Thirteen years ago, “Monsters, Inc.” took us to the world beneath our beds and behind our closet doors, where the scary stuff of our imaginations prowled. Like most Pixar features, it delighted us. It fed not fear, but the better part of our imaginations, turning that shadowy world into something whimsical: It made monsters work-a-day scarers.

Now, Pixar brings us a prequel, “Monsters University,” to that 2001 box-office smash. It’s an origin story of what makes scarers scarers and how our favorite monster duo, Michael “Mike” Wazowski (Bill Crystal, “When Harry Met Sally…”) and Sulley (John Goodman, “Argo”), met in college, and how an iconic animation friendship flourished.

To provide their fans insight into what it was like resurrecting this beloved work, director Dan Scanlon, in his feature debut, and producer Kori Rae shared their own stories in a conference call the Michigan Daily recently took part in.

“We loved the relationship of Mike and Sulley and we always wanted to do something with them again,” Scanlon said. “And that’s where we started thinking about how these guys met, which led naturally to the college idea, and we loved the idea of doing something in a university.”

The idea of finding the film’s heroes in a college setting inspired the two filmmakers, who had to perform some research of their own in recreating that experience onscreen.

“We wanted to make sure that since we were doing a university movie,” Scanlon said, “that we had sort of the great university archetypes.”

“In the end,” Rae added, “(We) put them all together to create a campus that, although it’s original to Monsters University, hopefully it feels familiar to everyone. I would hope that everyone kind of feels like, ‘Hey, that’s my school!’ ”

Among the more colorful dimensions of “Monsters University” would have to be its Greek system, such as Oozma Kappa, described by Scanlon as the “scare rejects” who failed to get into the vaunted program.

But aside from the humor and outrageous antics the college setting may offer, the two filmmakers and their writers also conceived Monsters University as a spiritual crossroads in the lives of its characters.

“We have a character — a Scott Squishy Squibbles, who is kinda classic 18-year-old college student that hasn’t decided what they want to be,” Scanlon said. “They’re sort of a ball of clay waiting to be molded. In his case, he’s literally a mushy tiny ball of amorphous clay.”

“That’s kind of where you first are out on your own, you just figure out who you are, who you want to be,” Rae said. “You can reinvent yourself.”

Both Scanlon and Rae found they had some searching to do themselves in creating this prequel. This is, after all, Scanlon’s directorial debut, and Rae has the awesome expectations of building upon a beloved 2000s classic children film that she herself worked on.

But it’s a challenge she’s familiar with, owing to the wild success of Pixar in the 1990s. Lucky for her, those seemingly insurmountable expectations, imposed time and time again, have forced her to learn more and grow.

“We learn so much on every single film,” she said. “You learn something different from each one, because you’re working with different people, different directors. I used a ton of stuff on this film that I had learned on ‘The Incredibles,’ let’s say, in addition to ‘Monsters, Inc.’ and even as far back as ‘A Bug’s Life.’ So all of that experience rounded me out and gave me a good base to produce this one.”

Like Rae, Scanlon has had a working career in Pixar, which includes award-winning features such as “Cars” and “Toy Story 3.” But “Monsters University” is his first opportunity to sit in the director’s chair.

“Being a director, I got the rare opportunity to see everything. To see what everyone does,” Scanlon said. “A lot of people I’ve worked with for years and eaten lunch with, but really had no idea what they did and there I’d be in a meeting with them and think, ‘Oh wow. You’re a genius, like you’re the best person who does this.’ ”

But for both filmmakers, the creation of “Monsters University” gravitates back toward the same basic principle of every one of their works.

“We always want to touch something in people, emotionally with our films,” Scanlon said.

With “Monsters University,” in particular, he wanted his audiences to experience the characters’ transformations that he himself faced in college.

“You let go of the thing that you think you absolutely have to be to be happy in order to find out who you truly are,” Scanlon said. “That feeling of realizing, ‘This is going to be a lot harder than I thought.’ Or, ‘Maybe I’m not the person that I thought I was.’ ”

Perhaps, then, it was Scanlon who best characterized the confusion and angst our heroes endure in “Monsters University” in his description of the uncertainty of filmmaking:

“Every Pixar movie goes through an awkward teenage phase where it doesn’t make sense, or it’s bizarre, or it’s not quite working right,” he said. “And you can get terrified that you’re never going to crack it. And it’s just this relentless journey to keep trying new things.”

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