James Patrick Sullivan (better known as Sulley) is the protagonist of the 2001 Disney•Pixar animated film Monsters, Inc. and the deuteragonist of its 2013 prequel. He was a renowned scarer at Monsters, Inc. where he works alongside his partner and best friend Mike Wazowski. Sulley's world gets turned upside down when he becomes the accidental guardian of a human child (whom he dubs "Boo"). In working to return Boo to the human world, Sulley manages to uncover a company conspiracy while also solving an energy crisis that plagued the city of Monstropolis.
Sulley is a top scarer under his boss Henry J. Waternoose, who is the CEO of Monsters, Inc. Sulley's best friend is Mike Wazowski. His mom is Mrs. Sullivan (who is not seen in the movie, but mentioned by Mike, with whom he seems to be close), and his dad is the famous scarer Bill Sullivan. When he is first seen, Sulley is the top scarer at Monsters, Inc., responsible for generating the majority of scares that provide power for the city of Monstropolis.
In Monsters, Inc., Sulley is portrayed as good-natured, hardworking, gentle, and confident, who loved his job as a Scarer and while he basked in the limelight of being Top Scarer and was indeed going for the All-Time Scare Record, he had a humble side in that he was more interested in being a good employee for the company. This was most likely due to him having worked his way up through the ranks of the company from mailman to janitor to cafeteria work to can wrangler and finally to scarer.
One of the defining traits of his character was his friendship with his Scaring-Assistant, Mike Wazowski. They're best friends, roommates, incredibly devoted to each other, and help each other out, as Sulley secured a reservation for Mike at Harryhausen's for his date with Celia Mae on her special birthday, and covered for him in a paperwork concern.
Sulley's world, however, is turned upside-down when he discovers a human child, initially and frantically doing everything he can to get rid of her while trying not to get "infected" due to the Monsters' mistaken beliefs that human children are "toxic, deadly, that a single touch could kill them". When left with no choice, he involves Mike, who is more concerned with their career and their well-beings, but as Sulley spends time with the girl, he warms up to her and comes to disregard everything he's ever believed about human children, eventually giving her the name "Boo", and becomes attached to her, like a father. However, his affection and protectiveness for Boo put a strain on his friendship with Mike as he relies on Mike to help him in his madcap efforts to keep Boo safe from Randall and hide her (and their discretions) from the CDA. When Mike protests, Sulley chooses to help Boo over appeasing Mike's pride. When Sulley, at the demand of his boss, does a scare-demonstration and accidentally frightens Boo, he tries to reassure her it wasn't real, but then he notices the images of the demonstration, showing that Boo is horrified at his roaring. Sulley finally realizes how the children actually feel when the monsters scare them. His many years as a Scarer comes back to haunt him when Boo is so frightened of him that she shies from his touch to his shame and regret.
By all his actions, Sulley proves himself to be a well-meaning person who strives to do the right thing. He was shown to be observant and keen-minded to Boo's laughs super-charging electronics in ways screams had never done although Sulley appears to be a little trusting in some cases and he has a strong moral compass; he is appalled by Mr. Waternoose's involvement in Randall's plan to kidnap children to harvest their screams. And, when he scares Boo, and sees how he has scared her with his behavior, he starts to seriously question whether the company's practices are ethical.
Even so, Sulley has a powerful devotion to those he cares for, risking his job, his life, and even his friendship with Mike to save Boo, and while he has his ups and downs with Mike they are true and loyal friends to each other, despite their differences.
In Monsters University, 18-year old Sulley was shown to be very different than he was later in life: being the son of Bill Sullivan, an accomplished Scarer, and having the natural talent that came from his family, Sulley was more laid-back, arrogant, cocky, immature, a slacker, and something of a party animal. Because of these traits, Sulley wasn't a model student and very lazy, once stating "You don't need to study Scaring; you just do it!"
