I often write about how the Hero's Journey is seen in various movies, and it's not just applicable to superhero movies. Even in family films, the protagonist undergoes a Journey. Monsters University follows more of an inner journey, as this brief look shows. Of course, if you haven't seen the movie, be aware that there are spoilers below.
1. Ordinary World: Mike Wazowski is a small child. He's so small, in fact, that everyone treats him like he will never amount to anything, and he definitely won't be able to work as a Scarer at Monsters, Inc. But when his class takes a field trip to visit the facility, his dreams are set in stone.
2. Call To Adventure: Mike arrives at college, Monsters University. This is the Special World for him. A previous montage shows how Mike has planned his entire life out in minute detail in an attempt to achieve his dreams. College, however, will not necessarily follow his plans.
3. Refusal of the Call: For Mike, the Refusal mainly comes from others around him. While the Hero usually has some self-doubts, Mike is focused and determined. Others, like Sully, don't think he has what it takes to be a Scarer. And because Mike and Sully are a team later on, Sully's Refusal coupled with that of the others who reject him, gives him an obstacle to overcome on his quest.
4. Meeting with the Mentor: Mike is basically his own Mentor. At least, his dreams and plans are; they are what guides him and pushes him to continue despite the odds and the doubts of everyone around him. In addition, the flyer he gets for the Scare Games continues to guide him when he is kicked out of classes later.
5. Crossing the Threshold: The college classes start, and Mike quickly shows his stuff. But he is also upstaged by naturally-scary Sully, whose family legacy makes it easy for him to coast through classes
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies: As Mike begins adjusting to college life, he meets his roommate, Randall, and also encounters his classmates. Some simply tolerate him, while others like Sully and the guys in the fraternities, ridicule him. He faces a critical Scare test, and he and Sully are kicked out of the class while trying to out-scare each other.
Mike then tries to get back into the program by participating in the Scare Games. He joins the misfits in Oozma Kappa, along with Sully, and they begin to compete in events. They fail at first, but soon learn that they must use teamwork to win.
7. Approach:After finally achieving a brief victory, Mike's team bands together, taking the Scare Games seriously. Soon, they are quickly rising to the top, and will compete against the reigning fraternity, Roar Omega Roar.
8. Ordeal: During the final event of the Scare Games, the Journey to get back into the program could end in failure. Through teamwork, Oozma Kappa proves its resolve and wins the event.
9. Reward: The Reward is winning the Scare Games along with the respect of the other students, not to mention acceptance back into the program.
10. The Road Back: The victory is short-lived, however, as Mike discovers that Sully has cheated to help them win. Mike is determined to prove that he can scare, and walks through a door that leads to a summer camp. Sully confesses to the dean, but when he learns what Mike has done, he goes after him.
11. Resurrection:After Mike and Sully confess their shortcomings to each other, they team up, using their strengths, to prove that they can, indeed, be scary. Sully overcomes his fears about scaring, and Mike overcomes his doubts about himself as they discover that what they really need to do is work together.
12. Return with the Elixir: Even though they are still kicked out of Monsters University, Mike and Sully realize that they belong together and find work in the mail room at Monsters, Inc. The end credits show pictures portraying the rise of this team that has become a close friendship.