Monsters At Work review: Disney Plus continues where Monsters, Inc. left off

At the end of Pixar’s 2001 film Beasts, Inc., the really material of beast society is torn asunder, as a whole world occupied by beasts and powered by the worry of human kids all of a sudden discovers that kids’ laughter generates more power than screams. With the evil people in charge, who intended on scaring kids permanently, out of the method, the heroes look towards humor to sustain their world. Twenty years later on, the Disney Plus series Beasts at Work gets right after this stunning discovery, following the power business Monsters, Inc. and the society it serves, as both of them deal with an extreme shift.

With a substantial cast of characters and humor that waddles along the line in between silliness and sharp social commentary, Beasts at Work stabilizes a great deal. In the preliminary 2 episodes attended to critics, the series takes its very first tentative actions along what seems a wobby tightrope.

[Ed. note: This review contains slight setup spoilers for Monsters at Work.]

an enthusiastic orange monster driving a golf cart with a very shocked looking purple monster

Image: Disney Plus

Tylor Tuskmon (Ben Feldman) is a fresh graduate of Beast University’s Scare program, and he’s delighted to sign up with Monsters, Inc. as a scarer, going into the human world and frightening kids to produce energy. However his very first day of work is likewise the very first day that Monsters, Inc. rotates to laugh energy. He’s reassigned to the Monsters, Inc. Facilities Team (or MIFT), much to his chagrin, though he aims to take comedy classes under the tutelage of one-eyed monster Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) in order to make it on the newly established Laugh Floor.

The Monsters at Work concept is intriguing. Monsters, Inc. certainly left a lot of loose ends to tie up, and they were only loosened by the 2013 prequel Monsters University. Pivoting an entire industry to a radically different business can’t happen overnight, and Monsters at Work explores the ramifications of what that means for individual monsters who might or might not be able to rapidly shift gears. As a recent graduate, Tylor has spent his entire life dreaming of being a scarer. He’s a talented standout, beating even the college scaring records set by Mike’s pal Sulley (John Goodman). Tylor’s family put all their savings into his now-useless college education so he could get a job in an industry he was certain would provide him with job security, and his lifelong plan falls apart the day he reports for work. That’s pretty heavy stuff for what could just be a lighthearted animated romp.

The show juggles these frankly weighty issues with effervescent comedy. When Tylor meets his chatty old classmate Val (Mindy Kaling), who works for MIFT, she rambles on about how funny it is that she dropped out of college while he racked up massive debts, and yet they ended up in the same exact job. She also announces that she got rid of the back-up beeper on the golf cart she drives around, so she can make the noise herself — and then proceeds to go “beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.” It’s a strange juxtaposition of reality-based anxiety humor aimed at adults, and wacky kid-friendly gags.

sulley looking uncomfortable and mike looking excited

Image: Disney Plus

Monsters at Work isn’t just balancing its humor, it’s also balancing the new cast and the old one. Goodman, Crystal, and Jennifer Tilly as snake-haired receptionist Celia all resume their movie roles, alongside other familiar voices. Mike and Sulley have what appears to be a major arc, as they assume control of the company and have to figure out how to transition to a new model. Meanwhile, Tylor resists blending in with the nerdy MIFT crew, including overly enthusiastic boss Fritz (Henry Winkler) and opportunistic Duncan (Lucas Neff). While the very first two episodes mostly focus on introducing (and reintroducing) the many characters, it’s unclear how the pieces and personalities will mesh together. Everyone shares the same overall goal — transitioning Monsters, Inc. to laugh energy — which makes the character intros more seamless: Tylor meets new and old characters when they become relevant to his own mission, while Mike and Sulley provide some background on what’s going on at the company.

In a rare case for television shows sprung from movies, the animation in the TV version, from Disney Television Animation, actually looks better than Pixar’s film version, since the original is 20 years old, and computer graphics have improved dramatically since then. Sulley’s fur, considered a major breakthrough achievement in animation back in 2001, is more detailed in the TV version. Mike looks less clay-like, and the new character designs are vibrant. Admittedly, Val looks a bit like a recolor of Art from Monsters University, but tapir-like Fritz is unique to the new world.

One thing Monsters at Work doesn’t balance, however, is the human world and the monster one. Much like Monsters University, the show appears to lean more on the inner workings of monster society, instead of how it interacts with our reality. It dives into a new chapter of the franchise, one that basically abandons the idea that monsters are sometimes scary. With only two episodes available so far, it’s unclear whether the show will explore the lines between scary monster expectation and mundane monster reality in the way the very first movie did, or if it will just expand the day-to-day life of the beast world. Either way, it’s a great balancing act to pull off, and the first two episodes indicate a promising journey ahead.

The first two episodes of Beasts at Work struck Disney Plus on July 7. New episodes premiere on Wednesdays.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.