Billy Crystal credits big kids for Monsters University

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      EMERYVILLE, CALIFORNIA—One recent Sunday, Billy Crystal visited Pixar Animation Studios. The studio grounds—which already looked like the world’s best college campus—had been transformed into, well, Monsters University, the titular institution of higher learning, so to speak, of Pixar’s latest movie. It was through the ornate, monster-guarded gates that its star walked, wearing pale-blue running shoes.

      Crystal, 65, had been there before. He was the voice of Mike Wazowski, the little round, green monster with the large single eye in 2001’s Monsters, Inc. and now he was back in its exuberant and poignant prequel, Monsters University (which opens June 21).

      In the film, a teenage Mike and Sulley, the husky, fuzzy, polka-dot monster (voiced by John Goodman), first meet. As Mike tries to realize his dream of becoming a master scarer, there is much monster angst and emotional growth. “It makes him a real person-monster,” Crystal said. He seemed relaxed and wore a sizable chain bracelet on one wrist. “But what comes out of it is friendship.”

      Crystal and Goodman recorded their vocal tracks together. “We hadda look into each other’s eyes,” he said. “You know, I’m lookin’ at John’s eyes but I’m seein’ them covered in blue fur and he’s seein’ a little green guy. You know, we take these guys seriously.”

      Someone inquired about Crystal’s experiences at Pixar headquarters. “Well, that’s why their movies are so joyous: because look where they work,” Crystal said. “Did you see their offices, how they’re decorated and stuff? It’s like they’re big kids. You know, they have a tremendous factory of very creative nerds, and these brilliant nerds produce magical kinds of experiences.”

      But what, the Georgia Straight asked, about the rumours of tunnels to hidden rooms? Crystal cleared his throat. He had been clearing his throat, in that way he does on-stage when he’s about to tell a joke. Sometimes a joke was forthcoming and sometimes it wasn’t.

      “Well, it’s called the Love Shack,” Crystal said, smiling, describing someone’s Pixar office. “There’s a desk, small, and books on a shelf. It looks like a very proper kind of drawing room and there’s a statue, a bust—I believe it’s Beethoven—and you push Beethoven’s head back and press a button and the bookcase moves and you go into a tinier little place, where there’s booze. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a lot of bars here.” There were, in fact, some generously stocked bars about.

      A reporter asked if he might host the Oscars again. “Oh, I don’t know about that,” he said, shaking his head. “No, I don’t think so.”

      Crystal told a story about a paparazzo photographing him and his two young granddaughters at a shopping mall, confusing the children. “Then I had to sort of tell them, ‘Well, I’m in the movies sometimes.’ ‘Well, can we see ’em? Can we see ’em?’ So I couldn’t show ’em Harry and Sally. ‘Why is she going “Yes! Yes! Yes!”?’ ”

      He decided to show his granddaughters Monsters, Inc. “So then I was Grandpa Mike Wazowski for about six or eight months,” he said. “I’d answer the phone: ‘Hi.’ ‘Oh, is Grandpa Mike Wazowski there?’ ”

      Watch the trailer for Monsters University.