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Illumination, known until 2017 as Illumination Entertainment, is an American film and animation studio founded by Chris Meledandri in 2007 and owned by Universal Pictures, a division of NBCUniversal, which is itself a division of Comcast. Meledandri produces the movies while Universal finances and distributes all the films. The studio is best known for its Despicable Me franchise, and has also produced the films The Secret Life of Pets and Sing. The Minions, characters from the Despicable Me films, are the studio's official mascots.

Illumination has produced nine feature films, beginning with Despicable Me (2010) and its most recent being The Grinch (2018). The studio's highest-grossing films are Minions (2015), which has grossed $1.159 billion worldwide, Despicable Me 3 (2017), $1.033 billion, and Despicable Me 2 (2013), $970.8 million. All three are among the 50 highest-grossing films of all time, and six of the studio's films are among the 50 highest-grossing animated films of all time, with Minions being the fifth all-time highest.

History

Meledandri left his post as President of 20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios in early 2007, where he had supervised or executive produced films including Ice Age (2002), its sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006), Robots (2005), and Horton Hears a Who! (2008). After leaving, he founded Illumination Entertainment. By 2008, a deal was announced positioning Illumination as NBCUniversal’s family entertainment arm within its feature animation group (alongside Universal Animation Studios) would produce one to two films a year starting in 2010. Like Universal Animation, Illumination retains creative control and Universal exclusively distributes the films.

To maintain the separation of Illumination and Universal Animation despite their now common ownership and management, Universal Animation founder Michael Wildshill "drew a hard line" that each studio was solely responsible for its own projects and would not be allowed to borrow personnel from or lend tasks out to the other. Wildshill said that he and the staff "make sure the studios are quite distinct from each other. We don’t want them to merge; that would definitely be the wrong approach. Each should have its own personality." During the summer 2011, Illumination acquired the animation department of the French animation and visual effects studio Mac Guff, which animated Despicable Me (2010) and The Lorax (2012), and formed Illumination Mac Guff.

On August 22, 2016, NBCUniversal acquired competing studio DreamWorks Animation, appointing Meledandri to oversee both studios.

Process

Meledandri is determined to keep his company adhering to a low-cost model, recognizing that "strict cost controls and hit animated films are not mutually exclusive". In an industry where movie expenses often exceed $100 million, Illumination's first two releases were completed with significantly lower budgets, considering Despicable Me's $69 million budget and the $63 million budget of Hop. One way the company sustains a lean financial model is by employing cost-conscious animation techniques that lower the expenses and render times of its computer graphics.

Creative team

Unlike Disney's Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar, and Warner Bros' Warner Animation Group, Illumination doesn't rely on the "brain trust" or "filmmaker-driven studio" in which all directors, writers, and lead storyboard artists at the studio look at each other's projects on a regular basis and give each other very candid "notes" (the industry term for constructive criticism), Instead for its creative team, Illumination often uses the same core of creators. Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 were directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud; Coffin went on to direct Minions and Despicable Me 3 respectively, while Renaud directed The Lorax and The Secret Life of Pets, respectively. Screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio wrote Illumination's first four films (Despicable Me, Hop, The Lorax, Despicable Me 2) as well as The Secret Life of Pets and Despicable Me 3. Brian Lynch has written Hop, Minions, and The Secret Life of Pets.

Projects

The studio's first film Despicable Me, starring Steve Carell, was released on July 9, 2010 and was a smash hit, earning $56 million on its opening weekend and going on to earn $543 million worldwide. Illumination's second film was the live action/CGI hybrid Hop (2011), starring Russell Brand and James Marsden. The film opened to a much bigger than expected $37 million opening, and ended up with $108 million domestically and $183 million worldwide. In 2012, an adaptation of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax debuted, earning $70 million on its opening weekend, and eventually found its way to $214 million stateside and $348 million worldwide. The studio's first sequel Despicable Me 2 opened in the United States on July 3, 2013, earning worldwide over $964 million, becoming the second highest-grossing 2013 animated film and breaking a record as the most profitable Universal Studios film in its 100-year history. The Despicable Me spin-off Minions was released on July 10, 2015 and grossed over $1 billion worldwide.

The Secret Life of Pets was released on July 8, 2016. Directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, the film would earn $104 million in its opening weekend, $368 million stateside, and $875 million worldwide. Sing, a comedy written and directed by Garth Jennings, was released on December 21, 2016. It was the first movie for the studio to have a Christmas release. The film would earn $56 million in its first 5 days, grossing $270 million stateside and $634 million worldwide. It also holds the record for the highest grossing film not to ever be at #1 in its run. Despicable Me 3 was released on June 30, 2017, and became the 2nd film to earn $1 billion for the studio, and set a record for the highest theater count ever with 4,536 theaters in its 2nd week. Dr. Seuss' The Grinch, Illumination's second film based on a Dr. Seuss book, was released on November 9, 2018, and is directed by Peter Candeland and Yarrow Cheney from a screeplay by Michael LeSieur.

In May 2011, Illumination announced that it would be working with Universal Studios to create Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, a 3-D ride at Universal Studios in OrlandoHollywood, and Osaka. The ride officially opened on July 2, 2012 in Orlando, Hollywood on April 12, 2014, and Osaka on April 21, 2017.

