Illumination Entertainment is the newest animation studio to step up to compete with the big two studios, Disney and Dreamworks, in the animated film industry. Despite Illumination being so new compared to Disney and Dreamworks, they have risen to popularity in the animated film industry in such a short amount of time.
The company started in 2007 after Chris Meledandri left his former position as president of 20th Century Fox’s animation branch so he could start his own animation studio. While he was with Fox, he was executive producer over animated features such as Ice Age (Wedge and Saldanha, 2002), Ice Age: The Meltdown (Saldanha, 2006), and Horton Hears a Who (Hayward and Martino, 2008). His new studio, Illumination Entertainment, would produce one to two animated films a year starting on 2010 for Universal Studios. Illumination’s first film Despicable Me (Coffin and Renaud, 2010) was an instant hit and placed the fledgling studio on the map. It tells the story of an arrogant, genius super villain who tries to use three orphaned girls in his latest evil plot but slowly becomes more attached to them and wants to take care of them. Throughout the film, Gru (Steve Carell) struggles with the importance of the three girls as his adopted daughters and of his career as a supervillain, all the while competing against a newer, younger super villain. It grossed $543 million worldwide, critics praised it as “fresh, sincere, often lovely and a great deal of fun” (O’Hehir, 2010) and “thoroughly adorable” (Mondello, 2010), and it became the start of the studio’s first franchise. This includes a sequel, Despicable Me 2 (Coffin and Renaud, 2013), a spin-off featuring the Illuminations’s mascot characters, Minions (Coffin and Balda, 2015), and another sequel, Despicable Me 3 (Coffin and Renaud), to be released this year. Despicable Me was a good sign for Illumination that they could create solid animated films, and establish themselves in the industry.
For Illumination’s overall simple story-telling and forced Minion marketing, it has a solid sense of identity that is evident throughout its films and what makes a competent contender with Disney and Dreamworks.
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O’Hehir, Andrew. “‘Despicable Me’: Steve Carell’s adorable supervillain." Salon.com. 9 Jul, 2010.
Scott, A.O. “Bunny Doesn’t Want to Work, Just Wants to Bang the Drum All Day.” The New York Times. 31 Mar, 2011.