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Spoilers for this movie will be marked as usual. However, due to its nature as the prequel to Monsters, Inc., that film's spoilers are unmarked here. You Have Been Warned!
Before they were incorporated, they had to be educated.

"Scariness is the true measure of a monster. If you are not scary, what kind of a monster are you? It's my job to make great students greater, not make mediocre students less mediocre."
Dean Abigail Hardscrabble

Monsters University is the 2013 prequel to Disney/Pixar's hit animated film Monsters, Inc..

Michael "Mike" Wazowski (Billy Crystal) has built his entire life around being a scarer. Ever since he visited Monsters, Inc. as a child, he has dedicated his life to learn the ins and outs of the craft. When he is accepted to and attends his dream school, Monsters University, he meets fellow freshman James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (John Goodman).

While he is also a scaring major, they could not be from more different backgrounds. Mike has been a diligent studier who has worked against all odds to get to his position, while Sulley is a notorious slacker, coasting off his family name of prestigious scarers, which has gotten him far until now. Naturally, they immediately butt heads, and an intense rivalry ensues. The chaos escalates the entire semester until an embarrassing incident during their final exam where they upset Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) causes them to get kicked out of the scaring program.

To get back in the program, Mike wagers a deal with Hardscrabble if that they win the university's Greek competition, the Scare Games, both Mike and Sulley can be let back in the program. With no other options, they join the fraternity O.K. (Oozma Kappa), made of other scaring rejects who would love a chance to prove themselves as well. Now with this ragtag team assembled, they have one shot at redemption and to potentially win this daunting competition, with Mike and Sulley becoming the best of friends along the way.

A followup short, Party Central, where Mike and Sulley use door stations to bring a rival fraternity's party to an O.K. one, would accompany the theatrical release of Muppets Most Wanted.

Monsters University provides examples of:

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    Tropes A-M 
  • 555: The newspaper ad announcing the job offerings in the Monsters, Inc. mail room tells applicants to call 555-0199.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • While talking in his sleep, Mike mentions a princess being in love with a stable boy, referencing The Princess Bride, where Mike's voice actor Billy Crystal played Miracle Max.
    • The Yeti is seen at the end supervising the mail room at Monsters Inc. — an allusion to John Ratzenberger, his voice actor, and his first big role as a mailman.
    • Art mentions he owns dream journals and spends a lot of time in sewers just like another Charlie Day character.
  • All-Ghouls School: The basic concept of the university.
  • All Guys Want Sorority Women: When Randy is trying to convince Mike to attend a big party, he emphasizes how it is a sorority party. It's implied that he was mostly interested in the sorority girls there, judging by how we see him offering cupcakes to some of them later on.
  • 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 forcing Squishy to yell over it.
  • Amazing Technicolor Population: Well, they are monsters.
  • Ambiguous Criminal History: When the Oozma Kappa fraternity group is spotted by security in the Scare Factory, Art completely freaks out at the thought of any legal punishment and screams that he can't go back to prison. It's never explained what he did to wind up there in the first place.
  • 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 [her] tunes", which are evidently Speed Metal.
  • Amusing Injuries: Touching the venomous urchins causes the affected area 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 film carries over elements of the first movie (which was made in 2001 and looks like it), not to mention this film as a whole is meant to be a tribute to '80s college flicks. Using Mike's calendar and the technology for reference (for instance, the Scare Floors are shown using old Solari boards instead of digital monitors), the film is likely set in the monster world equivalent of 1987-1988.
  • Angel Face, Demon Face: Randall, who was originally a friendly dork who 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.
  • 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.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Hardscrabble asks Sulley if he actually thinks Mike is scary. Although Sulley struggles to refute the question, he cannot, because deep down, he knows that Hardscrabble is correct in saying Mike is not. This directly leads to Sulley cheating in the final round by tampering with Mike's settings to ensure Mike's win.
  • Art Shift: Continuing from the first film, the movie's opening credits are done 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.
  • Back to School: Don has joined Oozma Kappa after he was downsized from his sales department. Averted in that none of his humour is about his age, rather than that he's still sticking with his well-polished sales persona and patter in a fraternity environment.
  • Bait-and-Switch Character Intro: Used twice when Mike first arrives at his dorm and meets his roommate for the first time.
    • When he's given his key, Mike is enthusiastic to learn that his roommate is also a scaring major, and excitedly tells himself that his new best friend is waiting on the other side of the door. Viewers familiar with the original film would expect this to be when he meets Sulley (especially since the trailers implied this), but when Mike opens the door, we see that his roommate is actually Randall.
    • When we first seen Randall, his obscured silhouette evokes the predatory, villainous appearance of his older self, complete with the score briefly hinting at his sinister leitmotif from the original. He then steps into the light to greet Mike, revealing his big goofy glasses and his innocent, friendly expression.
  • Bait-and-Switch Sentiment: Provides the page quote.
    Mike: We have everything we need to win right here.
    Squibbles: [smiles] Heart.
    Mike: No, me! I'm going to win this for us.
    • Also when Sulley suggests replacing the Oozmas with a new team, Mike retorts that they can't do that...because he's checked, and it's against the rules.
  • Beat Without a "But": After Mike and Sulley find themselves in a boring scream canister class, the professor doesn't give the reassurance they expect.
    Professor Brandywine: Some say that a career as a scream can designer is boring, unchallenging, a waste of a monster's potential... [beat] Open your textbooks to Chapter 3.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The PNK and HSS teams make it through the first Scare Game completely unscathed. For the EEKs, Brynn Larson suffers a "minor" swelling after accidentally stepping on a stinging urchin. However, her sorority proves to show the best teamwork when Carla Delgado and Maria Garcia aid her and the rest keep close as to make sure she doesn't endure any more pain before making it out of the event.
  • Beyond the Impossible: The door's shut down, you're stuck with no children at all to make seems like a pretty hopeless situation. Mike and Sulley's solution is to scare an entire squad of police officers, creating such an epic scare that the door is effectively blown off its hinges and the scream canisters suffer from Explosive Overclocking as they all are filled far beyond capacity—a feat that has never been accomplished in recorded monster history.
  • Berserk Button:
    • You'd better be quiet in the library...or else the Librarian will throw you out.
    • Subverted with 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 sped up their inevitable expulsion).
  • Big Entrance: 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.
  • 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 Dumb: Sulley is this, making him the counterpart to Book Smart Mike. Played for laughs most of the time, but it's eventually revealed that Sulley knows full well that he's not academically gifted and is terrified that he'll crumble under the weight of his family's legacy because of it.
    Professor Knight: One frightening face does not a scarer make, Mr. Sullivan.
  • 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: 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 to their strengths and utilize creativity to become successful scarers. It seems the only reason we're expected to believe that Mike is not scarer material and never will be is because he's Doomed by Canon.
    • 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. Granted, he does learn that it also takes the building of atmosphere to make an effective Scare.
  • 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:
    • One of the posters in Mike's dorm room is of Frank McCay.
    • 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's retort 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.
  • Call-Forward: Being a prequel, this movie is filled with these moments.
    • The scenes taking place at Monsters Inc. incorporate some of the original film's musical score.
    • The slow motion Team Power Walk the monsters do on Mike's field trip looks like the one Sulley participates in at the start of the first movie. This has the added context of emphasizing that Mike and 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.
    • Randall's first establishing shot shows him as a sinister shadow, with a brief appearance by his villainous leitmotif from the first film.
    • 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 Mike is yanked out from under his bed by Archie the Scare Pig, he does the same famous scream he did in the original when Roz shut down the office blinds on his fingers.
    • 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 one of the monsters 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.
    • Mike has "File paperwork!" sticky notes in his locker, which both reminds us of a habit of his and look very similar to those he has there in the first movie.
    • Roz appears at the end as one of the CDA agents arresting Mike and Sulley, and remarks to Hardscrabble that she will be "always watching" them.
    • The teaser trailer features narration from Kelsey Grammer that parallels the narration James Coburn gave in the original film's trailer. Grammer would have replaced the late Coburn as the voice of Mr Waternoose, but the character's speaking role was cut from the movie.
    • 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." At the end of the original film, Mike and Sulley solve the energy crisis by learning that making children laugh is more powerful than scaring them, and Mike himself ultimately becomes one of the entertainers.
    • Sulley and Randall are paired against each other in the final Scare Games round. Sulley unintentionally embarrassing Randall here is implied to be the reason Randall resents him in their adulthood.
    Randall: That's the last time I lose to you... Sullivan.
    • The Abominable Snowman appears at the mailroom of Monsters Inc. He warns Mike and Sulley that tampering with mail will result in banishment.
  • 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 the gel 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 moustache 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 is always seemingly second-fiddle to Sulley'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., this film treats it more seriously when Mike encounters human children in the final act.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper:
    • One fraternity is disqualified in the very first round when it's discovered that they were cheating.
    • Double subverted with Oozma Kappa in the final event. Sulley secretly tampers with the setting on Mike's simulation, ensuring Mike won the last round. Mike is furious when he discovers this, and the other members are clearly disappointed in Sulley as well. Out of guilt, Sulley decides to confess to Hardscrabble, though it's implied that he claims to have rigged his own simulation instead, allowing Mike and his other teammates to remain unpunished.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Mike's ability to sneak around and 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 a unique quirk. Terry and Terri have amateur magic skills and Terri's dance choreography, Squishy can move completely silently, Don has loud, sticky tentacles and Art is an unhinged Cloudcuckoolander. They all learn to use these quirks to their advantage during the Scare Games, and they are implied to become their signature techniques once they become full-time scarers.
  • 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: Sulley shows symptoms of this at the beginning of the film. His father, Bill Sullivan, is said to be a renowned scarer, and Sulley frequently brags about being "a Sullivan" to get praise and special treatment from others. It turns out he does this because he's terrified that he can't amount to anything himself without his family name to carry him.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • The first round of the Scare Games 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.
    • When Mike takes the fraternity to the fence outside Monsters Inc., most of them stare in awe of the building, while Art just says, "Nice fence."
  • Coming of Age Story: For Mike and Sulley.
  • Conjoined Twins: Terri and Terry, who are a two-headed monster sharing one body.
  • 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. The technology used in the film is notably 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 Monsters Inc. they look exactly like real children).
  • Covered in Gunge: This is part of Roar Omega Roar's prank against Oozma Kappa.
  • Covers Always Lie: The blue and white MU jackets that Mike and Sulley wear on the film's main poster do not appear at all in the film. Sulley does wear a similar jacket in the first act, albeit one in the gold and red ROR colours, and later switches to a green OK sweater.
