EXCLUSIVE: After coming right out of the gate with the animated hit Despicable Me and turning it into a sequel and a just-opened 3D theme park ride at Universal Studios Orlando, Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment has set an untitled feature spinoff based on The Minions as its fifth feature film with Universal. The adorable yellow-colored critters that began as henchmen for Groo in Despicable Me are now leading men (?) for a film Universal will release in 2014.
The film is an original story that will introduce new characters and reprise others that originated in Despicable Me, but the focus is on the antics of the yellow fellows as they interact with human characters. The script is already written by Brian Lynch, and Pierre Coffin will direct and Kyle Balda will co-direct. Coffin co-directed Despicable Me and is helming the sequel with Chris Renaud, and the two of them also do the voices for The Minions. Balda co-directed Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax with Renaud for Illumination.
In devoting a full feature to The Minions, Universal and Illumination are taking on a challenge. Fox Animation has reserved its signature sidekick character Scrat for duty in small doses in the Ice Age films and DreamWorks Animation has done the same with its commando penguin team from Madagascar, though the latter did get an animated TV series. And The Minions don’t exactly speak English, but rather a dialogue understandable mostly to their goggle-eyed cohorts. I understand that Universal and Illumination feel they found a way around this with a story that Meledandri hatched with Coffin, Balda and Renaud. The studio certainly recognizes the popularity of The Minions, merchandizing magnets who are hugely popular on Facebook and other online venues. The 2010 film Despicable Me cost $69 million and grossed over $540 million worldwide, before being turned into the Orlando theme park ride Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.
Production is being coordinated with the Despicable 2 schedule so that the films can come out a year apart. Pre-production on the untitled Minions film will begin concurrent with production of the sequel Despicable Me 2. The sequel, which has Steve Carell reprising and Kristen Wiig and Al Pacino in the voice cast, is in production now and will be released July 3, 2013. Because the team is moving right from the sequel to the spinoff, The Minions film will be released in 2014, with Meledandri and Janet Healy producing. Renaud is exec producer and the CG 3D animation will be done in Paris by Illumination Mac Guff, which Universal acquired last fall to handle Illumination’s family film volume. Below is an explanation of Minion language. This ought to be some script to read: