Monsters at Work

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Animated;
Not rated.
Voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Ben Feldman, Mindy Kaling, Henry Winkler, Lucas Neff, Alanna Ubach, Bonnie Hunt, Curtis Armstrong, Jennifer Tilly, Bob Peterson, Stephen Stanton, John Ratzenberger.

The “Monsters at Work” animated series streaming on Disney+ is a delightful continuation of the franchise that started with Pixar’s 2001 film Monsters, Inc.

The film focused on a world of monsters and a power plant that harnessed the screams of children to power the city. Two of the monsters, Mike and Sulley (voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman) eventually learn that the laughter of children is 10 times more powerful than screams.

“Monsters at Work” serves as a sequel to the film, showing how the power plant transitioned from scream power to laugh power. It also cleverly weaves together bits of world-building not only from the original film, but also its 2013 prequel, Monsters University, which focused on Mike and Sulley’s time in college.

While the show does continue the adventures of Mike and Sulley, the focus is primarily on a different department of the power plant, the Monsters Incorporated Facilities Team (MIFT), which is tasked with the maintenance of the equipment used to collect the power.

The main character is Tyler Tuskmon (voiced by Ben Feldman), who just graduated from Monsters U. and was recruited to join the Monsters, Inc. scare team just before the events of the first film. On his first day he learns of the transition to laugh power, but being a scarer and not very funny, he is assigned to the MIFT team.

Meanwhile, Mike takes charge of recruiting a new team of “jokesters” to replace the scarers who are now obsolete, and begins teaching comedy classes, which Tyler attends as he yearns to move out of the MIFT basement.

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The 10-episode first season details Tyler’s adventures with his fellow MIFT employees, which occasionally intersect with Mike and Sulley’s attempts to keep the plant afloat using laugh power. The show actually takes place during the epilogue of the first film, so it could be considered a bit of a sidequel as well.

Episodes two through nine also include a brief “Mike’s Comedy Class” vignette that gives the show a chance for more gags.

The series ties in well with established “Monsters” lore while making its own worthwhile contributions to the canon, which should entertain kids and make any fan of the franchise happy.

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Supernatural: The Complete Series

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 5/25/21;
Warner;
Fantasy;
$329.99 86-DVD set, $359.99 58-disc Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Starring Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, Alexander Calvert, Katie Cassidy, Lauren Cohan, Mark A. Sheppard, Mark Pellegrino, Jim Beaver, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Samantha Smith, Adrianne Palicki, Kathryn Newton, DJ Qualls, Felicia Day, Osric Chau, Lauren Tom, Alaina Huffman, Courtney Ford, Sterling K. Brown, Kurt Fuller, Curtis Armstrong, Ruth Connell.

It may be a cliché to say they don’t make ’em like they used to, but it’s an idiom that certainly applies in the case of “Supernatural.”

The series stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles as Sam and Dean Winchester, brothers who spend the show traveling the country in a black 1967 Impala hunting monsters, demons, ghosts and other supernatural beings. Their quest to find their father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and find their mothers’ killer introduces them to a wider world of demon hunters, magic and divine beings who hold the fate of reality in their hands. At one point, the characters even become animated for a crossover with Scooby-Doo (in season 13).

Running an amazing 15 seasons and 327 episodes, the series began in 2005 on the old WB network, its last year before it merged with UPN to become what’s now known as The CW. Airing on the lowest rung of the network ladder certainly helped it flourish, as it became the longest-running American sci-fi/fantasy TV series in history with its 11th season, surpassing WB/CW sister series “Smallville,” which had run for 10 seasons and 217 episode, outpacing another 10-season sci-fi series, “Stargate SG-1,” by three episodes. The British side of the genre has produced “Doctor Who,” of course, with separate runs of 26 and 12 seasons (and an upcoming 13th), but with shorter episode lengths in the classic era and fewer episodes per season in the modern.

That’s the kind of output the TV industry just isn’t interested in sustaining anymore, beyond the handful of legacy procedurals that are sticking around on the networks. Between cable and streamers and the short attention spans of audiences, three- to four-season runs of 10 episodes apiece are much more the norm now.

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The massive complete-series Blu-ray disc set efficiently repackages all the previously released individual season sets, as well as the new 15th and final season set, and all the bonus material that entails.

The set comes in the form of a handsome outer box housing seven thick Blu-ray cases, packed two seasons per case, except for the seventh case which contains the final three seasons. Each of the first six cases house eight discs (except for case two, which has seven discs for seasons three and four), while case seven has 10 discs in total. This distribution pattern left no room for the season 15 bonus disc, which is instead housed in its own separate cardboard sleave at the end of the stack, alongside a booklet containing an episode guide, photos from the series, production artwork, and notes to the fans from series creator Eric Kripke and executive producer Robert Singer.

It’s a slightly awkward configuration but seemingly unavoidable without either splitting up one of the seasons into two separate cases, inventing an 11-disc case, or putting the four discs of season 15 in its own case and making the overall box bigger. All in all it’s just a minor infringement on any OCD some fans or collectors might have.

Among the extras on that final disc are a featurette about the series finale, a documentary about the show’s strong themes of family, and a look at the Winchesters as American heroes in the vein of folklore archetypes. There’s also a gag reel, a retrospective of all 15 seasons, and highlights from the show’s 2019 San Diego Comic-Con panel, which due to COVID-19 canceling the 2020 event turned out to be the show’s last.

In the final extra, a lucky fan wins a replica of the show’s iconic Impala.

The set does not include Supernatural: The Anime Series, which was released on Blu-ray in 2011.

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