    • A Downplayed example, but most posters featuring the cast show Randall wearing his Nerd Glasses. While he wears them in his introductory scene, he quickly ditches them in only a few seconds and never wears them again throughout the movie.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The credits show a montage of Scare Cards, the in-universe trading card game Mike and Sulley bonded over earlier in the film. This doubles as a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue, as the cards also feature the various monsters seen in the film and where they ended up after graduation, including the members of Oozma Kappa, who all became Scarers at Monsters, Inc..
  • 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.
  • Curse Cut Short: When Sulley stops the bus to talk to Mike:
    Sulley: Mike, you're not scary, not even a little, but you are fearless. And if Hardscrabble can't see that, then she can just—
    Hardscrabble: ''(suddenly appears)'' I can just "what"?
  • Cute Monster Girl: Plenty around the campus, especially the PNK and EEK sorority girls. Of course, the former appear less cute when they show their Nightmare Face.
  • Dead Hat Shot: Used metaphorically. After Mike and Sulley escape the summer camp, the camera lingers on the charred remains of Mike's Monsters University cap that Frank McCay gave him, symbolizing the death of his dream to be a scarer.
  • Dean Bitterman: While Abigail Hardscrabble is ultimately a well-meaning dean, she fits the trope by taking a vested interest in Mike and Sulley, to the point of making wagers with them with their future at the collage on the line. She comes around eventually once Mike and Sulley prove they have some grit.
  • Determinator: Mike is this trope to a T. He isn't scary in the slightest, but he stubbornly chases his dream of becoming a scarer nonetheless by studying hard, pushing past his limits, and using ingenuity to help him and his team succeed at the Scare Games.
    • Played for laughs with the yellow slug monster, who tries his best to make it to class on time despite being agonizingly slow. The Stinger reveals that, despite his best efforts, he fails.
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: The first Scare Game is a race where you have to avoid poisonous sea urchins. Mike and Sulley run ahead of the rest of the team, cross the finish line, and at first it seems that they claimed second place...only to be 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. Thus, Oozma Kappa manages to squeeze into last place and continue the Games.
  • 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.
  • Down to the Last Play: The score is tied before the last duel between Mike and Johnny Worthington.
  • Dumb Jock: Played with; Sulley starts out as this, but he's actually very talented and learns to grow out of his academic incompetence. This is also averted by the ROR group, who are implied to take good grades seriously as they are disappointed with Sulley's middling grades.
    • According to their official description, Jaws Theta Chi (JΘX) plays this straight.
  • 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.
    • A Freeze-Frame Bonus on Sulley's written test shows that he "incorrectly" answered that human toxicity wasn't fatal. Of course, anyone who's seen Monsters, Inc. will know that he was actually right.
  • DreamWorks Face: Sulley makes it on the poster.
  • Epic Fail: The incredibly slow yellow slug really struggling to get to class on the first day is revealed in The Stinger to not only have missed the class, he missed the whole school year.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Hardscrabble's first scene sees her swoop into the classroom, close all the curtains to make the room very dark, stand by her bust and trophy to show her well-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 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.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Chet tells Mike that some monsters aren't cut out for the big leagues. The phrase "big leagues" inspires Mike to take Oozma Kappa on a field trip to Monsters Inc. so they can see professional scarers in action.
  • 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).
  • Evil Former Friend: Randall to Mike, who were roommates 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:
    • Squishy looks surprisingly similar to Russell and is voiced by Peter Sohn, who inspired Russell's design.
    • According to an interview, 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: The titular university for monsters.
  • 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 kicking off his grudge against Sulley.
  • Failed a Spot Check:
    • While Mike is concerning himself with an embarrassing photo of his fraternity in the school paper, he fails to notice an entire courtyard covered with said picture until it's pointed out to him.
    • Mike does it again later when he enters a human cabin and fails to notice that there's more than one bed.
  • Failed Attempt at Scaring: The main conflict of the prequel is Mike wanting to be a scarer despite the fact that he isn't naturally scary looking. When he does sneak into the human world to scare some kids, they just laugh at him.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: It seems that The Abominable Snowman may have been banished to the Himalayas because he tampered with the mail.
  • Fictional Sport: The Scare Games.
  • Flat Scare: When Mike is hanging around the simulator after winning the Scare Games, he jokingly scares the simulator dummy—only for the dummy to scream as if it was a top-level scare, tipping Mike off that there's something wrong with it.
  • Foregone Conclusion: If you've seen the first movie, you'll know that Randall's relationships with Mike and Sulley will sour, Mike and Sulley will go on to become best friends and coworkers, 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:
    • During Hardscrabble's speech during the first day of the scaring program, notice as she says "If you're not scary, what kind of a monster are you?", she's glaring at Mike. She immediately deemed him unworthy to be in her program the moment she saw him.
    • 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.
    • 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 to use, and thus is a failure as a project.
    • When 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.
      • In addition, Hardscrabble's Big Entrances makes a nice little reference to Waternoose's advice for effective, professional scaring in the first movie. "It's all about PRESENCE! About how you enter the room!"
    • 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.
  • Foul Cafeteria Food: In one scene, a cafeteria worker is seen dumping the lunchroom trash right back into the food bar. This is somewhat played with, though, considering all of the characters in the movie are monsters and this could be perfectly normal for them.
  • Freudian Excuse: The promotional material for the movie was almost perfectly geared towards giving one to Randall Boggs; however, the trope is ultimately 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.
    • Fun is also had with Greek letters, like with Jaws Theta Chi (JΘΧ, which reads as "jocks") or Slugma Slugma Kappa (a pun on "sigma", giving us ΣΣΚ, or "eek").
