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A Pixar Guide To Character Development

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Monsters University director Dan Scanlon tells LWLies about the challenging process of populating the studio's fourteenth feature.

"With Monsters University we always knew the film was going to have a campus setting, but only really started to get a lot of the secondary characters as we went along. I'm not sure we ever really knew just how much we were taking on in terms of the development of these additional characters. We fell in love with them as we went along. It evolved in a way whereby we knew the university had to be populated but it wasn't until further into the story that we knew we were going to have all of the fraternities and sororities and what their roles were going to be. But it became a lot of fun to write for them as we got to know these characters and add new ones.

"We knew we had this arsenal of characters we could go to for moving the story forward, for jokes, that it actually became more of a help. Especially with the Oozma Kappa team because we felt like they could be sued to make a certain point. It grew into this real ensemble cast and it we really fell in love with so many of the characters. It was fun to have these extra characters to work with once we knew who they were. The hardest part was assigning personalities to them. That was a real challenge.

"The team tasked with creating these characters is actually surprisingly small. We had just a handful of people designing additional characters as we went along. Our first order of business was making Mike and Sulley look younger and then from there we were able to start adding new characters. So from a design standpoint it's not a huge team of people; the team gets bigger once we have to build the characters — it's building the character in 3D, articulating it so it can be animated and then shading it and simulating it and all of that.

"Even the team assigning personalities to the characters was pretty small; basically just myself, the writers and the story team. You're in there every day, especially during the early character development stages. But even later on I'm there every day or every other day looking at the models and making sure that the designers and animators are doing what's necessary to move the story forward. I'm very involved at every stage you can think of.

"We really wanted to make a film that would work for people who hadn't necessarily seen the first film. It's a fun college movie but it also has heart and I think in particular for people, whether they went to university or not, it evokes a time in your life when you realise that life is going to be a little harder than you thought. It's a film about discovering who you are and letting go of who you thought you should be."

Monsters University is released 19 July. Read the LWLies review of Monsters University.

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