The Unexpected Success of the Minions: How an Army of Yellow Minions Has Come to Dominate Animated Film

They are small beings, some with two eyes and others with only one, they can barely be understood when they speak and they have an intelligence that can be described as limited: this is what minions are like. When they designed them, the team was not sure if they would work, but 12 years later they have been crowned the highest grossing animation saga in history, above Shrek Y toy story. And his last movie, Minions: the origin of Gru, has managed to get the public to dress in a suit and tie to go to the movies, as if it were a wedding. With this fifth installment, released on July 1, they have become the only animated franchise that has managed to overcome the barrier of 4,000 million euros in worldwide collection. And since their first film, in 2010, they have not yet conquered the world, but they have won the cinemas and the hearts of the spectators.

Its origin has an Iberian flavor. After having worked on films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame (nineteen ninety six), Hercules (1997) or Tarzan (1999), the Spanish animator Sergio Pablos left Disney. He wanted to return to Europe, create his own company and apply here everything he had learned across the pond. When he founded The SPA Studios he had many ideas about what stories to tell, but they all failed and did not come to fruition. “We were waiting to die,” the animator confessed on his YouTube channel. But Pablos still hadn’t used up all his bullets. He thought of a story in which a great villain, the most evil of all and capable of subjugating the entire world, had to deal with being the father of three little girls. The proposal pleased Chris Meledandri, CEO of Illumination Entertainment, and with directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin, they got to work.

The team liked the idea, but when they thought about how to top it off, it occurred to Coffin that this evil character should have his own army of minions. At first they were thought to be beefy minions, but that brutality didn’t fit the tone of the film and they felt they needed a twist. “Very quickly, we realized that they were very unappealing and made Gru a totally unlikable antihero,” Coffin told in Guardian. So they started with the modifications: “To make him charismatic [a Gru], we had the idea that he would know all of his little helpers by their first names, though there were hundreds, and suddenly Gru seemed more likeable. Then we put goggles on them, added overalls, making them look like these mole-man-type subterranean creatures, gave them an increasingly saturated yellow skin tone, and then they became the minions. And we knew from that first scene that they balanced the other characters, had great comedic potential, and were super cute.”

Stuart, Bob and Kevin are three of the most popular Minions.

Another factor that had to be developed was their language, the minion. At first they tried different languages ​​with them, from perfect English to being mute, but they didn’t consider it to work either. So Coffin, who is half French and half Indonesian, thought it would be fun if they spoke a mixture of several languages. He crafted for them then a mixture of English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Indian, and Russian. And he himself was in charge of putting the voices to all of them. Actress Allison Janney, who played a supporting character in The minions (2015), stated that the minion “It’s the most amazing language because, unlike any other language, you kind of don’t have to understand it, for some reason. Even if it doesn’t make sense, you see the minions talking and you know what’s going on.”

Silent film influences

And that, apart from the language, has a lot to do with the behavior of the yellow beings. With the visual and sound aspects resolved, it remained to agree on what his attitude was going to be. So that language wouldn’t become an issue, they took codes from silent movies, and being designed to be funny, they relied heavily on physical humor. Although they are under the orders of Gru and their performance is crucial for the development of the film, on many occasions they appear representing small humorous scenes or sketches. In fact, director Renaud admits that they were also based on the looney tunes: “There’s a Looney Tunes classic where Tweety drinks a Jekyll and Hyde formula and turns into a big furry monster. The idea of ​​something beautiful turning into something monstrous is an attractive thought. We always laugh because the henchmen, even though they’re henchmen working for a bad guy, they’re not really evil.”

When they began their journey, they still did not bet too much on their power of attraction. Own Sergio Pablos, who ended up “in love with them”, did not understand very well what was happening with the movie he had imagined, in which there were no minions: “The first time I saw them I did not know what I was seeing, honestly. She didn’t know what role they were going to have in the movie, she didn’t know what they had in mind. So I have been the first to have had an experience very similar to that of the fans: I have seen how they have grown, how they have become what they are today, and I have to take my hat off to the mastery that the fans have had. directors when making this selection”.

Gru, in the foreground, with his minions in'Minions: The Origin of Gru'.
Gru, in the foreground, with his minions in ‘Minions: The Origin of Gru’.

Steve Carell, who was in a good position after finishing office, He was chosen to voice Gru, the main villain. And not even Carell himself, who stands out for his comedic roles, saw the humor in the minions: “The first time they introduced me I thought ‘ok, good luck with this’, because they showed me a picture and I thought ‘Well, yes, these yellow, cylindrical objects that have glasses, that don’t speak english, that speak in babble so you can’t even really understand what they’re saying, and they’re hilarious, sure. I was like ‘ok, well good for you. This is one…'”, Carell assured in a television program, “and in the end it turned out to be genius. You don’t know what it’s going to look like until you see the finished movie. And it was magical.”

A gala premiere

The magic has spread over the years, and the minions have become one of the most prominent characters in pop culture. Its latest installment, which arrived on July 1, is the fourth best premiere of the year, behind Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the newly released Thor: Love and Thunder Y Jurassic World Dominion, respectively. But, above all of them, Minions: the origin of Gru got some viewers to dress in suits and ties to attend the room. A phenomenon that was born on the TikTok platform and that has been replicated among the younger audience internationally. In fact, some cinemas in the United Kingdom ended up prohibiting people from going to the cinema in this outfit, as a result of the uproar generated by these groups.

Spain has not been immune to this trend. Juandi Mena, who works at the Madrid cinema Cinesa Proyecciones, assures that almost every day a group of friends dressed in suits appeared to see the new minions movie: “At first I even thought that they were still at graduations, but on the fifth day I already realized that it was too much”. He confirms that, just like in the UK, some also caused a ruckus.

Hugo Longarela and his friends, dressed to see'Minions: The origin of Gru'.
Hugo Longarela and his friends, dressed to see ‘Minions: The origin of Gru’.

Although others, like the Asturian Hugo Longarela and his gang of friends, just wanted to dress up and spend the afternoon watching the film. “It didn’t take us long to agree, because it was just a matter of putting on the suit one afternoon for fun. The car in which we went was mine, so we put the condition that they either came in a suit or they didn’t get in the car,” says Longarela on the phone. So they went to the cinema, where “everyone freaked out, because we went before it became fashionable, we went and people didn’t understand anything. They asked us why we were wearing a suit.” Now it’s time to save the tuxedo until 2024, when the next installment is scheduled, Gru my favorite villain 4. Until then the minions say goodbye, or, as they would say, Poopay!

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The Unexpected Success of the Minions: How an Army of Yellow Minions Has Come to Dominate Animated Film