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  • Accidental Innuendo: "PUT THAT THING BACK WHERE IT CAME FROM OR SO HELP ME!"
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Just how sympathetic Waternoose and his motives are? Is he a horrible person who is more than willing to harm children, a Well-Intentioned Extremist that is just trying to save monster's lives (under his perspective), or a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds? "Laugh Factory" suggests it's the former because it features him trying to discredit the new energy harnessing system as part of a plan to obtain a pardon and regain his former position as CEO of Monsters, Inc. but it still could be a case of Motive Decay.
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  • Award Snub: The film famously/infamously (depending on your POV) lost the first Best Feature Animation Oscar to Shrek, much to the chagrin of many Pixar fans and critics.
  • Awesome Music:
    • "If I Didn't Have You", which won the Oscar for Best Original Song. And after Randy Newman had suffered almost 20 non-winning nominations up to that point.
    • Also Enter the Heroes and The Scare Floor. Setting up for a big job, then having a lot of fun doing it. SiIvaGunner mashed up the latter with King Dice's song and it's glorious.
    • There's also the Dixieland jazz-style intro paying of the 2D animated opening credits, letting the audience knows that this is going to be a fun time.
  • Consolation Award: It’s pretty much acknowledged that Randy Newman only won the Oscar because it was one of the weakest years for the Best Song category and Newman had already lost many times.
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  • Crosses the Line Twice: The entire scene when Sulley thinks Boo is being mutilated by the trash compactor. Of course, it helps that we, the viewers, know Boo is perfectly safe, but still, the fact that the movie makes the idea of a child being brutally killed into something comedic shouldn't be so dang hilarious.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Randall. A good number of his fans are convinced that he was just stressed out and didn't really do anything wrong. The more extreme ones see him as an orphan who's discriminated against for being a reptile, both in-universe and out. As Disney will tell you, any type of material that contradicts these views is immediately deemed non-canon or just ignored.
  • Ear Worm: Put that thing back where it came from, or so help me! So help me! So help me get by! Put that thing back where it came from, or so help me! So help me! I just gotta cry!
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
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    • Roz has a lot of fans.
    • George Sanderson has a lot of people who feel bad for him being a victim of two 2319s. In the end, they were glad to see he got his justice.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Randall gets such treatment from his fangirls.
  • Epileptic Trees: Boo is the central figure of the Pixar Theory, that all the studio's films share the same universe. It states that she became obsessed with reconnecting with Sully and discovered an erratic form of time travel that resulted in the Easter Eggs in all the other films, eventually becoming the witch from Brave and causing the introduction of magic into the world in the first place.
  • Fandom-Specific Plot: Randall making a Heel–Face Turn is a popular topic in fanfic.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple:
    • Sully/Randall has become this, despite hating each other. It's the version where the fandom has no Official Couple, though; the only canon couple involves entirely different characters.
    • After Monsters University, Randall/Mike became popular in Japan. Compare the number of Randall/Mike (ランマイ) Pixiv fanarts (over a hundred) to the number of Sully/Randall (サリラン) fanarts (fifty).
  • Fountain of Memes: Mike has become this, from scenes of him being blurred out, to getting hit in the crotch, to "Put that thing back where it came from or so help me!" to simply falling over, almost everything he's done has become a meme.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Randall's behavior in the original film becomes worse, not to mention much pettier, when you watch the prequel and realize that for months, if not years, he'd been beaten out as Scare Leader by what essentially amounts to a college dropout.
    • Randall's nastiness towards Mike also becomes this after said prequel as well: not only did they used to be roommates and friends, Mike's advice to Randall to use his invisibility is what helped him become such a good scarer in the first place.
    • Not to mention, Mike's bitterness over the possibility of losing his job reflects all the hard work and turmoil he had to go through to have his job as a Scare Assistant.
    • Waternoose being outed as a villain who's willing to kidnap and harm children becomes much harder to swallow when you realize that 16 years after the film was released, a period of accusations of sexual assault and harassment by much respected and famous actors and other film/television industry big shots destroyed fans' passion for them and their work, much how Waternoose being exposed for his actions resulted in his arrest.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: The prequel also revealed that Mike and Sulley weren't always friends, with the duo having sort of a bitter rivalry. Although they do end up warming up to each other by the end of said prequel, this is the flick that really shows just how much their friendship has evolved.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Waternoose screaming "Oh No!" at being thwarted by Sulley is amusingly pointless, as he shows up right behind Sulley 5 seconds later anyway, as if nothing happened.
