Supported by Pixar but not specifically animated by them, Monsters At Work serves as a direct continuation of 2001’s Monsters, Inc., picking up in the hours after learning the laughter of children is a much more efficient way to energise their city over the nightmarish screams they used to evoke.
Despite the sequel feel of the narrative, Monsters At Work near immediately feels like a lesser product, one that has a television sensibility about it as it lays focus on a slew of characters that we aren’t familiar with, despite their apparent longstanding service at the Monsters, Inc. facility. The heart and visual appeal is still there though, and it has an easy family mentality to it that should delight young viewers who aren’t necessarily clued in to the more emotional and humorous intricacies of the original property.
Though it’s evident that Monsters At Work is designed to introduce a new wave of misfit monsters for us to align with, the show is at least smart enough to link itself to the original film by keeping John Goodman‘s Sulley, Billy Crystal‘s Mike Wazowski, and Jennifer Tilly‘s Celia Mae on hand, albeit in a secondary character capacity. In the first two half-hour episodes made available to review, the original trio feel very much like shoehorned additions, hoping to pad out the storyline that primarily wants to focus on its new batch in an unfortunate balancing issue that sees the competing storylines feel inorganic to one another.
That being said, the new batch are an enjoyable bunch in their own right, with the straight-laced Tylor (Ben Feldman) set up as the show’s main focus, a Monsters University graduate who joins Monsters, Inc. with the ambition of being a Scarer, unaware that Jokesters are now the ideal position. Tylor feeling something like a fish-out-of-water around his more enthusiastic co-workers gives the show a workplace comedy feel, an aesthetic that is moderately amusing, further enhanced by the enjoyable vocal work from Henry Winkler, Mindy Kaling, and Alanna Ubach as, respectively, Tylor’s scatterbrained boss Fritz, manic mechanic (and Tylor’s self-appointed best friend) Val, and Cutter, a self-important crab who abides strictly by the office rules.
This workplace set-up feels a little more tailored to adults who would perhaps understand the dynamic of an office, though, unlike other Pixar properties, Monsters At Work has little humour to satisfy older viewers, existing very much as a children-aimed show with its colourful pallet and simplistic humour that settles on sight gags and safe comedy.
What easily could have been a cheaply-made production with less-than animation, Monsters At Work does very much look the part of Pixar, and securing the likes of Goodman and Crystal – however briefly they’ll appear throughout – helps the series bridge its gap between its cinematic counterpart. It may fall short of Monsters, Inc.‘s quality, but as facile family viewing it does what it needs to do to entertain its intended audience.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Monsters At Work will commence streaming on Disney+ on Wednesday, July 7th, 2021.