  • Fuzzball Spider: During the "field trip" to Monsters Incorporated, one of the monsters on the Scare Floor is a seemingly non-scary ball of purple fuzz, who then sprouts eight long legs and a sharp-toothed grin.
  • Genki Guy: Terri, much to Terry's chagrin.
  • The Glasses Gotta Go: Randall initially wears glasses, but Mike recommends he remove them to look scarier (and, more pressingly, to stop ruining his "disappearing act" by not turning invisible when he does). Randall takes his advice and subsequently adopts his trademark squint.
  • Girl Posse: The Python Nu Kappa (PNK) sorority, the Slugma Slugma Kappa (EEK) sorority, and Eta Hiss Hiss (HSS) sorority. They're the only sororities mentioned since they are three of the six teams that participated in the Scare Games, the other three being Jaws Theta Chi (JOX), Roar Omega Roar (ROR) and Oozma Kappa (OK).
  • 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.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: Courtesy of Professor Knight when he's unimpressed with Sulley's scare face. "One fright'ning face does not a Scarer make, Mr. Sullivan."
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: During the climax, not only do Mike and Sulley manage to scare a group of human adults and open a door from the other side, they produce so much scream that they not only fill up every canister in the school's door lab and then some, they cause the actual door to straight up explode. Unfortunately, no one except Hardscrabble ever finds out because the room was locked down with only Hardscrabble inside.
  • 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.
  • Hand Gagging: Sulley does this to Mike while hiding from the "Fear Tech dummies".
  • Hard Truth Aesop:
    • You can be successful without a university education if you work hard and make your way up through the ranks over time. Mike and Sulley's path is harder than that of the graduates, though they make it eventually.
    • The film also has a more brutally honest message: No matter how hard you try or how much you love and know about the material, there are just some things in life you can't do. It's more practical if you accept it and find where your real talents lie at. This is balanced out by Mike's knowledge of the Scaring world being not in vain and assisting Oozma Kappa in achieving their dream.
    • The film shows that, yes, sometimes cruel people have a point. Jerks like ROR are correct in pointing out Oozma Kappa lack traditional Scaring build (but clearly wrong for belittling them). In a sense, this notion drives Oozma Kappa to look further to prove that traditional build is not all there is to it. This point has more weight given the last thing Worthington tells Mike right before their last match at the Scare Games. He tells Mike "Don't take the loss too hard; you never belonged here anyway." But for once, there is no tone of malice in his voice when he says it as opposed to everything else he has said to Oozma Kappa prior. He says it in a sincere, matter-of-fact tone that denotes that he is aware about the fact that Mike just isn't scary and that Mike should realize that.
  • 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 eventually allow him to work 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.
  • Hartman Hips: A female park ranger in the human world has this build.
  • Heel Realization: Sulley in the third act. He doesn't 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 (and Mike'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. He realizes that Hardscrabble was right, he's not scary, and he ends up sitting by the camp lake in numb despair.
  • Hidden Depths: Don proves very adept at hiding during Mike’s training.
  • High Hopes, Zero Talent: Mike is constantly told he can never become a scarer because he simply isn't scary. He doesn't accept it until he does, though it ends up being a Surprisingly Happy Ending once he discovers where his real talents lie.
  • Hourglass Plot: Mike and Sulley's tenure in the scarer program results in this trope. Sulley makes a great first impression thanks to his family's reputation, his impressive build, and his natural talent, but his arrogant assumption that he can coast by as a one-trick pony costs him the respect of the faculty and his peers. Meanwhile, Mike initially struggles to get noticed thanks to his diminutive stature, but eventually his impressive technical knowledge and analytical skills garner him some attention.
  • I Can't Feel My Legs!: Exaggerated with Squishy after being poisoned by several Stinging Glow Urchins.
    Squishy: I can't feel my anything.
  • 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.
  • Identical Stranger: The PNK sorority. None of these "sisters" are biologically related, apparently, despite their only visible differences appearance-wise being that each have slightly different pastel color schemes.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Mike. A huge part of his dream of being a scarer is to show people that he isn't someone to be overlooked or ignored the way he has been his entire life.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Randall. Preferably if they're cool.
  • 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 just aren't cut out for the big leagues. This gives Mike the idea to sneak his Oozma Kappa members into the Monsters Inc factory and raise their morale by showing them what the big leagues actually are before the next Scare Games events.
  • Insult Backfire: Worthington mockingly suggests to Mike that the only way they'll end up working in a Scare company is in the mailroom. By the end of the movie, Mike ultimately proves Johnny's insult "correct" by becoming a top Scaring team with Sulley—after starting as mail-workers at Monsters, Inc.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Don Carlton with the other Oozma Kappa members, despite being old enough to be their dad. He ends up literally being Squishy's dad by the end of the movie.
  • Ironic Echo: "They're always hiring in the mail room." The first time is a mocking insult. The second time is a glimmer of hope.
    • A rare example of the echo occurring immediately after the original line:
    Frank McCay: (Stern) That was real dangerous, kid. I didn't even know you were in there!
    (Young Mike looks abashed)
    Frank McCay: (Impressed) ...Wow, I didn't even know you were in there. Not bad, kid.
    • 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 the teacher tells Sulley to do better; Sulley stares at Mike in disbelief as Mike does the same gesture Sulley did to him.