He developed a competitive rivalry with a fellow student in the Scaring Program, Mike Wazowski, who had the brains and intelligence for Scaring but not the natural talent. He was also chosen to join the Roar Omega Roar fraternity due to his Scaring talent. To his frustration, however, Mike was beating him in class because of Mike's keen studying while Sulley wasn't doing well. Johnny Worthington III temporarily took his jacket unless Sulley passed the exam and not losing to Mike.
Sulley realized just having the talent wasn't enough when Dean Hardscrabble kicked him and Mike out of the Scare Program, for which he blamed Mike (evident by constantly glaring at him and crushing a scream canister in his hands), even though he was bullying him and not studying. Roar Omega Roar also took the jacket away, which meant that he was kicked out of their group. But later, he was desperate enough to join Mike and the Oozma Kappa fraternity to get back in by winning the Scare Games when he overheard Mike and Hardscrabble's wager, that if OK won, the whole team would be allowed in the Scaring Program. He came off as shallow, deeming Oozma Kappa to be lost causes when they kept losing (even suggesting to Mike that they get a new team as well as cheating) but eventually came to appreciate them for their friendship. Even so, Sulley wanted so bad to get back into the Scaring Program that he rigged the last event so that Mike would easily win, as he honestly didn't think Mike was scary.
At first, Sulley tried to justify his cheating but realized what it almost cost him, especially when Mike sought to prove himself by scaring actual children, and when an argument erupted between them, Sulley revealed that being a Sullivan made everyone expect him to be scary, and while he acted scary and confident, in truth, Sulley was terrified of the expectations he had to live up to, and what his family would think of him if he did not.
The friendship and teamwork between Mike and Sulley enabled them to surprise Dean Hardscrabble, who indirectly encouraged them to work as mailmen for Monsters Inc. when she's forced to expel them from school. They worked together until at last, they achieved their dream of becoming a Scare-Team.
Sulley is a large hairy cyan monster with purple spots and indigo blue eyes. He has curved horns, white claws, razor sharp fangs, a huge chin, white spikes that run down his backside to the end of his long dinosaur-like tail, and a large furry fat belly. He has bushy eyebrows and a teal nose. In Monsters University, it is revealed he sheds and was thinner with mullet-like hair, a little shorter and his horns were smaller and not sharp.
Sulley was top scarer of Monsters, Inc. and was naturally afraid of humans due to their rumored "toxic touch" that could kill even the biggest monsters in an instant... until he met Boo, a human girl who found her way into the monster world and into the factory. Sulley, who was initially hesitant, became Boo's protector and obtained a fatherly role to the human. Constantly worrying about her and protecting her from harm while at the same time unlocking the secrets that humans were not as deadly as rumored.
Starting by treating Boo like a pet, he eventually grew to care for her, the attention drawing away from a jealous Mike. Randall Boggs, Sulley's nemesis who also wants to be top scarer, tries to use Boo in an experiment to forcibly extract screams for the growing energy crisis that rely on their cries to provide, and risking his friendship with Mike. Sulley's shame, however, is turned to shock when he realizes the boss, with whom he had always been on good terms with, is not the good man he thought he was when Waternoose banishes him and Mike to the human world, having been secretly working as Randall's partner-in-crime. Even so, Sulley does everything he can to get back to the monster world and save Boo, even leaving Mike who refuses to come.
Confronting Randall back in Monstropolis, Sulley tries to save Boo and briefly engages the rival scarer until the intervention of Mike (who followed Sulley back to apologize) gives Sulley the upper hand to knock Randall out cold. Reunited, Mike, Sulley, and Boo search the doors for Boo's room; when Randall catches up to them, Boo helps defeat Randall and the group send Randall into one of the doors, trapping him in the human world. When the trio returns, Waternoose attempts to carry out the plan; he follows Sulley and Boo back in Boo's room to kidnap the young girl. However, it turns out Sulley tricked Mr. Waternoose into confessing Randall's plan and him working as Randall's henchman while Mike records the confession and smugly replays it to watching CDA agents that he supposedly "distracted". Immediately, the CDA turn on Mr. Waternoose and arrest him for being in conspiracy with Randall. After undercover CDA agent Roz declares Boo's door must be destroyed after Boo is safely returned home, Sulley is heartbroken and gives Boo a fond goodbye, and is more crestfallen since the entire fiasco will shut down the factory. He quickly retrieves a piece of the door without anyone noticing.
