banana! The minions expanded their empire

Some of the biggest movie stars barely speak English or any other language. Sure, they can sometimes be heard saying “Banana!” or “Smoochy smoochy!” But most of what they say is nonsense. Minions may be the world’s most famous and highest-paid foreign movie star, even if “Minionese” isn’t an officially recognized language.

This summer, the yellow, bespectacled creatures are back to expand their massive empire in “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” which opens in the US on July 1. “Despicable Me” (“My Favorite Villain”) — its fourth installment scheduled for release in 2024 — and its spin-off “Minions” are already ranked as the highest-grossing animated movie in history with more than $3,700 million raised at the box office. Global tickets.

This is a big reason why Universal Pictures has delayed “Rise of Gru” for the past two years of the pandemic. Within 12 years, the Minions – a horde of inept but fiercely loyal followers – had grown into a formidable power with a pervasive cultural presence.

“There are a lot of them, so they have a kind of power that they can overcome,” says Chris Reno, producer of “Rise of Gru” and director of the first two “Despicable Me” films. “It’s like strength with exhaustion.”

“There’s a contradiction between them,” says Kyle Balda, director of “Rise of Gru,” “Minions,” and “Despicable Me 3..” “They want to serve some kind of wicked boss, but there’s nothing really wrong with them. They are very kind, yet they love to see others fail a little. They laugh at each other’s misfortune. They have a lot of flaws, but their flaws ultimately serve them up. One of the things that We often say it fails from the bottom up.”

In fact, failure has taken the Minions a long way, especially considering how close they came to not being there in the first place. When filmmakers and artists at the Paris-based animation studio Illumination were developing “Despicable Me,” the original script had them made “followers and technicians” and the prototypes portrayed as burly men, almost similar to Orc monsters.

So they were designed as cylindrical robots. But filmmakers including Reno, co-director Pierre Coffin, and artistic director Eric Gillon, have continued to play with the concept, trying to channel the spirit of the goa from “Star Wars” or Oumba Lombas from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” “” (“Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”). Since the Despicable Me movie was based on Gru, the evil protagonist, the Minions needed help balancing it out. If the minions love him, he can love them again.

“It was Pierre who said, ‘Maybe they shouldn’t be robots,'” Reno recalls. ‘I said, ‘Well, what about a mole?’ ‘ And he said, ‘I don’t know what that is.’ So I sent some ugly drawings to Pierre and Eric, and then Eric drew a sketch which is basically what we see today. We said, ‘Well, it looks like a bean with goggles.’ It can work.”

But what exactly are minions? Even its creators weren’t sure at first. They thought of a wide range of ideas. Were they created in a lab by the device maker in the movie, Dr. Navario? The Minion was effectively a blank canvas, and filmmakers could channel almost any slapstick effect through them, from Charlie Chaplin to James Bond. Reno says the big hack happened while they were writing a scene in which Minions set up Gru’s online dating profile and are “completely incompetent.”

That’s when the makers of “Despicable Me” began to feel like they’d bumped into something potentially big: veritable animation creation with limitless possibilities. The Minions were wide-eyed and (mostly) innocent like children.

“When we do the design work, they’re like baby animals,” says Renaud. “Even if they misbehave, you forgive them and laugh about it, as you would your children.”

As the key was the sound of the ark of the disciples. Coffin articulated (with the help of pitch adjustment) nearly every client in every movie, spitting out half-words, onomatopoeia and a bag of expressions in a wide variety of languages. If Ark and the team had Indian food for lunch, the Minions would shout “Tikka Masala!”

Since the Minions began to be defined somewhat loosely and ambiguously in nature, the franchise gave them a chance to constantly evolve. In the 2015 movie Minions, their background is filled up a bit: a movie scene has followed them through history and a long list of bosses, from Tyrannosaurus to Napoleon, all unintentionally sabotaged by the Minions. Some of the sequels, such as Kevin, Stewart, and Bob, have been isolated as a trio of brothers. “The Rise of Gru” continues after they meet a young Gru, whom they call “mini-boss” even though he wants to be taken seriously as a villain.

“It’s like a romantic comedy where things don’t go well at first,” Balda says. “The boy meets the girl, the boy loses the girl, and the boy gets the girl back. But in this case, Gru is the girl because the minions are really courting him.”

Attendance of family films has fallen sharply during the pandemic, with many notable children’s films going live on streaming services. But recent films like “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” and “The Bad Guys” have indicated that families are eager to return to theaters. Other family-oriented films are set to open in theaters this summer (most notably “Lightyear,” the first Pixar movie to hit theaters in two years), but Minions and “Rise of Gru” hope to help lead the group. path. The trailer for the movie ends with Minions entering the cinema like children and jumping into their seats.

In the meantime, work continues for the filmmakers to learn more about the monster they’ve created and continue to come up with new jokes for the Minions. In “Rise of Gru”, they learn kung fu, which is a complexity given the size of their legs. Fortunately, it’s not even up to the filmmakers. The disciples are responsible.

“It’s as if the Minions are telling you what they want to do while they’re drawing,” Balda says.

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Jake Coyle is on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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