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Should Pixar Have Made "Monsters University" For Older Audiences?

by Charles Kenny
May 15, 2013 12:01 AM
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Monsters U image

The MPAA rating for Monsters University has been announced and surprisingly enough, it's 'G'. Giving such a coming-of-age story set in a university a rating like that may surprise those of us familiar with that bastion of college comedies, Animal House.

So that begs the question: Should Pixar have aimed older with this sequel to their 'monster' hit from 2001? 

While the wind is certainly with them as far as anticipation goes, it's disheartening to think that the film's original audience has long since entered the dreaded 'animation age ghetto'. Even the youngest viewers of that film are into their mid-teens and may be quite unlikely to have much interest in seeing a 'G' rated film. Is Pixar losing out on an opportunity to bring such teenagers back into the animation fold? Consider these points:

  • The original's audience are just at that stage where they are either in, or about to enter, college.

  • They are unlikely to have forgotten the original's appeal and characters

  • The target audience for a 'G' rated Monsters University can't comprehend the original Monsters Inc. at all. In fact, the 3-D re-release at the end of 2012 fared much poorer than anticipated indicating a relative lack of familiarity among consumers (in addition to their ambivalence about 3-D.)

  • Pixar is no stranger to older audiences with The Incredibles, Up and Brave all receiving a PG rating that did their box office performance no discernible harm at all.

  • Studio Ghibli in Japan willingly release animated films suitable for mature audiences. This could be have been an opportunity for Pixar to make a similar leap with its brand and start to bridge the gap between kids and adults.

  • Lastly, pretty much everyone knows of the kinds of shenanigans that occur on college campuses and they certainly aren't suitable for all-ages eyes (or ears). That's no reason to go overboard, but plenty of wiggle room exists for jokes and tomfoolery without getting too blue.

    What do you think?

  • Charles Kenny writes prolifically on his own blog, The Animation Anomaly.

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    More: Monsters University , Pixar


    • Frank | July 19, 2013 5:56 PMReply

      The MPAA rating has nothing to do with including certain age groups with your level of storytelling. Brave was no more than a film for kids, while previous efforts like Wall-E and Up were good enough films to be watched by anyone.

    • Bob | May 16, 2013 7:00 AMReply

      Partysaurus Rex proved Pixar can make a G-rated feature with plenty of jokes for the college crowd. For instance, kids saw a mellow sprinkler toy at the end; teens and adults saw a character stoned out of his mind.

    • Sam E. | May 15, 2013 8:43 AMReply

      1. Pixar films generally appeal to a wide demographic. I was in highschool when Monsters Inc. came out and over half of the people I knew saw it.

      2. I'm not sure if kids roughly between 12-16 have the same aversion to animation people in similar age range would have in the 90's besides Pixar, the awareness of Anime is much higher and there's also far more animated programs on television geared towards teens and adults.

      3. Finally, Disney is in the business of marketing to kids and families primarily and I don't see that changing in the future.

    • Rubi | May 15, 2013 1:04 AMReply

      Given all the viral marketing they've done, it seems they're aiming at teens/college kids as well. Everyone I know at my school's excited by it. They pulled off a very similar trick with Toy Story 3, also rated G (oddly, in spite of all the existential horror that you'd think would give it a "PG for thematic elements" or something), and it seems weird to say that the audience for a G-rated film couldn't comprehend the original Monster's Inc. despite the fact Monster's Inc. was rated G.

    • Ben | May 19, 2013 6:03 PM

      Oh, but I agree. Monsters Inc. is a bit hard to follow and has a pretty complecated plot, if you ask me. If you're a two year old, and you're just in it for the visual gags and don't even listen to the movie you're watching, then it is a bit tough. But it still appealed to kids for that same reason.

      P.S. I do agree some scenes in Toy Story 3 (which is my absolute, hands down favorite movie ever in the history of the world,) should have given it a PG rating. That monkey was just downright scary in I-MAX.

    • Charles Kenny | May 15, 2013 7:35 AM

      It isn't so much that they can't comprehend it but that they won't have had the experience of viewing Monsters Inc. at a similar age and THAT experience will be lost on them. Consequently, they won't see Mike and Sully with the same nostalgic lens that older viewers will.

      PS I agree about Toy Story 3; scenes in that film should certainly have qualified it for a PG rating.

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