Monsters University: Comparing Messages from the Website and the Film

Curator's Note

Building a website is storytelling in higher education - every school sends perspective students and parents a message. The Monsters University website is an ideal representation of college life and higher education. It communicates the core values of a university such as self discovery, excellence, and inclusion. This website, in a way, reminds us why college matters.

The Monsters University website has an incredible amount of depth and content; it creates a parallel world experience, describing classes, sports, and other aspects of college life. You can lurk in someone else’s real world, where monsters really go to college. But it is not a world where you can engage. This is shown by the fact that users cannot apply to the school or access MU Net (the student, faculty, and staff portal). After all, if you could you would break the illusion. 

Monsters Inc. premiered in theaters in 2001; Monsters University came out twelve years later. Just as with the Toy Story series, the original target audience has now gone on to college. And for many in that demographic, they saw the website before seeing the film, if they saw the film at all.

But it is important to keep in mind that the website and the film send two different messages. While the movie may try to draw the Monsters, Inc. audience that is now in college, Monsters University remains a film aimed at children who might not understand what college is. They may, instead, be getting their knowledge of higher education from this movie. And what does an audience learn from the film?: that college is a social experience, and it’s about fitting in. While the website sends a positive message of finding yourself, the film still puts characters into familiar stereotypes of jocks versus nerds. Identities are defined, and the characters are pushed into a role. No matter how much the website describes classes and hosts video prompting you to “imagine an education where I can be unique,” the film sends the message that classes and school are irrelevant.

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