Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mischievous minions anything but despicable

  • Print
The yellow minions of Despicable Me 2 are appealing and easy to draw, making them stars of the film's marketing efforts.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES Enlarge Image

The yellow minions of Despicable Me 2 are appealing and easy to draw, making them stars of the film's marketing efforts.

LOS ANGELES -- Anybody who looked up into the sky over L.A.'s 101 Freeway last weekend might have noticed a massive, yellow, cylindrical aircraft hovering above the traffic. The floating orb was a blimp painted in the image of a minion -- the gibberish-speaking henchmen from Universal Pictures' Despicable Me 2.

Though Despicable Me 2 has characters voiced by Steve Carell (reformed super-villain Gru), Kristen Wiig (love interest Lucy) and Miranda Cosgrove (Gru's adopted daughter Margo), the animated movie's undisputed stars are Gru's army of minions, whose simple design, high-pitched voices and penchant for mischief have made them a favourite of audiences -- and the new movie's marketers.

The minions weren't in the original script for Despicable Me, which became a surprise hit in summer 2010 based on strong word of mouth. Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud added them as comedic background characters to help facilitate Gru's plan to steal the moon.

In the new movie, which opened Wednesday, Coffin and Renaud once again direct from a screenplay by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul. Gru has left villainy behind to raise his three adopted daughters and the minions are the subject of a major subplot when a powerful super-criminal kidnaps them while they're at an ice cream truck.

"Knowing our own love of the characters and people's affinity for them, we wanted to make the minions integral to the story this time," said Renaud, who along with Coffin supplies the voices of some of the creatures.

When they were creating the characters, Coffin and Renaud thought of other memorable sycophants of cinema -- the orange-skinned Oompa-Loompas from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the brown-robed Jawas from Star Wars -- and realized that short stature was a major part of their appeal.

The filmmakers ended up designing Gru's minions as subterranean, goggle-wearing mole people in coveralls who like to eat bananas and punch one another in the face. "The minions are like children," said Renaud. "They lose their focus, they're not very smart."

Before the movie was released, the filmmakers at Illumination Entertainment, the L.A.- and Paris-based animation studio behind Despicable Me, got strong reactions to the minions' design from other animators and from employees at Universal who would be charged with marketing and distributing the film.

When Illumination chief executive Chris Meledandri showed early storyboards and animation tests to some Japanese animators he knew, they deemed the minions kawaii, a Japanese word meaning cuteness on steroids -- high praise from countrymen of Pokemon and Hello Kitty.

Upon the first film's release, it became clear the minions' simple, graphic nature had another useful quality -- even children can draw them. A search on Pinterest or Instagram reveals thousands of examples of fan-made minion art, from fingernails to costumes -- even an airbrushed van.

The minions' voices, which largely speak nonsense words peppered with the occasional recognizable term like "potato," translate well across international borders as well.

In designing the first teaser trailer for the new film -- which went out last spring -- Illumination and Universal focused not on the new story -- how Gru is faring as a reformed villain -- but on the minions, who sing a 50-second version of the Beach Boys hit Barbara Ann with the word "banana" instead.

Apart from the teaser, the blimp and a blitzkrieg of billboards, the minions also now have their own ride, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, at Universal Studios in Orlando. In 2014, they'll get the ultimate star treatment: a movie simply titled Minions, an origins story.

 

-- Los Angeles Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2013 D6

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

O'Shea says the team is going to stick to the plan after first loss

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • An American White Pelican takes flight from the banks of the Red River in Lockport, MB. A group of pelicans is referred to as a ‘pod’ and the American White Pelican is the only pelican species to have a horn on its bill. May 16, 2012. SARAH O. SWENSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Gardening Column- Assiniboine Park English Garden. July 19, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Which of Manitoba's new landlord-tenant rules are you looking forward to most?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google