Monsters University Producer Kori Rae Discusses Creativity, Perseverance

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Monsters University Producer, Kori Rae talks with press at Monsters University Long Lead Press Days. Pixar Animation Studios. Emeryville, California. April 10, 2013 (Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland/Pixar)
Monsters University Producer, Kori Rae talks with press at Monsters University Long Lead Press Days. Pixar Animation Studios. Emeryville, California. April 10, 2013 (Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland/Pixar)

Kori Rae, the producer of the upcoming Disney/Pixar film Monsters University, was just about what you’d expect from someone working at Pixar: highly creative, excited about her work, and seemingly well aware that her job makes her the envy of many, many people. She was very willing to sit down and open up to a group of bloggers, and had some interesting insights to offer on the creative process and how to keep yourself moving forward even when things aren’t going your way.

The discussion I refer to took place last month during my visit to Pixar, and it was one of the better roundtable interviews it’s been my pleasure to participate in. Rae has been working at Pixar since 1993 — she was one of the original team that started the process of building Pixar up from its humble beginnings to the gold-standard animation studio it is today. She worked on the studio’s first feature film, Toy Story, and later served as animation manager on A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2 and associate producer on Monsters, Inc. and The Incredibles. Some people might consider that enough accomplishments for a lifetime, but Rae certainly doesn’t: she clearly loves her work far too much, and I have to say I can’t blame her for that.

Monsters University Producer, Kori Rae talks with press at Monsters University Long Lead Press Days. Pixar Animation Studios. Emeryville, California. April 10, 2013 (Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland/Pixar)
Monsters University Producer, Kori Rae talks with press at Monsters University Long Lead Press Days. Pixar Animation Studios. Emeryville, California. April 10, 2013 (Photo by Jessica Brandi Lifland/Pixar)

I found it particularly interesting to hear Rae’s thoughts about the classic problem with making a prequel, like Monsters University: everyone already knows where the story will end up. She said they compensated for that by adding lots of new characters, both important and incidental to the story. Obviously, that takes a lot of work — particularly when you’re working for Pixar and you care more about the movie’s story than its appearance, unlike some other animation studios I can think of. But, as I mentioned in my second piece on my trip, everyone at Pixar works together to truly make creativity flourish.

It was great to hear Rae say — and I found it utterly believable — that the primary reason they decided to make a prequel to Monsters, Inc. was not because they thought it’d take in a lot at the box office, and not because they thought it’d be good for merchandising. Rather, they made the choice because the creative staff at Pixar simply loved the world that had been created for the original film and wanted to do more with it. They wanted to see how Mike and Sulley became the characters we already knew.

And she made a good point about the message behind Monsters University. It’s not spoiling anything to tell you that at the beginning of the film Mike decides he wants more than anything to be a scarer. And of course if you’ve seen Monsters, Inc. you know that that isn’t going to happen. So, in addition to just being a good story, the new film also carries a good message for kids and adults alike: Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, closing off the path you thought was for sure the way things should go. And if that happens, that just means you need to find another path and make it work for you, and keep trying until you make it.

Kori Rae was just the first of several group interviews I participated in on my Pixar trip. Be sure to check back here on GeekDad, because I have more articles to come in the month left before the movie’s premiere — Monsters University opens in theaters June 21st, just in time for summer. Also, check out the latest trailer for the film below.

All travel expenses for the #MonstersUEvent were covered by Disney, but I received no other compensation. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Photos courtesy of the official Pixar #MonstersUEvent photographer; Used with permission.

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