This is one of the best animated films ever made.
I found the Special Features a tad hard to negotiate.
I was so excited to see Monster House that I ended up seeing twice in the theater. First off, I was struck by the lush visual look of that this film employs. It truly moves animation a step forward and in this day and age of computer generated movies that's saying something. Secondly, despite how this movie may have have looked in previews, it plays almost like a character driven, independent film. The story of DJ, Chowder and Jenny doing battle with an evil house across the street, is one of the more simply told tales that I have seen on screen recently. In fact, a majority if this movie takes place in front of the house itself with the characters forming plans and arguing over what they should do next. In the end, these three young people come to realize that things aren't always as they seem, and one should never judge a house by it's outer cover.
I honestly think that Monster House is one of the best movies ever made. It is filled with many aspects of friendship, loyalty, and the things that will recall special memories for people young and old. Centered around Halloween, this film is going to live on for generations to come.
Gil Kenan and others are on hand to talk about the evolution of this film. We are treated to how it came about from the very first idea, how the voice actors were cast (Kenan had a wish list that he got), the comic timing of the actors, and all the other facets that went into bringing this movie to life. What impressed me the most was how specific Kenan was in this commentary. He never seemed to at a loss for what to say, and it was the details he brought up that ultimately make Monster House stand out as an animated film.
Evolution of a Scene: Eliza vs. Nebbercracker
I really loved this section. It can be watched as a featurette which cuts the various animation stages together, or one can choose to view it in multi-angles watching things like the "Animatic," "Layout Stage" and "Final Film" separately. Aside from the great wealth of content that this section offers, what impressed me the most was how individualized everything was. Usually, extras on animation DVDs will just buzz you right through the process. I never felt like this was happening and I was quite impressed with the time given to each section.
The Art of Monster House
Broken up into Concept Art, People, and Places and things, these photo galleries were interesting to scroll around in. The amazing thing about DVDs is that the PAUSE button allows views to really stop the action of the movie and view everything in all it's animated splendor. I bring this up because I think that the images here were cool to look at, but they are no substitute for the film itself.
Inside Monster House
Seven featurettes comprise this section. They are "Imaginary Heroes," "Beginner's Luck," "The Best of Friends," "Lots of Dots," "Black Box Theater," "Making it Real" and "Did You Hear That?" As if this DVD needed to give you more reasons to buy it, these 7 featurettes break down the process even more. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to view all of these, but what I saw was really interesting. The "Lots of Dots" section shows you how the motion capture process works, and I could only imagine what it must be like in those suits. Lastly, I liked the "Beginner's Luck" section because viewers are treated to how these voices were created from their very inception.
1.33:1 - Full Screen. Okay, I obviously would have liked Sony to have sent me this film in wide screen, but (and I'm not just making lemons out of lemonade), I think I got much of this film's effect even though I was seeing it in the worst possible format. Even on my crummy TV this film played really well, and I was amazed at how sharp the colors were. When one considers how much different full screen and widescreen are, I think that bodes quite well for all formats of this movie. One can only guess how it will look in Blu-ray...
Dolby Digital - Mastered in High Definition. English 5.1 - Dolby Digital. French 5.1 - Dolby Digital. Close Captioned. English and French Subtitles. Speaking of Blu-ray, if ever there was an argument for someone going out and buying one of the next generation players than this movie is it. My one speaker TV didn't have problems with this audio, but I really think I didn't give myself the best chance to enjoy the viewing experience on that system. I would love to have heard how this movie sounds with a better audio system underneath it.
Monster House comes with a cardboard outer covering that features an animation wheel. While this sounds cool (it features the main characters in the movie getting swallowed up by the house), it's very hard to negotiate. The back cover offers us a shot of the main characters hiding in garbage cans, as well as some small images of the other cast members. There is a description of this movie, a Special Features listing, a cast list, and system specs. The front cover of the DVD itself features DJ, Chowder, and Jenny with the Monster House lurking behind them. Overall, pretty solid packaging.
I remember seeing the one sheet for Monster House and making a note to myself that this was a film I had to see. Just the image of the house turning evil right in front of DJ was enough to make me realize that this was a movie I was going to enjoy. As I am a big fan of all different styles of animation, I should also admit that I am very slowly readying the production of my next animated movie titled The Awesome Monster Bashers (it too is set around Halloween and I wrote it in 2001). I look forward to watching Monster House again and again, while I parse it for more information and visual ideas. This movie is so rich and full of vibrancy, that what surprised me most is that this big, Summertime movie didn't feel like one.
Every aspect of this film seems like it has been worked and reworked to make Monster House a tightly constructed piece of cinema, while somehow remaining more fluid than other movies of this ilk.
Monster House was released June 30, 2006.