    • In the outtakes, a character accidentally calls Sully "Solomon" and is called out for his mistake. Now rather amusing to those who have read the NES Godzilla Creepypasta and are familiar with the Kaiju named Solomon there...
    • The opening of the PlayStation game, Scare Island/Scream Team, a prequel to the events of this 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 Monsters University, another prequel to the events of this movie.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Waternoose, up until he crosses the Moral Event Horizon, is doing what he does out of genuine concern for the monster world and has real fatherly affection for Sully, feeling clear regret over having to betray him.
  • Moe: Boo is utterly adorable.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Waternoose's line, "I'll kidnap a thousand children before I let this company die!" is subject to snowclones such as "I'll steal a thousand contents before I let this fanpage die!", and this one.
      • The line is even more popular among Latin American audiences. For the film's Mexican Spanish dub, the quote was dubbed as ¡Robaré los necesarios para salvar esta compañía! (I'll steal all the kids i need to save this company!) leading to its extensive use in discussions regarding politics and other real world issues, as well as a far more convenctional meme mocking things such as reposting memes and stealing them from other pages.
    • Also popular in the Latin American countries and related to the dub is the line "Well, a kid flew right over me and blasted a car with its laser visionnote ." Though this is mostly due to the Argentine-like accent used for the character rather than the actual line.
    • "Put that thing back where it came from, or so help me!"
    • "Wazowski, you didn't file your paperwork last night."
    • Actually, it's your word against yours! "I'll kidnap a thousand children before I let this company die!"
    • Covering Mike's face on any packaging he appears on has bled out into real life.
    • Mike's scream when he has Roz's office window shut on his hands, as well as when a kid bites him. This has led to videos on YouTube like these.
    • "You and I are a team. Nothing's more important than our friendship," Thanks to its prominence in Baby Driver.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Randall and Waternoose's plan, which involves kidnapping children and using the Scream Extractor to suck the screams from them, which if the effects on Fungus are considered standard, would kill them through suffocation by sucking the very air from their lungs along with the screams.
    • And if this wasn't bad enough, Waternoose corners Sully and Boo in the climax and makes it clear that he intends to straight-up murder them because they know too much. In his own words, "I'll kidnap a thousand children before I let this company die! And I'll silence anyone who gets in my way!"
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: Monsters, Inc. Scream Team for the PS1 is one of the many copycats of Super Mario 64, but instead of lazily rehashing the basic concept to make a quick buck the developers instead opted to produce wonderfully unique levels to give each world its own feel; in other words, they copied Super Mario 64's methods, but kept the final product its own distinction from its competitors. It also helps that the game has a very snazzy jazz soundtrack and stellar graphics for its time.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Abominable Snowman only has a brief scene, but remains one of the most well-liked characters in the movie.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: Owing to its plethora of colorful monsters and creatures, not to mention the presence of Frank Oz, this has been called "the best Muppet movie never made by Jim Henson." Fitting, as Pete Doctor is a huge Henson fan and even considered being a Muppeteer.
    • It’s also considered to be the best animated movie The Coen Brothers never made, not only due to their regular stars appearing in this but the plot wouldn’t be out of place in their works, either.
  • Uncanny Valley: Impressive as it was at the time, the CGI has not aged all that well. The lighting still makes everything look kind of plastic, and Boo looks more like a doll than a human, something Pixar still hadn't quite nailed by 2001 (though you can blame two Toy Story movies for that). Compare this to Monsters University immediately before or after, a movie where Pixar actually changed their lighting system to achieve better visual effects.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: Probably not as impressive today, but when the technology of CGI was still relatively at its bare minimum at the time, great pains were taken to make Sully's fur look real. That's not even mentioning Randall's disappearing acts.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Didactic?: Due to focusing on a company, there's a lot you could read into this movie about energy use, humane treatment, and the rights of whistle blowers if you think too hard about it.
  • Woolseyism: In the outtakes in the German dub, the joke of Sulley flubbing a line leads to a good one: when trying to confess to Mike about the human child he's hidden in the bag, Sulley accidentally says "Flasche" (bottle) instead of "Tasche" (bag). Mike quips, "Well, unless you have a script where Boo appears as a genie."

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