In a summer that’s been littered with underperforming would-be blockbusters and outright flops, Despicable Me is a remarkable story for many reasons. Namely, it’s a hit, grossing $56.3 for its opening last weekend, which is massive coming from an up-and-coming animation studio (Illumination, based at Universal) and a completely original film, with no books or previous movies to spring off from (sorry, Toy Story 3). Perhaps most importantly it’s a saving grace for Universal, a studio that’s suffered a long series of flops (last summer seemed like just one disaster after another) and has been struggling for years to break into the family-friendly animation business.
And while Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud are the film’s directors, it’s probably Illumination head Chris Meladandri who deserves most of the credit, for putting the studio together by recruiting all the good animators he knew, and encouraging original ideas amid the expected adaptations and remakes (those are coming down the line). In a ridiculously glowing piece in Deadline Meledandri is showered with all kinds of praise for building what they seem to think is the next Pixar, but they also manage to reveal some actual news about where Illumination may be headed next.
Primarily– and this should come as no surprise– the gears are already in motion for Despicable Me 2, which Meledandri is developing with the film’s writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. They’re also planning two short films featuring The Minions, Gru’s little yellow assistants who were apparently a major part of the film’s appeal to kids. It’s not clear where we might see The Minions next– either before another Illumination film or on the DVD or somewhere else– but you can definitely count on an enhanced role for them in the sequels. Lets hope Pharrell will score that one too, thanks to Aaron.