A summer of animation successes and failures taught Pixar/Disney an important lesson: amazing technology can’t make up for a worthless script. “Final Fantasy” stands out as an example of how eerily photo-realistic animation could not save a ridiculously confusing plot. Conversely, Dreamwork’s pop culture fairy tale “Shrek” worked by capitalizing on talented voice work and hilarious dialogue. Pixar/Disney’s “Monsters Inc.” retains a cartoonish look with Muppet-like character generation, while demonstrating the same technological skill and warm appeal that made “Toy Story” a hit.

Monster duo Mike (a walking eyeball voiced by Billy Crystal doing his best Nathan Lane impression) and Sully (a 12-foot blue and purple furball voiced by John Goodman) work for the corporation that keeps Monsteropolis powered on the shrieks of purportedly toxic human children. Sully is the top “scarer” in the company. Mike assists by reaping the screams and setting up closet doors for passage into the human realm.

With a central plot that should win favor with the V-chip set, Monsteropolis is in the midst of a power crisis due to the desensitization of the human world’s youth. One such child, a two-year-old named Boo, unwittingly enters the monster world through her closet door – much to Sully’s dismay. He endeavors to return the forbidden Boo to her home, all the while, you guessed it, becoming attached to the little scamp. You can’t help but get drawn into this “Pete’s Dragon” heartwarming sentimentality. Boo’s just too damn cute.

Instead of photo-realism, attention to fantastic detail is the goal here, down to Mike’s giant contact lens and the shine of Boo’s pigtails. Boo’s behaviors and movement reflect the Pixar crew’s study of hundreds of toddlers. On Sully’s shag, individual hairs blow in the wind, and snow clumps and falls through his fur quite naturally. The brief glimpses of the urban Monsteropolis present an exhaustive array of creatures and streets mirroring our own world, including a hip restaurant named Harryhausen’s (in homage to the 1960s monster creator of “Clash of the Titans”).

“Monsters Inc.” made me remember why I liked the film “Toy Story,” but also why I grew to hate “Toy Story” the marketing ploy. The Disney juggernaut began the media blitzkrieg last summer – even putting children’s Halloween costumes in stores a month before the film’s release. The “Toy Story” syndrome of pajamas and terrible cartoon spin-offs is inevitable. Expect to see “Monsters Inc.” merchandise on shelves through the holiday shopping season.

A note from the Artsweek editor: see it after bedtime. While an audience of enthusiastic tikes is adorable, having the back of your seat kicked for two hours straight can grate on the nerves.