    • At the start of the final round, Johnny tells one of his teammates to “take it easy on Grandpa”, referring to the middle-aged Don. But when Don manages to generate a higher scream tally, he tells his opponent “Thanks for taking it easy on Grandpa”.
  • Jerkass:
    • Sulley is a major one to Mike at the beginning. He eventually grows out of it.
    • Roar Omega Roar and later Randy Boggs to Oozma Kappa.
  • 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, after he spends some time bonding with Mike and the others.
    • Dean Abigail Hardscrabble may be a harsh and no-nonsense authority figure, but she genuinely cares about her students and tries to do what's best for them.
  • Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: While MU does offer other majors besides scaring, and we meet plenty of non-scarers (such as teleport door engineers and scream cannister designers), scaring is still considered the most prestigious career of them all. In fact, not only is it the most prestigious, all non-scaring activities are made to look unworthy (at least from the perspective of Mike and Sulley). (This despite the whole point of scaring being to create energy, which requires technicians as much as scarers.)
    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, the male announcer of the Scare Games. He and Claire make a Ham and Deadpan Duo.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: If you watch this movie before Monsters, Inc., then you now know that Roz is actually a CDA agent and that 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 about 1 millimeter per second. He doesn't arrive until the end of the year.
  • Laugh of Love: When Don accidentally hugs Sheri and tries to get his tentacles unstuck, she giggles as she introduces herself. They eventually get engaged.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Hardscrabble's record-breaking scream canister was doomed the moment she started talking about how important it was to her.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Sulley jumps the gun and doesn't wait for Hardscrabble to finish, resulting in his initial dismissal from class:
    Hardscrabble: I'm a seven-year-old boy—
    [Sulley roars loudly without thinking before she has a chance to finish]
    Hardscrabble: I wasn't finished.
    Sulley: I don't need to know any of that stuff to scare.
    Hardscrabble: That stuff would have informed you that this particular child is afraid of snakes. So a roar wouldn't make him scream, it would make him cry, alerting his parents, exposing the monster world, destroying life as we know it, and of course, we can't have that. So I'm afraid I cannot recommend that you continue in the Scaring program, good day.
  • Living Legend: Abigail Hardscrabble is the current holder of the All-Time Scare Record.
  • Living Out a Childhood Dream: Downplayed. As a kid, Mike Wazowski is enamored with joining Monsters Inc. and becoming a Scarer. In the end he gets hired to Monsters Inc. but as a Scare Assistant, lacking the ideal build to be scary but having better success as a coach instead. Nevertheless he accepts it as fulfillment of his dream, and the final closing Bookends the opening in his childhood of him stepping on the Scare Floor for the first time.
  • Loophole Abuse: In the second round of the Scare Games, the goal is "capture the flag, and don't get caught by the Librarian". While supposed to encourage stealth, Oozma Kappa instead create distractions while one of them captures 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 overwhelming the librarian with so many sources of noise that she can't decide which to pursue, opening a window for a sufficiently stealthy Squishy to capture the flag.
    Audience Monster: Is that legal?
    Brock: You better believe it, Mop Top!
  • Lost in Translation: In the English version, Randall makes seven cupcakes decorated to spell "BE MY PAL" and then gets them splatter on his face to spell "LAME". The international version just has smiley faces on the cupcakes.
  • Lovable Jock: Brock, the only jock in the film (besides Sulley) who's portrayed as affable and not malicious toward Oozma Kappa.
  • Luck-Based Mission: The first event of the Scare Games for Oozma Kappa. A rival fraternity cheats, which disqualified them and lets Oozma Kappa stay in the game.
  • Masquerade: This movie emphasizes the need to keep monsters' existence hidden from humans. Several scaring lessons focus on how to avoid detection, since a professional scarer must be competent in doing so. Its importance is even incorporated in several events of the Scare Games.
  • Match Cut: The studying montage has this happening more than once. Notably, a tennis ball Mike is flinging into the air while outdoors cuts to a ping-pong ball Sully is bouncing while indoors.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The Oozma Kappa frat brothers are a genuine but mediocre group of guys; they're "OK".
    • The fraternity Roar Omega Roar, the acronym of 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 meatheads being referred to as "jocks".
    • The girls from Python Nu Kappa (PNK) are all perky girls who dress in pink.
    • The girls from Eta Hiss Hiss (HSS) are all goths whose signature greeting is a hiss.
    • "Hardscrabble" means "involving hard work and struggle", which Dean Hardscrabble firmly believes in. Indeed, her reasons for being so harsh toward the protagonists stem from it—Mike struggles in vain because he just isn't scary, while Sulley is arrogant and refuses to put any effort into his studies.
  • 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 visit Monsters Inc., it visibly raises their morale and newly inspires them to chase their dreams of becoming scarers.
  • 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 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. She's some sort of snail-kraken monster who uses all eight of her tentacles to catch any noisy visitors and toss them out—literally.
  • Multiple Head Case:
    • Terri and Terry, a pair of brothers who share a body.
    • 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 Mike is as a result of Sulley's actions.

    Tropes N-Z 
  • Nerd Glasses: Randall starts out wearing these. However, Mike tells him to lose the glasses early in the movie, resulting in Randall's signature squint.
  • Nerds Love Tough School Work: During a montage, Randall helps Mike study by quizzing him on different phobias, including consecotaleophobia (the fear of chopsticks). Mike easily answers the question and smugly tells Randall to "give him a hard one."
