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🎶Yes, I wouldn't be nothing If I didn't have you.🎶
~ Sulley singing.
I don't believe I ordered a wake-up call, Mikey.
~ Sulley after Mike honks a horn in his face, his first lines in the movie.
Yeah, I'm a Sullivan! I'm the Sullivan who flunked every test! The one who got kicked out of the program! The one who's so afraid to let everyone down, that I cheated! And I lied! Mike, I'll never know how you feel. But you're not the only failure here. I act scary, Mike... but most of the time... I'm terrified.
~ Sulley telling Mike that his family reprimanded him for never being the best scarer as his father, while admitting that he considers himself as a failure.

James P. Sullivan, or also known as Sulley for short, is the main protagonist of Pixar's 4th full-length animated feature film, Monsters Inc., the deuteragonist of its 2013 prequel and Pixar's 14th full-length animated feature film Monsters University and a major character in the Disney+ animated series Monsters At Work. He is Mike Wazowski's best friend and former arch-rival.

He is voiced by John Goodman, who also voiced Yellow in the mid 90s M&M's commercials, Baloo in The Jungle Book 2, Hound in the Transformers franchise, Rex in We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story and Pacha in The Emperor's New Groove, and portrayed William Randa in Kong: Skull Island.

Appearance

Sulley is a large bear-shaped monster with two hooked horns, covered in sky blue fur with purple spots.

History

Monsters, Inc.

In the first film, Sulley was top scarer of Monsters, Inc., and was naturally afraid of humans due to their rumored "toxic touch" that could kill 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 girl. 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 rival who also wants to be top scarer, and Sulley's boss Mr. Waternoose, the CEO of Monsters, Inc., tries to use Boo in an experiment to forcibly extract screams for the growing energy crisis that relies on their cries to provide, and risking his friendship with Mike, Sulley comes to her rescue and in the process discovers that a child's laughter is 10 times more powerful than their screams. Sometime after Mr. Waternoose is arrested by the CDA, Sulley becomes the new CEO, changes the policy to obtain children's laughter instead of scream, successfully turning the energy crisis around.

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.

Monsters University

Sulley appears in the prequel, looking shorter, skinnier, and shaggier.

He makes a ferocious debut by interrupting his first Scaring class with the Lion roar from the 1995 film Jumanji by TriStar Pictures, 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 legacy get him recognized by and accepted into ROR, the premiere campus fraternity.

However, Sulley was soon upstaged by Mike in his classes (due to Sulley not putting real effort into his work), which leads to ROR considering revoking his membership. Eventually, Mike and Sulley's petty rivalry 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 Jumanji Lion 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, and Sulley notices Worthington and his frat-boys leave without a word to him. 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 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 on 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 winning 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. During the party, which is at ROR house, the ROR pranks Oozma Kappa and humiliates them in front of the whole university. 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.

Thanks to Mike and Sulley, Oozma Kappa makes it to the final round against ROR. But the night before the final round, Sulley speaks with Hardscrabble, hoping that 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 the two of them go to bed, Sulley 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.

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 but the rest of OK are ashamed that they won because Sulley cheated and leave behind the trophy. Rebuffing ROR's attempt to get him back into their fraternity, Sulley, feeling guilty, confesses to Dean Hardscrabble about the cheating, leading a furious Hardscrabble to demand he 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.

Sulley enters the door and arrives at the camp looking for Mike. At the camp, the police have arrived looking for intruders and Sulley is mistaken for a bear, chased into the woods. 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 that 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 cops 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, the two manage to scare the park rangers so much, that not only they are able to power the door, the door blasts off from the surplus energy. This causes Mike and Sulley to be detained by the CDA, thus expelling them from MU.

While they are leaving MU, Dean Hardscrabble encourages them to keep "surprising" 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 the credits, it is shown that both of them rise from being mailmen to an efficient scare team, thus establishing the story for Monsters, Inc.

Mike's New Car

In the short, Sulley is featured as the secondary. 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.

Monsters at Work

Personality

James P. Sullivan was initially unmotivated, work-shy, and something of a clock-watcher to begin with. His overconfidence about his family name and own scaring abilities gave him a cocky disposition. This was not without case however, as he was definitely one of the most talented Scarers to begin with at Monsters University and his skills only bettered with age; as a teenager he was simply too slothful to put enough effort in honing his skills, literally the only claim to him being or becoming a great Scarer was his Sullivan blood and mild skills. For him scaring was something a monkey was only born with or good at instantly and didn't think that you needed to study it to become an expert, jolting at Mike Wazowski's studying for the Scare Finals claiming it was something you just "do". Rather ironically Mike (who was considered by many to be not scary) did extremely well at Monkeys University whereas James kept failing and was kicked out of ROR for his poor scores on tests.

