Press Conference Interview With Billy Crystal On Monsters University

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Pixar is usually known for high quality standards, but how protective of the character were you this time out since there was a different director at the helm?

Billy Crystal: Good question, but it all starts first knowing that you’re in great hands to begin with. It’s all about that level of trust. John Lasseter – who is our Walt Disney – has created a life for all of us to go to in this amazing kind of imagination that I think even Mr. Disney himself would just stand back and say, “Wow.” He has this extraordinary gift that he’s able to share with all of us.

It was at his 50th birthday, and it was this huge surprise to me when he talked to me about it. It’s 12 years old at this point, and about 3½ years ago he says to me straight up “We’re going to do a sequel. They’ll be in college.” And he literally just walked away, and I was standing there laughing and thinking it was going to be so good and what a great idea it was. How did they become friends? What a position to put them in and to let us see them at that point in life where decision making informs who you are. On this one, the first one was already such a great concept that you knew coming back it would be great.

For the first movie I was asked if I wanted to talk to John Lasseter and I said that whatever it was he wanted the answer was yes. So he called me up and he asked me where I was and his office was actually on my block, so he came over. He said, “We have this thing in this movie and we want you to play it and here’s what he looks like.” And he produces this cake box and pulls out this grey Maquette and it was Mike. I just looked at him and I wasn’t sure. But then he told me the story and it was just this mind blowing idea of what’s in closets and what their profession was. He showed me these photographs and explained the concept of the doors. I thought it was the most insanely original and amazing concept. To make this into a story that can make kids not scared of these things and helping them to overcome these fears made me want to do it right away.

But to answer the question, it’s great because they are constantly reworking the story. So my first session with John to do the opening scene was about four hours long, and it was a very different opening than the film has now. Three months later they did it again because it wasn’t working for them. They are always re-writing.

The start by working with this really rough computer animation mostly of just the characters in various looking ways. Then they keep coming back and are always rewriting the story right up until the very end. I only actually finished up about two and a half weeks ago. I worked about two years on this and come back every three months or so because they were always rewriting.

Can you talk about how you and John Goodman got together to record your sessions at the same time?

Billy Crystal: On the first movie I came in on the first day, and he wasn’t there and they played his tracks for the scene, and I just went “This isn’t good.” If a thought occurs to me to go off and improvise something, he’s already locked into the dialogue and tone of how he’s going to play the scene. So reacting to him wasn’t going to be all that natural. I asked where he was and if he could come in. They said “Oh, he’s in town! He was here yesterday!”

So I called him and asked if he wanted to do this and he says [doing a Goodman impression] “Are you kidding?” They hadn’t done it before us. Tom (Hanks) and Tim (Allen) hadn’t worked together on Toy Story. It just seemed unnatural to us, so we insisted on being together and we’re really acting together. The funny moments have a great repartee because we’re there together, and the more tender moments are heartbreaking. And again, you’re watching a hard drive! Yet you feel something real and this artwork is so beautiful. You take it for granted about how genius the animation and the execution of it is. We all work together and I think that’s why it all pays so well.

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