However, a stray remark by Mike, along with an observation he had made, helps Sulley realize the human children's laughter is ten times more powerful than screams. He manages to not only save the company, but revolutionize it by having monsters make kids laugh instead of scaring them, solving Monstropolis' energy crisis. Furthermore, Sully becomes the company's new CEO. Despite his success, Sulley misses Boo and sadly holds onto the piece of Boo's door and a drawing she made of him and her holding hands but Mike reveals to him that, after trial and error (evidenced by all the bandages on his hand), he managed to restore Boo's door except for the piece Sulley still has (the door will not work unless it has every piece). Sulley places the piece in its place, reactivating Boo's door and steps through. To his joy, he is reunited with Boo.
Sometime after the events of the film, Sulley announces "Put That Thing Back Where It Came From or So Help Me", a company play that stars Mike, who has also directed, written, and produced the play, in front of the audience, and he appears in the play as a co-star.
Sulley appears in the prequel, looking shorter, skinnier, and shaggier. Another big difference is he has a cowlick on the left side of his head.
According to official sources, he is 7'6" (228 cm), weighs around 500 pounds and was born on August 17.
He makes a ferocious debut by interrupting his first Scaring class with a roar, apologizing, saying he heard someone say "roar" and just went for it. Here, he reveals himself to be the son of Bill Sullivan, a famous Scarer and asks a fellow student for a pencil since he forgot his stuff, but he just uses it as a toothpick. Sulley hardly put in any work in his classes and instead relied on his family legacy and natural skills, preferring to spend his time goofing off and playing pranks, such as kidnapping the mascot of rival college Fear Tech. Hiding the mascot, he accidentally sneaks into the room of a fellow scare student, Mike Wazowski, leading to a mad chase when the pig runs off. His skills and family reputation get him recognized by and accepted into ROR, the premiere campus fraternity.
However, Sulley soon finds Professor Knight and ROR’s approval switched from him to Mike in his classes as Mike is getting better grades than him because Mike takes Scaring seriously and makes real effort to become a Scarer unlike Sully who is convinced he doesn’t need to know “that stuff” to scare which lead to ROR considering revoking his membership and Professor Knight telling him “One frightening face does not a Scarer make Mr. Sullivan.” On the day of the final exam, Johnny Worthington III, the President of Roar Omega Roar, takes his ROR jacket and tells him if he fails the exam or gets outdone by Mike again he is out of ROR. Sulley deliberately provokes Mike causing a Scare Spat. Eventually, Mike and Sulley's spat gets out of hand and causes a mistake during the final exam, when, while the two are trying to scare the other, Sulley accidentally knocks over and ruins Dean Hardscrabble's prized scream-canister. Dean Hardscrabble tests them on the spot, first failing Mike before turning to Sulley.
He jumps the gun with a roar, and Hardscrabble explains how his method doesn't work to make the hypothetical child scream, noting his disregarding the importance of the study, leading her to dismiss him from the program as well. Sulley tries to change Hardscrabble's mind by reminding her he's a Sullivan, but she simply says his family will be very disappointed. Sulley notices Worthington and his frat-boys leave without a word to him. Sulley instantly blames Mike for his failure (even though Sulley was the one who started the argument) and storms off.