  • Never Going Back to Prison: Art freaks out at the thought of possibly returning to jail when OK gets caught trespassing at Monsters Inc.
  • 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 Trust a Trailer: The main trailers show Mike getting his key and being told that his roommate is a scaring major too, which is then followed by the scene where Mike meets Sulley in his dorm for the first time. In the film, Mike's first roommate is actually Randall, and his first meeting with Sulley is a whole day after this when Sulley mistakes Mike's dorm for his own.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Mike tells Randall not to wear his glasses, because they give him away whenever he disappears. This backfires on Mike when Randall later uses his camouflage ability to discredit and embarrass Oozma Kappa...several times.
  • 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 to take 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: The members of PNK all have one, turning their normally cutesy faces into horrific red-eyed monstrocities.
  • Nightmare Retardant: In-Universe. When Mike goes into the human world to prove he can be scary, he completely fails to frighten the room full of children he stumbles into. This serves as his reality check and ultimately helps him accept that he's not meant to be a scarer.
  • 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 the 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 loudly distracting the librarian 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 switching out Oozma Kappa's members with better members disguised as Oozma Kappa.
  • Not So Stoic: Twice, played first 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 Abigail Hardscrabble is the sternest, strictest, and most unflappable monster in the school, never deviating from her default expression of haughty disappointment. 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 and causes the door to explode, Hardscrabble finally displays a different expression: wide-eyed shock.
      • Later, as Hbids them good luck in their future endeavors, Hardscrabble informs that she believes in them because they did the one thing she thought was impossible: surprised her.
  • Not Where They Thought: Sulley enters Mike's room through the window with Archie the Scare Pig. Mike asks him what he's doing here, upon which Sulley realizes that this isn't his room after all.
  • 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 is an expert in stealth. Which Mike mentions after the fourth time he does it.
    Mike: Boy, we need to get you a bell.
    • His stealth skills ultimately pay off as they allow him to capture the flag in the Library challenge, and also get a good score in the Scare simulatons.
  • One-Steve Limit: Subverted and Played for Laughs: the Conjoined Twins both share the same name—Terry with a Y and Terri with an I.
  • Only One Name: Art is the only character to not have a full name on his trading card in the credits.
  • Our Founder: The tie-in books reveal that the fountain statue in the main quad is that of Arthur Clawson, founder of Monsters University.
  • 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: To Monsters, Inc. Additionally, it's the first prequal that Pixar has ever produced.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: Hardscrabble's scream cannister—her one souvenir of a lifetime of scaring.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Mike during his Heroic BSoD after hiding by the lake.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Oozma Kappa. They're a collection of sweet, unassuming monsters who are too nerdy to connect with their classmates, as well as the only fraternity not modeled after a specific theme.
  • Recycled In Space: Revenge of the Nerds WITH MONSTERS!
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Dean Abigail Hardscrabble has a very sound judgment and is willing to listen to Mike and Sulley, even if she doesn't trust them. She still permits them a chance of redemption at the Scare Games and does not let Oozma Kappa suffer for the actions of Mike and Sulley. What's more, when Mike leaves in Heroic BSoD and Sulley calls him back to not give up, she follows and privately tells Mike to keep surprising people until he succeeds.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Claire and Brock. Brock is an energetic jock and Claire is an apathetic goth.
  • Retcon: A line from the original movie ("you've been jealous of my looks since the fourth grade!") implied that Mike and Sulley were Childhood Friends (there was also at least one trailer for the original movie that implied it). However, this movie establishes that Mike and Sulley first met in college. A Pixar member at a con explained that the line, spoken by Mike, was pure hyperbole, and that the writers ignored that detail to make a better story for the prequel.
    • The crew did storyboard a scene where Mike and Sulley were in the fourth grade together, but 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.
    • The opening of the video game Monsters, Inc.: Scream Team/Scare Island, another prequel to the events of the first movie, mentions a Noodle Incident in college involving a mess that "took a whole semester to rebuild the dorm". This may have served as inspiration for the aftermath of this movie, which features Mike and Sulley accidentally destroying a door lab and (supposedly) contaminating the whole place with toxic human energy.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Mike's first day at Monsters U. involves quite a bit of this:
    Mike: Okay, first thing on my list: get registered.
    Jay: Hey there, freshman, I'm Jay the R.A., and I'm here to say: Registration is thataway!
    Mike: Okay, Jay.
    Jay: Have a great first day!
    Kay [at the registration table]: Hey, I'm Kay, here's your orientation packet!
    Mike: Thanks, Kay!
    Kay: You can drop your bags off here, and get your picture taken with Trey.
    Trey [in the photo studio]: Say hooray!
    Mike [looking at his student I.D. card]: Hooray! I can't believe it, I'm officially a college student!
    Fay: Okay everyone, I'm Fay, and I'll be giving you your orientation tour on this perfect day!
  • 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.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Mike's MU cap that he receives from Frank in the opening scene represents his dream to become a scarer. When it gets destroyed after Mike and Sulley get blown out the summer camp door in the climax, it symbolizes Mike accepting that his dream is officially dead.
  • 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.
  • Scary Librarian: That's putting it mildly.
  • Sea Hurtchin: The first round of the Scare Games consists of a simulated run through a child's bedroom, with urchins in place of the (supposedly) toxic items the monsters would have to avoid. Touching one causes violent swelling.
  • Shorter Means Smarter: Mike is one of the university's shortest monsters, and he's also among the smartest, most studious ones.
