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Critics call Monsters, Inc. spinoff 'Monsters at Work' a promising new start for the franchise

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Jul 2, 2021, 1:05 PM EDT

Next week, the long-awaited Monsters, Inc. follow-up series, Monsters at Work, finally arrives on Disney+, nearly four years after it was first announced. Picking things up the day after the events of the original film, the new series will follow what happens as the employees at Monsters Incorporated learn to adapt their entire business model to a new substance, following the discovering that children's laughter is actually a much more sustainable energy source than children's screams.

Though John Goodman and Billy Crystal have returned to voice fan-favorite characters James P. "Sulley" Sullivan and Mike Wazowski, respectively, Sulley and Mike's success at the end of the first film means that they've been elevated to leadership roles at the company, and will only appear in the series sporadically. Instead, Monsters at Work will primarily follow the working lives of monsters like the mechanics who make the machinery at the company work, including Tylor Tuskman (Ben Feldman), a recent Monsters University graduate who's always dreamed of working at Monsters Inc. but now finds himself in a very different version of the company.

It's not the first addition to the Monsters, Inc. franchise since the original Pixar film, but unlike 2013's prequel Monsters University, Monsters at Work does present the first long-form exploration of what happens following the original, and it's also Disney's first effort to really branch the storytelling out beyond Mike and Sulley as lead characters. So, does it pay off? Early reviews for the series began arriving this week, and though no one is willing to say it's as good as the original film that inspired it, critics are largely in agreement that there's a promising start at work here.

"Monsters at Work is a wonderful addition to the Monstroplis mythos," Charlie Ridgely of ComicBook said. "It's filled with plenty of laughs and memorable new characters that are sure to excite fans new and old. But there's also a determined and vibrant heart at its center, keeping true to the wonderful soul of the Monsters name."

"When it comes down to it, Monsters at Work is a nostalgic treat that will transport many back to their childhood while introducing this beloved and unique world to a new generation of kids," Yasmine Kandil of Discussing Film wrote. "Despite its lacking lead, the show still finds ways to be endearing and enjoyable and continues to expand on the community that keeps Monsters Incorporated running. Even though nothing will ever be able to top Pixar’s 2001 feature, this series is a welcome addition to the franchise, certainly far from fans’ worst expectations."

Of course, acknowledging that it's perhaps not as good as the classic that is Monsters, Inc. also brought with it some concerns from critics that the series will amount to nothing more than a case of diminishing returns. Thankfully, no one has seen the full 10-episode season yet, and everyone seems willing to acknowledge that there's not only room to grow for the show, but time to grow too.

"While I appreciated that Disney did not go the route of cheap animation and made this series with a level of effort that brings it pretty damn close to Pixar quality, it is the content that ends up falling short," Alex Maidy of JoBlo wrote. "Monsters at Work looks good and has some good moments, but it doesn't come close to being as good as Monsters, Inc. or Monsters University. It was nice to see Goodman and Crystal back as Mike and Sully, but the series doesn't give us enough of them to make it worthwhile."

"Monsters at Work does not feel like a genuine article sequel to Monsters, Inc. or even a 'X hour movie,' but it doesn’t necessarily need to," Nick Harley of Den of Geek said. "While the writing is a bit underwhelming, every comedy series needs some time to gain footing. Monsters at Work will have to do more to surprise audiences who are already familiar with this world, but by looking at the unsung heroes of the workplace, it has an interesting and fruitful avenue to explore and a talented voice cast to really sell the whole enterprise should things really get cooking. Though it isn’t Pixar, it still may end up being something serviceable."

"Monsters at Work simply doesn’t feel on par with the likes of Disney+ original offerings that follow their big screen predecessors," Ethan Anderton of Slashfilm wrote. "Unlike the TV shows of Marvel Studios, Monsters at Work doesn’t feel like it’s coming from the same powerhouse animation studio that gave us Monsters Inc. It’s not quite as bad as Planes when compared to Cars, but it’s also not as satisfying as something like The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers. But since it took 10 episodes before that series truly fit into the skates of The Mighty Ducks franchise, maybe we can give Monsters at Work a little more time to get used to the job after orientation."

Monsters at Work premieres July 7 on Disney+.