By next semester, Mike and Sulley are both now in a boring class for scream-canister handling, but Sulley still blames Mike, evident by his constantly glaring at him and crushing a canister in his hand. But later on, he sees Mike hurry off to add Oozma Kappa for the Scare Games, making a bet with Hardscrabble and they agree to the following terms: If OK wins, Hardscrabble will allow the whole team into the Scaring Program, but if they lose, Mike will leave Monsters University. But then Hardscrabble brings up he's short one member to qualify, and Sulley seizes this opportunity and smugly gets himself on the team because Mike has no choice, qualifying OK for the games. But after meeting the OK members, Sulley is concerned, as Oozma Kappa is not known for being scary, but Mike trains them for the games.
However, Sulley and Mike's rivalry with each other almost costs them losing the first round of the games; they luck out when it turns out Jaws Theta Chi had cheated, disqualifying them and getting OK back in the games. In the next round, they almost lose when Mike insists the team follow his lead alone, and it is only when the other members of OK work together do they advance. But after the event, they're told by Python Nu Kappa about a party, asking them if they're coming. Mike insists they go, believing they're getting recognized, but Sulley says that he has a bad feeling about this.
During the party, which is at ROR house, the RORs prank Oozma Kappa and humiliate them in front of the whole university. Sulley tells Mike that he needs to stop trying and says that Mike can train monsters hard all he wants, but he can't change who they are, to which the other team members said that they agree with his point. When the rest of the team are dispirited, Mike takes them on a "field trip" into Monsters, Inc. to lift their spirits, causing Mike and Sulley to understand each other, and begin to become friends. They also start to gain a newfound appreciation for the other members and their skills, since they only joined the team to get back into the program.
Thanks to Mike and Sulley's collaboration, Oozma Kappa makes it to the final round against ROR. But the night before the final round, Sulley speaks with Hardscrabble, hoping, if OK wins and they're in the Scaring Program, there won't be any hard feelings. But Hardscrabble tells him in order to win, each member of OK must prove, in front of the entire school, that they are undeniably scary - and, in her professional opinion, she tells him one of them is not. Sulley realizes she's talking about Mike, and tries to defend Mike's worthiness but Hardscrabble demandingly asks him if he, himself, thinks if Mike is scary, leaving Sulley speechless because honestly he doesn't. Before Mike and Sulley to bed, he tries to coach Mike in roaring, to "dig deep down and let the scary out," and despite Mike's efforts, Sulley doesn't believe Mike can be scary although he doesn't say so to Mike to prevent his frustration.
So, in the final round, he tampers with the scare simulator settings, putting it on easy, so that Mike can register a perfect score and make Oozma Kappa win the tournament, but when Mike realizes this, he is heartbroken and furious, accusing Sulley of being just like Hardscrabble. Sulley tries to defend his actions and insults Mike by saying that he doesn't have what it takes to be scary, which hurts Mike deeply and the rest of OK, who were equally ashamed that Sulley ruined their victory by cheating, leaves behind the undeserved trophy, knowing that they were never going to win in the first place.
Rebuffing ROR's attempt to get him back into their fraternity, Sulley, feeling guilty, confesses to Dean Hardscrabble about the cheating. The furious Hardscrabble tells him to leave campus by tomorrow, calling him a disgrace to MU and his family name.
At that moment, they hear an alert that someone broke into the door lab, and Sulley quickly realizes that Mike had entered the human world to prove himself scary, feeling that Mike will be in lots of danger, he manages to enter after Don makes a distraction against Hardscrabble.
Sulley arrives at the camp looking for Mike. At the camp, the rangers have arrived looking for intruders and Sulley is mistaken for a bear, chased into the woods, which made the rangers to give up the chase. Sulley finds Mike by the lake, and he apologizes for what he did but Mike accuses him of not understanding how he feels, saying that monsters like Sulley, a Sullivan, have it easy. It is here Sulley admits his faults, his failing and getting kicked out of the Program, and was so afraid of letting everyone down he resorted to cheating and lying. Sulley then tells Mike he's not the only failure, that he (Sulley) acts scary because he's terrified of the expectations he's had to live up to and how his family puts a lot of pressure on him for the sake of their legacy. When Mike asks why he never said that before, Sulley says "Because... [they] weren't friends before."