  • Shoot Everything That Moves: Or rather scare anything that moves. This is what screws PNK over during the "Don't Scare the Teen" event; participants are only supposed to scare young children, but they keep scaring the teenagers.
  • Shout-Out: See here.
  • Shrinking Violet: Randall, initially. He grows out of it as the film goes on, though not necessarily for the better.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    Worthington: When you lose, no one will remember you.
    Mike: Maybe. But when you lose, no one will let you forget it.
  • Signs of Disrepair: At one point, Mike and Sulley accidentally knock over the tray of cupcakes that Randall was offering to his fratmates, which were carefully spelled out on the tray as "BE MY PAL". Four of those cupcakes end up on Randall's face, spelling out "L-A-M-E".
  • 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, thus kicking off the plot of both this film and Monsters, Inc. as well.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Around the third act, after the revelation that Sulley cheated and Mike's ensuing breakdown, Oozma Kappa help Sulley break into the human world to rescue Mike. With no other monster characters present (and thus none of the comedic relief characters), Mike and Sulley are free to have an emotionally vulnerable conversation in what's easily the heaviest scene in the movie.
  • So Much for Stealth: Randall's glasses ruin his "disappearing act" by not turning invisible when he does.
  • Start of Darkness: Randall. It all starts when Mike suggests that he lose the Nerd Glasses. Then, after being spurred on by Mike to study for the Scare Finals, he becomes confident enough in his skills for Roar Omega Roar to recruit him, replacing his shyness with a big ego. What finally seals the deal is when Sulley accidentally humiliates him in the final round of the Scare Games and causes Randall to vow revenge in the future.
  • Stealth Pun: Terri and Terry (Terri, more obviously) take their names from the word 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.
  • Subject 101: Monsters University offers a major in Scaring for monsters who want to become Scarers. The most important subject for that major is, of course, Scaring, and its introductory course is "Scaring 101", taught by Prof. Knight. The students learn to perform all of the different scary faces and to analyze a human kid's profile to determine the best approach to scaring them to death, including which scary face to make, the place to creep on from, and noises. Failing this course means being kicked out of the Scaring major. Both Mike and Sully take it and fail, although for different reasons—the former for simply not being scary-looking and the latter for being Talented But Lazy.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending:
    • The film ends with Mike and Sulley being 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 nonetheless.
    • Although their victory at the Scare Games turned out to be fraudulent, 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.
  • "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 it's 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.
    • Hardscarbble gives one to Sulley after he confesses that he cheated in the final round.
    Hardscrabble: You did what?!
    Sulley: My team had nothing to do with it. It was all me, I cheated.
    Hardscrabble: I expect you off campus by tomorrow.
    Sulley: (quietly) Yes, Ma'am.
    Hardscrabble: You're a disgrace to this university and your family name.
  • 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.
  • Talent vs. Training: Mike and Sully are contrasted as student scarers this way. Mike has the training, having studied since childhood and having thus developed an encyclopedic knowledge of scaring, but his tiny unthreatening physique puts him at a disadvantage. Sully has talent, and being massive, horned, clawed, and having a ferocious roar makes him very scary but he neglects his studies and thus struggles in the more complicated courses. With the two teaming up, Sully learns to commit to his homework and thus becomes a powerful and versatile scarer. Meanwhile, while Mike is unable to compensate for his lacking physicality, he puts his talents to good use by taking an alternate career path as a scarer coach instead.
  • Technician/Performer Team-Up: The movie centers on the growing friendship between Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan during their college years. The former is the Technician who has a expert knowledge on scaring despite lacking the physique to be a scarer himself, while the latter is the Performer who is a very talented scarer but lacks in technique due to his disinterest in studying. When their initial enmity with one another causes them to be kicked out of the scaring program, the two are forced to cooperate as they lead a fraternity of other scaring rejects into winning the Scare Games and be let back into the program. With Mike's help, Sulley becomes more dedicated to his studies and becomes a more versatile scarer. And as for Mike, he eventually comes to accept that while he'll never be an actual scarer, he does make for an excellent scaring coach.
  • Technology Marches On: In-universe. The Scare Simulator dummy here is a dirty crash test dummy made of wood, while the one seen in Monsters, Inc. almost exactly resembles a real child.
    • Also, in a Freeze-Frame Bonus, the monitors in the Monsters Inc. Scare Floor that we see during Oozma Kappa's "field trip" look more low-tech than the ones in the first movie.
    • Averted with the scream cannisters, which not only look identical to the ones from the original movie, but also appear to be identical to the ones that Hardscrabble used years ago.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Mike really doesn't want Sulley on the team, and for Sulley the feeling is 100% mutual. Eventually, they learn to get along and finesse their teamwork skills.
  • 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 comes in last place, which means they're out of the Scare games. Hardscrabble taunts Mike, saying it would take a miracle for them to not be booted from the competition. Then one of the other fraternities is disqualified for cheating, allowing Oozma Kappa to continue the Games.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Don trying to make Squishy feel less awkward about Don becoming his stepfather.
    Don: Oh come on, Scott, I don't want you to think of me as your new dad. After all, we're fraternity brothers first!
    Squishy: This is so weird.
    Don: Just think of me as your big brother that's marrying your mother... wait, hold on. We're brothers who share the same mom/wife. (beat) That's worse.
  • That Poor Cat: Can be heard when Sulley tosses Mike's textbook out the window.
  • Theme Naming: The group helping freshmen during orientation all have monosyllable names ending in -ay (Jay, Kay, Tray, and Fay).
