualify even though they technically share one body.
  • Tragic Dream: Nobody truly believes Mike is cut out to be a scarer, and the entire movie is about him working to prove himself. He fails. Although he realizes his technical skill has a lot of practical use in setting up perfect scenarios for other scarers to make use of, he doesn't ever get to do the scaring himself like he'd dreamed as a kid. Not only that, by the end of Monsters Inc. laughter was shown to take over Scream energy in Monsters Inc., which most likely have affected the Scaring field and employment.
    • However, even though Mike doesn't get to be a scarer, the end of Monsters Inc. shows that Mike does get to go into the human world and generate energy, meaning that he does achieve his dream in some form.
  • Trailers Always Lie:
    • The trailers make it look like Sulley is Mike's freshman roommate right when Mike arrives at the campus. Actually, Randall is Mike's roommate until he switches sides with the cool kids, and Sulley doesn't bunk with Mike until they're thrown out of the Scare program and join Oozma Kappa.
    • Promotional material makes a big deal of Randall wearing oversized glasses, but he ditches the glasses within a minute of his first appearance and keeps his classic squinty-eyed look for the rest of the movie.
  • Tranquil Fury: Dean Hardscrabble clearly has this after Mike and Sulley's actions destroy her record-breaking scream canister.
    Mike: (after she appears extremely calm and uncaring about the incident) ... You are taking this unusually well.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: After a ton of hard work, Oozma Kappa manages to win the Scare Games against all odds. This becomes subverted when it turns out Sulley cheated in the last round.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Perhaps not surprisingly, Randall slowly turns into one, ditching Mike for "the cool kids" and even joining in with the prank against Oozma Kappa. He even does a Slasher Smile.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: This is how Sulley, at first, impresses his teachers; he barely studies, but his natural abilities still make him a great scarer. However, Reality Ensues when he's properly evaluated, and he finds a single great roar can't account for every kid.
    • Weak, but Skilled: On the other hand, Mike is incredibly skilled and has the technical knowledge needed to craft a unique scare for each child, but lacks the natural ability and instinct of a true scarer.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Randall. He starts out being very polite, kind and supportive to Mike, and he seems to genuinely value their friendship, but he's led astray by his own desire for personal status. Eventually, he ends up joining the most high-up fraternity in a bid to become "cool", ending up as an adversary in the Games. When he's (accidentally) publicly humiliated by Sulley in the last Game, he develops his bitter resentment.
  • Villain Has a Point:
    • While Dean Hardscrabble is not a villain, she and all the doubters are proven right about telling Mike he isn't scary. Also, she tears Mike and Sulley down after they both fail her hypothetical scenarios, Mike for the above reasons and Sulley for not using his head when scaring. Not to mention her extremely demanding requirements for being a scaring major is understandable in-universe since being a Scarer is a dangerous job (to their knowledge), and she doesn't want any incompetent people going into what is treated as a hazardous environment.
    • Though there're huge jerks about it, Roar Omega Roar is correct in that Oozma Kappa lack traditional Scarer builds. This leads to Oozma Kappa finding ways to compensate for it.
  • Anti-Villain Protagonist: At the end of the day, these plucky loveable characters are still just training to harvest fear from small children.
  • Wacky Frat Boy Hijinx
  • Was It All a Lie?: Mike Wazowski after truly realizing he can't be a scarer ....
    • An indirect one for people who know what happens at the end of Monsters Inc. ...
  • Wham Shot: Used to show that the door that Mike opened wasn't for a single room... it was an entire summer camp.
    • Also, Mike suddenly noticing that the scream stimulation is working a little too easy for him at the snap of a finger.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There probably wasn't a prequel planned during the time Monsters Inc. was in production, but the Oozma Kappa gang is nowhere to be seen or heard of again after Mike and Sulley are expelled from the university and work at Monsters, Inc. Technically, they should have been working alongside Mike and Sulley as scarers in the first film. If we want to be generous about it, we could just assume that each of them got assigned to different scare floors than Mike and Sulley, but that may or may not be a stretch.
    • Somewhat explainable if not justified. Mike and Sulley worked on Scare Floor 'F', indicating at least five more scare floors, and there seems to be plenty more than that. Word of God points this out on the commentary, explaining the audience to infer that Oozma Kappa worked there.
    • Also, the monster trading cards displayed during the end credits indicates that there are at least two other scream-energy factories that exist (such as "Scream Industries"), and that many of the members of the cast simply went on to work at those companies.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Sulley cheats on the final challenge to make sure Mike wins. When Mike finds out, he's insulted to realize that Sulley didn't believe Mike could win for the team. The rest of OK is also distraught to find that their victory was false.
  • White and Grey Morality: In contrast to the clearer antagonism of the original, this one has the "villains" that fit better in a regular college movie - a Dean Bitterman and an Opposing Sports Team of Jerk Jocks.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Near the end, Sully and Mike say their goodbyes and go their separate ways. When Mike remarks that he's "ok with just being ok", Sulley has an expression of disagreement. Sully then runs after Mike, and reminds Mike about all the amazing things he did, such as memorizing various scare tactics, whipping up Oozma Kappa into a decent scare team, and even planning to scare the rangers to power the door from the human side. Sully tells him none of that would've been possible without him. Dean Hardscrabble also compliments Mike in her own way.

BraveThe Millennium Age of AnimationPonyo on the Cliff by the Sea
Production ForeshadowingImageSource/Animated FilmsCarload of Cool Kids
A Letter to MomoUsefulNotes/Annie AwardThe Wind Rises
Monsters, Inc.Animated FilmsA Monster in Paris
BraveCreator/Pixar    
BraveAll-CGI CartoonThe Good Dinosaur
The Martian ChroniclesFilms of the 2010sMortal Instruments

alternative title(s): Monsters University
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