Seeing the rangers coming, they both run back to the camp to go back to the university. However, Dean Hardscrabble deactivates the door until the authorities arrive, trapping Mike and Sulley in the human world.
Mike devises a plan to create so much scream energy, that they can power the door from their side. Combining Sulley's natural abilities with Mike's technical knowledge, Mike convinces Sulley to follow him. They make lots of creepy noises, and eventually, when those rangers are anxious enough, Sulley bursts out of the blue and lets out a terrifying roar. The two manage to scare the park rangers so much, that not only they are able to power the door, but they both manage to explosively destroy the door due to overloading it with surplus energy as they dash out. This causes Mike and Sulley to be detained by the CDA, thus expelling them from MU.
While they are leaving MU, Dean Hardscrabble unexpectedly shows up, encourages them to keep "surprising people" and indirectly giving them a means of working at a scare company. The movie ends with Mike and Sulley taking jobs at Monsters, Inc. as mailmen. During credits, it is shown that both of them rise from being mailmen to an efficient scare team.
In the short, Sulley is featured as the deuteragonist. When he sees Mike's new car, he asks Mike what was wrong with the old car, to which Mike replied, "That's three little words, Sulley: Six-wheel drive!", then they both got in. Unfortunately for Mike, Sulley accidentally ruins the car by doing various things, and Mike eventually told Sulley to get out but ruined the car himself when he sped off.
- “I never told you about what happened with Boo. The fear in her eyes when she was scared. I... I didn't like what I saw. What I saw in me. Laugh power is the heart of the new Monsters Inc. And it's also the right thing to do.”
- ―Sulley explains to Tylor why he has turned his back on Scarer's life.
Monsters at Work takes place shortly after the first film, and Sulley has become the CEO of the newly reimagined Monsters, Inc. A new scarer named Tylor Tuskmon applies to become a scarer, only to find that the company no longer hires them. Sulley and Mike both have supporting roles in the story.
In "Adorable Returns", Sulley allows Yeti to return to Monstropolis after learning from Tylor and Val Little that Yeti had been banished after finding out about Waternoose's project with the Scream Extractor.
In "It's Laughter They're After", due to insufficient energy levels, Sulley and Mike are given an ultimatum to produce a million gigglewatts in one day or risk being replaced by FearCo. A little later, Sulley comes to see Tylor promoted Jokester-in-training by Mike to help him with his stress of the first day. Tylor confesses to him that he would like to go back to the time of the screams as it was what he had prepared for but Sulley explains to him that when he scared Boo, he felt ashamed and that is why he'll never want to become an elite terror again. Finally thanks to the combined efforts of the Jokesters, Tylor, Mike and the creation of a larger energy canister that can contain the extra energy of laughter, Monsters, Inc. remains active.
The next day (exactly when the movie had ended), Sulley exchanges a sympathetic glance with Tylor, who is now a true Jokester, before going to see Mike's progress and gaze with joy at the fruits of their hard work.
Sulley appears as a playable character in Disney Infinity. He comes in the starter pack for Disney Infinity 1.0. He also had his own exclusive crystal figure.
Sulley appears in the game as a party member, as are Mike and Boo.
Sulley and Boo they appear in the game as one of the corrupted and unlockable heroes, to unlock it requires 30 tokens that are obtained in the elite campaign, Sulley's scare ability is the same as in the movie, except when Boo throws some toys at enemies who are not present in the original film.
Sulley is a walkaround character at the Disney theme parks. He sometimes wears his MU jacket.
In Disney California Adventure, he appears in Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! He also makes cameos in several holiday iterations of World of Color. Sully can currently be found leading the Monsters, Inc. unit of the Paint the Night parade and is seen on the Monsters University float in the Pixar Play Parade. He also occasionally does meet and greet appearances at Pixar Pier.
