Billy Crystal’s career highlights include iconic films like When Harry Met Sally…, The Princess Bride and City Slickers, but his favourite character he has ever played is actually Mike from the animated Monsters Inc. franchise, now reprising the role in the new series Monsters at Work, streaming on Disney+ on July 7 with weekly episodes.
“It's pretty much my favourite character that I've ever played,” Crystal said at a press conference in advance of the release of the series. “It [was] so much fun with John [Goodman] on the first two films and to get a chance to team up again in such a beautiful, funny brand new series was actually so exciting for me.”
Monsters at Work takes place the day after the Monsters Inc. power plant started harvesting laughter to fuel Monstropolis.
“There's a big change in the world and that's when a lot of great stories happen," executive producer Bobs Gannaway said.
We’re introduced to new characters, like Tylor Tuskmon (Ben Feldman), a young monster who graduated top of his class at Monsters University and is eager to be a Scarer, until he is disappointed when he finds out Monsters Inc. has transitioned to laughter. He ends up working at the Monster Incorporated Facilities Team (MIFT) alongside a misfit bunch of mechanics, including Mindy Kaling as Val Little and Henry Winkler as Fritz, while Tyler sets his sights on becoming a Jokester.
Mindy Kaling proud of female voices behind 'Monsters'
For Kaling, she watched the original two films with her three-year-old daughter and explained that it’s nice, after about a year of COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, to be able to enter a world “where the door of your bedroom can lead to this amazing place.”
“I did all my recordings when I was six to nine months pregnant,” she said.
“It was really wonderful, I'm a writer as well, to see how many women write for the show behind the scenes. You probably don't know that when you're just watching it but I just think it's great and I'm excited for my daughter to be able to see an extension of the world of the movies.”
That connection Kaling and her daughter have with the Monster Inc. franchise took Crystal back to memories with his grandchildren when the first movie was released, when they didn’t know how blurred the lines between Mike and Crystal really were.
“When Monsters Inc. came out my grandchildren didn't really know what I did and frankly, I was a little confused myself,” he said. “Then one day we were walking in a mall and paparazzi people came out and started taking pictures of me, and they were freaked out and I had explain to them what I did."
"The first movie that they could see was Monsters Inc. because, you know, [When Harry Met Sally…], I could not really explain to them why she was screaming in the deli. So they would call the house looking for Mike, they didn't want to talk to me... and then I had to talk as Mike for like six, eight months until I said, all right, I’m both.”
Will Boo be in the new series?
Gannaway confirmed that the new series does not go into the human world beyond kids bedrooms.
"All the monsters know about the human world, they've only really learned from kids rooms and a kid's point of view, so that's something you have to keep in mind, they're not that aware of human world and how it works," he explained.
"Also, just to be very clear, Boo does not make an appearance in the series... Pete Doctor and I had a nice discussion about Boo and we both agree the relationship between Boo and Sully is so precious and so wonderful that we want to leave it to the world to have their own interpretation of how that relationship continued, and not define it."
Gannaway added that Boo was voiced by Rob Gibbs' daughter, who was the director on the show until he passed away last year, during the production.
"The joy we got to have right before COVID is we did get to have her visit with John over a recording session, so that was fun," he said. "So we had a little private reunion of Sully and Boo."