Last night when I was doing homework with my kid, for his Language Arts class they were studying some sort of narrative structure stuff, and as an example the teacher broke down the plot and structure of a short film, a 2002 Pixar short set in the Monsters, Inc. universe, called Mike’s New Car. The short is about the small cyclopean monster Mike’s purchase of a new six-wheel-drive sports car, and the difficulties in learning to operate its many, many controls. The reason I wanted to write about it is from the picture up top there, a sight gag of the absurdly complex dashboard.
Here, you can watch it yourself:
I really like the sight gag of the complex dashboard, because holy crap is it complicated. Even though the Monsters, Inc. fictional universe uses the same Roman alphabet (and English language) we’re used to, the presumably international-market car relies instead on a library of graphic symbols, which gleefully lives just on the edges of comprehension.
Those 3×3 grids of buttons, of which there’s at least two sets, remind me a bit of buttons on old video mixer boards:
There’s so much good stuff, though: those brass-era-looking paired gauges, that ’80s-looking head unit thing in the center with those equalizer sliders, the huge knobs, the strange keyhole-shaped switches, all of it is so wonderfully bewildering.
It’s worth taking a quick moment to talk about monsterized automotive design, too here. Mike’s car itself is a good example of this:
It’s clearly a sports car, but combined with aggressive off-road wheels, six of them, and the wheelarches cut dramatically, even brutally, into the body of the car, where they’re set off by huge black plastic flares. The car has sort-of GT car proportions, a long hood and a short, sloping fastback, complete with a very monstery-looking pair of wings.
The door is significantly impeded by the forward axle’s wheels, the greenhouse height is very exaggerated, and the front “face” of the car is made animalistic and snarling. These are all key monsterization elements.
In the 2013 prequel, Monsters University, there’s a lot of good monsterized car examples, including this wonderful mutated AMC Pacer:
A lot of key monsterization elements are present here: sure, it’s clearly a Pacer, but all of the distinctive traits have been exaggerated, and the car now sports a large, central third headlamp, along with the windshield proportions being made significantly taller. It’s also a convertible, something not especially monsteric but simply an interesting idea, as I think this shows some of the missed potential of a convertible Pacer in our world.
Incredibly, that’s pretty much it: extra light, proportional changes, convertible, but these show the core of monsterizing: add unexpected detail elements to make the car look less symmetrical or expected, and really push and pull those proportions.
Honestly, we could do a whole story just about Pixar’s automotive monsterization methods, and maybe we should, but I just wanted to give a little taste this morning.
Enjoy, little monsters.
Anyone else think mike’s control panel would be easier to use than the typical touchscreen these days?
The face on that car looks remarkably unremarkable in today’s world of angry vehicles.
Does art imitate life or vice-versa (versa-vice?)
Below is the Gemballa off-road Porsche 911 concept. Sadly we are left to speculate what the dash looks like.
Anyhow, the Monster business must pay Mike pretty well.
All that stuff could be integrated into a single 11″ touchscreen that buries all the important functions behind ten or twelve button presses. So much simpler. /s
Don’t forget there’s a subscription fee for each new menu you access.
That is truly monstrous. I fear that BMW’s little experiment with heated seat subscription is just the first little test of the future. Each time they do something like this then back off, we get a little more used to it. Some folks are apathetic and buy those cars (BMW badge helps) and slowly but surely, more features move to subscription.
I already refuse to buy a car with OnStar. I guess my luddite-mobiles will have to last a long time.
A Pacer with a Tucker third headlight
I’m pretty sure one of those buttons opens the glove box
And another one activates the windshield eyes.
Tesla take note.
When I opened the article, I thought it was going to be about Tesla. Silly me.
When I opened the article, I thought it was going to be about the front-end height of the big three pickup trucks. Silly me.
The changes to that Pacer are a bit ridiculous, I mean they made one door longer than the other! Who could conceive of such a ludicrous thing?
I never watched the film, any chance that’s an actual gag? That would be wonderful! If not, thumbs up for the great joke 🙂
I didn’t watch it either, it just popped into my head as I was thinking about how it might be possible to make a Pacer even odder than it already is.
Guys, this is a 2002 monster model year remember.
It’s 2022 now. Just imagine what monsterish elements are available on today’s cars. Inconceivable.
There’s a wonderful monsterization of a car in the video for Björk’s ‘Army of Me”. I love the whole video (Michel Gondry is an amazing filmmaker and has probably directed more than half of my top-ten favourite music videos ever), but the monster truck always stood out.
Tangentially related. I am anxiously waiting for Torch to watch “Trafic”, by French director Jacques Tati. There could be months and months of Autopian content just from that movie.
I was thinking about the same thing. What a crazy world Tati has created with his movies. Playtime always got me. The droopy plane.
I wonder if the Language Arts teacher’s an Autopian reader and choice of shorts has anything to do with knowing whose kid is in his class and how easy it would be to bait him into a custom-written commentary to show the kids, now and for years to come…
I mean, it makes sense, right? You’ve got monsters with all kinds of different methods of manipulating a control board, and all sorts of different kinds of needs from the various monsters. (sidenote, the customization scene in the Monsters universe is probably absolutely epic.)
Mike probably saw this one and loved it, but its obviously not built for somemonster of his size, amount of arms, or eyes, and any number of other features that we as humans don’t even know about. Despite this, Mike had to have it. Its a very on brand decision for him; he was always told he couldn’t be a scary monster, but he didn’t give a care and went for it.
Its like a 6’+, 300lb guy wanting a Miata or a 5’0″ 90lb girl climbing out of a truck lifted up 44″ Super Swampers. They saw it, they wanted it, they got it.
Be like Mike