'Monsters University' premiere or frat party?

Cheerleaders flipped and cart-wheeled their way down the monster-blue carpet along with a marching band and giant film characters Monday at the premiere of "Monsters University" at the El Capitan Theatre.

Celebrities, including star Billy Crystal, and guests, many dressed in the university’s colors -- white and royal blue -- smiled and waved their way to a tailgate celebration complete with snacks, air hockey tables, an inflatable obstacle course, carnival games and, for those of legal age, beer.

The new Pixar film tells the back-story of "Monsters, Inc." characters Mike Wazowski (voiced by Crystal) and the hulking blue James P. Sulley (John Goodman), as one-eyed Mike makes his way to Monsters University hoping to become a professional scarer. Scarers are monsters who enter the human world at night to frighten children and use the energy from their screams to power the world of Monstropolis. When Mike and Sulley get into a fight at their scaring semester final, both are removed from the scaring program and must work together to win the Scare Games and be reconsidered for admission.

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In an effort to make the premiere as college-themed as possible, Disney/Pixar brought in ESPN College Game Day commentators Lee Corso and Desmond Howard to call plays on the blue carpet and interview the film’s key players.

In evaluating the characters for their scare value, the commentators were in agreement about who is MVP  when it comes to scare power.

“I would have to say Sulley, in that last scene he was like, ‘Grrrrr,’” Corso said with raised arms and hands curled into paws. “And even I was scared.”

Howard agreed, “It would probably have to be Sulley; he’s a good pick.”

Executive Producer John Lasseter said he and the other producers and writers of the film were excited about the idea of making a prequel set during Mike and Sulley’s college years, but struggled at times to make it appropriate for all audiences.

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“The challenge was, this is a Disney/Pixar film and we have a G rating -- we knew we’d have a G or soft PG. So what can you show of college life?” Lasseter said. “So we really show as much as we can for the appropriateness of our audience.”

Screenwriter and director Dan Scanlon said he and producer Kori Rae researched by visiting many universities and even made a visit to a fraternity house on one campus. He said aside from drug and alcohol use on college campuses, much of the college experience was easy to translate to "Monsters University."

“It’s so much more about that time in your life when you have these big changes, but certainly we tried to get that party feel in a G-rated feeling,” Scanlon said. “As long as monsters are just knocking things over and eating garbage, it still feels like college craziness without being too specific.”

Translating the characters that audiences came to know in ‘Monsters, Inc.’ to younger versions of themselves was also an important factor in making the film.

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“We wanted to make sure they were familiar and the characters we all knew, but different. We were all different when we were 18, so the characters at the beginning of the film, they’re really different versions of themselves,” Scanlon said.

Crystal said getting back into these roles came naturally for him and Goodman.

“It just was getting back into his rhythms and his energy because he’s relentless and fearless, so John and I started watching the first movie together and then we started improvising some dialogue about life in the dorm,” Crystal said. “It got pretty funny.”

The band and pep squad pumped up audiences for the big event once everyone was seated in the theater. Confetti cannons blasted as viewers put on their 3-D glasses and prepared for a second look at a one-eyed little green monster and his big blue not-so-scary friend.

The film opens in theaters Friday.


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Twitter: @dfergasaurus

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