  • Those Two Guys: Claire and Brock, the hosts of the Scaring Games.
    • Both Terry and Terri qualify even though they technically share one body.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Sulley starts off as a jerkass who happily bullies Mike, but when he's kicked out of Roar Omega Roar and forced to join Oozma Kappa, he's humbled enough to eventually become the Nice Guy he is in Monsters, Inc.
  • 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.
    • 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 seem like Sulley is Mike's roommate right when Mike arrives at the campus. Actually, Randall is Mike's roommate (at least until he switches sides to join 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: Hardscrabble doesn't raise her voice Mike and Sulley's actions destroy her record-breaking scream canister, but she doesn't need to—her displeasure reads loud and clear.
    Mike: (after she appears extremely calm and uncaring about the incident) ... You are taking this unusually well.
  • Treadmill Trauma: Mike goes through this during his training montage. He tries to one-up Sully at the gym, also on a treadmill, by going at increasing speeds, only to backfire once he inevitably trips and hurts himself on the tread.
  • Uncanny Valley: In the final round, Terry and Terri's scare tactic involves them disguising themselves as a mostly normal human silhouette, only to reveal their monstrous form as they go.
  • Underdogs Never Lose:
    • Subverted. Mike is the classic underdog, fighting to achieve his dream even though everyone he meets is adamant that he'll never become a scarer. In the end, it turns out Mike can't fight fate (or his chronic unscariness), and he's forced to give up his dream, albeit to chase a new one as a scarer coach.
    • After a ton of hard work, Oozma Kappa manages to win the Scare Games against all odds. This is ultimately subverted, however: it's revealed that Sulley cheated in the last round, making Oozma Kappa's victory unfair.
  • Unflattering ID Photo: Continuing a Running Gag from Monsters, Inc., Mike's college ID photo is cropped off at the bottom, barely showing his face, with Mike being too excited about being in MU to care.
  • 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, when he's properly evaluated he finds out a single great roar can't account for every kid.
  • 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 toward Sulley and Mike.
  • Villain Has a Point:
    • While Hardscrabble is not a villain, she and all the doubters are right about Mike not being scary at all. She also rightfully criticizes Mike and Sulley when 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 they're huge jerks about it, Roar Omega Roar is correct in that Oozma Kappa lack traditional Scarer builds and how they'll never look like the members of ROR no matter how much they train. This leads to Oozma Kappa finding creative ways to compensate for it.
  • Villain Protagonist: Although they're technically just doing their jobs, at the end of the day, these plucky lovable characters are still just training to harvest fear from small children.
  • The Voiceless: Despite Roar Omega Roar having five members, only two of them get any lines and characterisation—Johnny Worthington, the leader of the group, and Chet Alexander, his second-in-command. Javier Rios, Reggie Jacobs and Chip Goff, the remaining members, don't speak and only let the audience hear what their roars sound like.
  • Was It All a Lie?: After Mike learns that Sulley rigged the final Scare Games to ensure Mike won, he confronts Sulley about whether Sulley's claim that he believed in Mike—or indeed, any of Sulley's burgeoning friendship with Mike and Oozma Kappa—was ever genuine, or if it was simply a means to an end.
  • Weak, but Skilled: 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.
  • Wham Line: When Mike angrily calls Sulley out for not only cheating, but for lying when he said he believed in Mike, Sulley snaps that Hardscrabble was right—Mike doesn't have what it takes to be scary.
    Sulley: Well, what was I supposed to do? Let the whole team fail because you don't have it?!
  • 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 easily, reaching full capacity at literally the snap of a finger.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: There was certainly no prequel planned during the time Monsters Inc. was in production, so the fates of the Oozma Kappa members retroactively become this. The Oozma Kappa gang is nowhere to be seen in Monsters, Inc. after Mike and Sulley end up working at Monsters Inc, even though it's confirmed in the end credits that they all end up working at Monsters Inc as well and thus should have been working alongside Mike and Sulley as scarers in the first film.
    • This can likely be explained by the fact that Mike and Sulley work on Scare Floor 'F', indicating at least five more scare floors, which implies that the Oozma Kappa members simply work on a different floor. This is pointed out in the movie's commentary, with the commentors encouraging the audience to infer that the Oozma Kappa members were working at Monsters Inc., just not onscreen.
    • 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 other 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 by the fact 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 and they leave behind the undeserved trophy, knowing that they weren't going to win anyway.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Despite the fact that she did expel them, the Dean follows Mike and Sulley when they leave the university. She informs Mike that he's surprised her, and he ought to keep surprising people, ultimately wishing them both luck.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: In contrast to the clearer antagonism of the original, this one has the "villains" that fit better in a a typical college movie—a Dean Bitterman and an Opposing Sports Team of Jerk Jocks.
  • Wingding Eyes: When the belief that human children = toxic creatures who can kill monsters with a mere touch is first mentioned, the viewers are shown a picture of a child touching a monster, with the monster having X-shaped eyes to highlight the supposed lethalness of the touch.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Near the end, Sulley 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. Sulley 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. Sulley tells him none of that would've been possible without him. Likewise, Hardscrabble also compliments Mike in her own way and encourages him to "keep surprising people".
    • Mike's words of encouragement to Sulley before they pull off the ultimate scare.
    Mike: Stop being a Sullivan and start being you.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Hooray, the Scare Games have been won! Wait, why is the scare simulator working too easily for Mike?