Beneath his snooty demeanor, James hides feelings of insecurity and genuine fear. Though he appeared to brag endlessly about his family name beforehand, in reality James fears he cannot match the monumentally high standards, that which is expected of a Sullivan and does the exact opposite; make others expect nothing of him by instead acting like a unmotivated, party-hearty student. His own feelings of inadequacy about his family's, teacher's and peers expectations lead him to perform less than honorable actions such as blaming Mike for both of them being excluded from the Scaring Program or cheating in the final of the Scare Games when they had no chance of winning honestly. He later expresses these feelings to Mike, claiming that although he never knew what he felt like, he was an equal amount of a failure as he was.

After being expelled from the Scaring Program, Sullivan's demeanor grew more despondent (although this is probably because his insecurities and worst fears come to pass, letting everyone down). Also he grew much more sullen and bitter, especially towards Mike whom he blamed for getting both of them expelled from the Scaring Program (in reality it was more of a share blame).

Quotes

I don't need to know any of that stuff to scare. (Hardscrabble: That "stuff" would've informed you that this particular child is afraid of snakes. So a roar wouldn't make him scream, it would make him cry, alerting his parents, exposing the monster world, destroying life as we know it, and of course we can't have that. So I'm afraid I cannot recommend that you continue in the Scaring program. Good day.) Wait, what? But I'm a Sullivan. (Hardscrabble: Well then, I'm sure your family will be very disappointed.)
~ Sulley was kicked out of the Scaring program because he believed that being a Sullivan was enough.
Hey, that looks like Randall. Randall's your monster. And you think he's gonna come thru the closet and scare you. Oh boy... how do I explain this...? Uh, it's empty. See? (Boo exclaims) No monster in here. (...) Well, now there is. But uh, I'm not gonna scare you.
~ Sculley realizing Boo is scared of Randall Boggs.
(Hardscrabble: You did what?) My team had nothing to do with it. It was all me. I cheated. (Hardscrabble: I expect you off campus by tomorrow.) Yes, ma'am. (Hardscrabble: You're a disgrace to this university and your family name.)
~ Sulley admits to having cheated.
Make her laugh!
~ Sulley to Mike to make Boo laugh
She's not scared of you anymore. (Boo: ROOAARR!!!) Looks like you're out of job.
~ Sulley to Randall after Boo beat him up
That right, Boo! You did it! You beat him!
~ Sully to Boo, after beaten Randall and banished him into the human world,
Kitty has to go.
~ Sulley farewell to Boo
Mike, you're not scary, not even a little, but you are fearless!
~ Sulley exposing to Mike to he doing right things.

Audio Samples

Trivia

  • Sulley is the deuteragonist of the prequel, playing a secondary role to Mike Wazowski.
  • Bill Murray was originally considered for the role. He screen tested for the role and was interested in the part, but when Pete Docter was unable to contact him, he took it as a "no". In addition to Murray, Samuel E. Wright, Steve Martin, Ernie Sabella, George Wendt, Dan Aykroyd, Jason Alexander and the late Robin Williams were also considered for the role.
  • His design is based on The Beast and ground sloths.
  • His personality is based on Lambert the Sheepish Lion
  • In an early concept art, Sulley was originally going to have tentacles for legs.
  • He had some of his roars just like the Lion from the 1995 film Jumanji from 2001-2025 where as his realistic roars are like Lambert's roar which is Disney's Ferocious Roar sound effect until when they replaced all Jumanji Lion Roars with Disney's Ferocious Roar sound effect.

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See also
A Bug's Life Heroes | Brave Heroes | Buzz Lightyear of Star Command Heroes | Cars Heroes | Coco Heroes | Finding Nemo Heroes | Incredibles Heroes | Inside Out Heroes | Luca Heroes | Monsters, Inc. Heroes | Onward Heroes | Ratatouille Heroes | Soul Heroes | The Good Dinosaur Heroes | Toy Story Heroes | Turning Red Heroes | Up Heroes | WALL.E Heroes

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James P. Sullivan (Sulley) | Mike Wazowski | Boo | Celia Mae | CDA | Roz | Needleman and Smitty | George Sanderson | The Yeti

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