An animatronic of Sully appears in Monsters, Inc. Ride & Go Seek.
- The nickname Sulley recalls the word "sully" which means "to soil or tarnish"; Sulley played a part in both his and Mike's flunking out of Monsters University's scare program and ruining the reputation of Monsters Incorporated, until he steps in as the new CEO and solves the energy crisis.
- In the original version of the first film's storyline, Sully was going to be a janitor rather than a Scarer. During the credits sequence for Monsters University, we learn he and Mike were janitors for Monsters Inc. at some point between the two movies.
- According to the original treatment from the DVD, Sulley's working name was Johnson, and later Mulley, and instead of being the best scarer as seen in the movie, he was a clumsy monster who was very bad at his job. This persona was ultimately given to Thaddeus Bile instead.
- In another early draft, one of his original names was Hob, and instead of working as a scarer, he actually worked for a TV show.
- One prototype drawing of Sulley showed him with brown fur, while another showed him wearing glasses, and a third showed him with tentacles for legs. The reason for Sulley to be drawn with legs for his final design is due to the fact that the animators were afraid that the viewers would focus too much on the tentacles instead of his face had he been drawn with such. Sulley's glasses were included in the final designs and test renderings, but they were removed as the animators felt that his face would not be readable.
- In some earlier versions of the film, Sulley was the son of Bigfoot and was considered a legacy employee. He was also more intellectual and tried to come up with practical inventions to help with scaring, though these usually backfired.
- Dean Hardscrabble warns Sulley that his roar would make a child with a fear of snakes cry instead of scream and not only producing no scream energy would also tell his/her parents and therefore endangering the monster world foreshadows the fact that Sulley accidentally scares Boo and makes her cry before Waternoose and Randall banish him and Mike to the Himalayas, causing him to realize that scaring is bad, and the fact that Boo was seriously afraid of Randall, a reptilian monster whose resemblance is similar to that of a snake.
- Sulley's design was said to be based on that of a prehistoric giant ground sloth.
- In Monsters, Inc., Sulley has 2,320,413 hair strands. 25,336 of them are "key" hairs used to guide the motion and shape of the other 2,295,077. When Boo touched Sulley's finger near the end of the film, a Pixar technical director had to hand animate the hairs to make them react.
- Sulley has 5.5 million rendered hairs in Monsters University, 5 times as many as in Monsters, Inc.
- Physically, Sulley has 5,475,458 hairs on his body. He weighs 768 or 795 pounds.
- It's revealed in Monsters University that Sulley's father is actually named Bill Sullivan.
- At one point, they made Sulley wear glasses, which was a bad idea because it was hard to see the eye expressions of the character.
- In the French version, Sulley is named "Jacques Sullivent" and is nicknamed "Sulli".
- Sulley is the fourth Pixar protagonist to break the law, after Lightning McQueen, Carl Fredricksen, and Mike (who broke the law at the same time as Sulley).
- Sulley has the same name as the late James Owen "The Rev" Sullivan, who is famous for being the founding member and original drummer of the American heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold.
- Bill Murray was originally considered for the role of Sulley. He screen tested for the role and was interested in the part, but when Pete Docter was unable to make contact with him, he took it as a "no". In addition to Murray, George Wendt, Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd, and Robin Williams also auditioned for the role of Sulley.
- The outtakes reveal Sulley "stuffed up" several takes, constantly tripping over things.
- Pixar's Official Twitter account posted an image of Sully and Mike dressed in costumes for Halloween. In the image, Sulley wears a costume that closely resembles Bernie Kropp, the teacher from The Incredibles.
- "Disney Television Animation News post 2". Tumblr. Retrieved on April 9, 2019.
- Price, David A. (2008). The Pixar Touch, pp. 197-200. New York, Alfred A. Knopf
- The Science Behind Pixar: Fun Facts
- Episode 13 of the Pixar Post Podcast - Monsters University Press Day Part 3 of 3