How the Coronavirus Pandemic Influenced the Plot of 'Monsters at Work'

How the Coronavirus Pandemic Influenced the Plot of 'Monsters at Work'

July 2, 2021

Monsters at Work is set to premiere on Disney+ soon and fans will be happy to know that the series serves as a direct follow-up to Monsters, Inc., the beloved 2001 Pixar film, which has maintained a presence at Disney Parks around the world with attractions like Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor and Monsters Inc. Ride & Go Seek. The movie already gave rise to a prequel, Monsters University, but after two full decades, the burgeoning franchise has finally returned in true sequel form. The link between the plot of a Disney animated series and the coronavirus pandemic may seem tenuous, but according to executive producer Bob Gannaway, COVID-19 and its effect on society were very much a factor in developing Monsters at Work.

Gannaway recently sat down for an interview with CBR, where he explained how the coronavirus influenced the show’s plot. To understand where he is coming from, it might be helpful, first, to get yourself in the headspace of a Monsters University (MU) graduate.

Imagine you’re a monster who has attended the School of Scaring. You idolize a big, shaggy blue Scarer named Sulley. You dream of being like him, traveling through closet doors into kids’ bedrooms at night so you can siphon energy from their screams to keep the lights on in your city (which, naturally, is called Monstropolis).

All is going well. You’re on a path to success and making that dream of yours a reality when, suddenly, everything changes. It turns out giggles are a better power source than screams. Now, laughter is what the bosses are after and you, the would-be Scarer, are looking at a paradigm shift where your dream is no longer practical.

The Plight of Monsters Everywhere

This leads us to Gannaway’s comments. Here is what he had to say about COVID influencing Monsters at Work:

“It seems like an obvious thing, but it took us I’d say almost a year to figure out just that really simple idea of a character graduates from the School of Scaring, has dreamed of being a Scarer, idolized Sulley — that’s why he went to MU, then the universe throws him a curveball, and his whole life plan gets turned upside down. How’s he going to deal with that?

Then interestingly, we have this COVID situation, which is all about the world’s universe throwing us a curveball, and how are you going to deal with it? And that made for an interesting character, because now the character, our main character, can be flawed in the sense that the thing I wanted gets taken away from me, and that’s not fair. And the audience, therefore, hopefully, connects with that.”

This is all very cute and metaphorical but there are everyday people and even Olympic athletes all around the world right now who have had their own hopes frustrated by the pandemic. COVID-19 has impacted the entertainment industry as much as any other business. Film and television productions have had to adjust to a new way of doing things, and in their never-ending quest to imitate life with art, creators are incorporating real-world concerns into their work.

Monsters at Work (read our review here) features the returning voices of John Goodman and Billy Crystal, as well as new series lead Ben Feldman and a whole host of other recognizable voices, including John Ratzenberger, Jennifer Tilly, Mindy Kaling, Henry Winkler, Aisha Tyler, Bonnie Hunt, and more. The first two episodes of the series arrive on Disney+ on Wednesday, July 7. After that, single new episodes will debut on a weekly basis.

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