Billy Crystal

on Raising Resilient Little Monsters


“When I was younger,” actor/director Billy Crystal says. “I was a little bit of a misfit…I was exactly like Mike!”


If you’ve seen Monsters University, you know to whom Mr. Crystal refers: Mike Wazowski, the adorable, scare-school screw-up who refused to let failure defeat him. Just like Mike, little Billy overcame all obstacles to achieve his greatest dreams—even becoming the celebrated voice behind Pixar’s most famous one-eyed monster.


Now he offers Wazowski-inspired advice to help you raise resilient children of your own, offering seven key character qualities of kids who overcome.


1. Overcomers Embrace Underdog Status


“I love the underdog story...I love Mike Wazowski.” Billy Crystal says. “He is my favorite character from anything I’ve ever played. For me, I love the way he’s so fearless.”


Like monster-Mike, kids who overcome aren’t afraid to play the underdog role. They know an odds-defying attitude often wins out—and brings out the best in others, even losers like Oozma Kappa fraternity members. “I love that Mike sees something in them,” adds Crystal, “but at the same time, he finds out something about himself.”


2. Overcomers Aren’t Afraid of Failure


“There are constant disappointments in my life,” Crystal reports. For instance, “[A] movie didn’t work well…they don’t want to make that…Most of the time, your day never really works out the way you want it to work out.”


But overcomers don’t let life’s daily setbacks get them down. They understand that failure is part of the pathway to success. Just look at Mike Wazowski! “He doesn’t take disappointment easily,” Crystal says of his animated alter ego, “and he’s always hoping for the best. I dig that.”


3. Overcomers are Open to Change


If Billy Crystal’s original plans had panned out, he’d have been an athlete instead of an actor/director.


“At first, I went to school to play baseball,” Crystal says, “but that didn’t work out, so I transferred home to a junior college where they had a fantastic acting program. That’s where I really went nuts. I was exactly like Mike. I was heavily involved with everything. ‘Let’s do this, let’s do that!’ We built a theater and I got my Actors’ Equity Card—and then I went to film school at NYU.”


4. Overcomers Believe They Belong


On campus at Monsters University, teachers and students alike tried to tell Mike Wazowski he didn’t belong—but he refused to be left out. The rest is Monstropolis history!


Billy Crystal can relate to that. “I was a film directing major at NYU and I’m still not sure why I became a directing major when I was an actor and a comedian at heart…I felt like I was a misfit because I was studying alongside [now-famous director] Oliver Stone and our professor was Martin Scorsese!”


But Crystal believed he belonged—and so he did.


5. Overcomers are Team Players


It took Oozma Kappa teamwork for Mike Wazowski to achieve his dreams. Likewise, Billy Crystal insisted on working as a team with John Goodman (voice of Sully) during the recording of Monsters University. He reports:


“In the very beginning, I said, ‘Can John come and work with me in the recording booth?


“They said, ‘Well, we didn’t ask him. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen didn’t do it on Toy Story.’


“I said to them, ‘Well, get him in here and see if he’ll do it.’


“We soon started to work together in there and then great things started to happen.


“There were scenes that could not be done unless we were together, like the quiet moments at the lake in Monsters University. They are very powerful scenes, but we weren’t looking at our scripts. We knew our lines and we were able to act very closely together, just like in the movie.


“I think it really shows.”


6. Overcomers Always Work to Get Better


“I don’t get scared,” Crystal says. “My fears are always, ‘Can I be better than I was?’”


That constant desire to improve is a key characteristic in overcomers, and it influenced immeasurably Crystal’s performance in Monsters University—the second time he played Mike Wazowski for the big screen.


“You have to work really hard to bring these characters to life,” he says. “Especially with Mike because he’s a very high-energy guy, but I don’t want to sound like Daffy Duck; I want him to sound real.”


If audiences are any judge in that regard, then Billy Crystal can count that goal as: Mission accomplished.


7. Overcomers Always Try


Billy Crystal has one final piece of advice for kids who want to overcome:


“Try hard. Don’t do it because it looks cool; do it because you love it. Do it because you might be good at it; and if you work hard, you might be great at it.”


Just like Mike Wazowski.




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Billy Crystal & Mike Wazowski

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