Upcoming projects

Other future projects are The Secret Life of Pets 2Minions 2, and Sing 2, and will be followed by four more untitled films. Other films in development include Despicable Me 4, and an animated film based on the Mario franchise with a co-production with Nintendo. In January 2018, then-Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima stated that, if plans go smoothly, a Mario movie could happen by 2020. On January 31, 2018, Nintendo announced during a fiscal meeting that they are partnering with Illumination on a movie starring Mario, which will be co-produced by Chris Meledandri and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto. On November 6, 2018, Illumination announced that the Mario film could be released by 2022. Also, Illumination is working with musician Pharrell Williams on an original animated film that will be "made from scratch".

Filmography

Feature films

Further information: List of Illumination films

Released films

# Title Release date Budget Box office RT MC
1 Despicable Me July 9, 2010 $70 million $543.1 million 81% 72
2 Hop[S] April 1, 2011 $63 million $184.0 million 25% 41
3 Dr. Seuss' The Lorax March 2, 2012 $70 million $348.8 million 53% 46
4 Despicable Me 2 July 3, 2013 $76 million $970.8 million 74% 62
5 Minions July 10, 2015 $74 million $1.159 billion 56% 56
6 The Secret Life of Pets July 8, 2016 $75 million $875.5 million 73% 61
7 Sing December 21, 2016 $632.2 million 72% 59
8 Despicable Me 3 June 30, 2017 $80 million $1.033 billion 59% 49
9 Dr. Seuss' The Grinch November 9, 2018 $75 million $322.4 million 57% 51
SCombines live-action with animation.

Upcoming films

# Title Release date
10 The Secret Life of Pets 2 June 7, 2019
11 Minions 2 July 3, 2020
12 Sing 2 December 25, 2020
13 Untitled films July 2, 2021
14 July 1, 2022
15 December 21, 2022
16 Untitled animated Mario film 2022
17 Untitled film June 30, 2023

Films in development

Title
Despicable Me 4
Untitled Pharrell Williams film

Direct-to-video films

# Title Release date
1 Despicabopolis March 20, 2018

Short films

Theatrical shorts

# Title Release date
1 Brad & Gary 2011
2 Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem July 2, 2012
3 Mower Minions July 8, 2016
4 Yellow is the New Black November 9, 2018

Direct-to-video short films

# Title Release date
1 Home Makeover December 14, 2010
2 Orientation Day
3 Banana
4 Phil's Dance Party March 23, 2012
5 Wagon Ho! August 7, 2012
6 Forces of Nature
7 Serenade
8 Puppy December 10, 2013
9 Panic in the Mailroom
10 Training Wheels
11 Cro Minion December 8, 2015
12 Competition
13 Binky Nelson Unpacified
14 Norman Television December 6, 2016
15 Weenie
16 Gunter Babysits March 21, 2017
17 Love at First Sight
18 Eddie's Life Coach
19 The Secret Life of Kyle December 5, 2017

Franchises

Title Release date
Despicable Me 2010–present
Minions 2015–present
The Secret Life of Pets 2016–present
Sing

Accolades

Academy Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2013 Despicable Me 2 Best Animated Feature Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin & Chris Meledandri Nominated
Best Original Song "Happy" – Pharrell Williams

Golden Globe Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2010 Despicable Me Best Animated Feature Film Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin Nominated
2013 Despicable Me 2
2016 Sing Garth Jennings
Best Original Song "Faith" – Ryan Tedder, Stevie Wonder and Francis Farewell Starlite

Annie Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2010 Despicable Me Best Animated Feature Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy and John Cohen Nominated
Voice Acting in a Feature Production Steve Carell
Character Design In an Animated Film Carter Goodrich
Directing in a Feature Production Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin
Music in a Feature Production Pharrell Williams and Heitor Pereira
Production Design in a Feature Production Yarrow Cheny and Eric Guillon
2011 Hop Character Animation in a Live Action Production Andrew Arnett
2012 The Lorax Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Eric Guillon, Yarrow Cheney and Colin Stimpson
Music in an Animated Feature Production John Powell, Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul
2013 Despicable Me 2 Best Animated Feature Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy
Best Animated TV/Broadcast Commercial Despicable Me 2 Won
Voice Acting in a Feature Production Steve Carell Nominated
Kristen Wiig
Pierre Coffin
Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production Jonathan Del Val
Character Design In an Animated Film Eric Guillon
Directing in a Feature Production Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin
Music in a Feature Production Pharrell Williams and Heitor Pereira
Production Design in a Feature Production Yarrow Cheny and Eric Guillon
Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Eric Favela
2015 Minions Outstanding Achievement in Animated Effects in an Animated Production Frank Baradat, Antonin Seydoux, Milo Riccarand and Nicolas Brack
Voice Acting in a Feature Production Jon Hamm
Pierre Coffin
Outstanding Achievement in Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Eric Guillon
Character Design In an Animated Film
Outstanding Achievement in Character Animation in a Feature Production Hichem Arfaoui
Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Habib Louati
2016 The Secret Life of Pets Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Eric Guillon
Music in an Animated Feature Production Alexandre Desplat
Sing Joby Talbot
2017 Despicable Me 3 Best Animated Feature Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy
Animated Effects in an Animated Production Bruno Chauffard, Frank Baradat, Nicolas Brack and Milo Riccarand
Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Eric Guillon
2018 The Grinch Music in an Animated Feature Production Danny Elfman and Tyler, The Creator Pending
Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Habib Louati
Editorial in an Animated Feature Production Chris Cartagena

BAFTA Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2010 Despicable Me Best Animated Film Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin Nominated
2013 Despicable Me 2
2015 Minions Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda

Critics' Choice Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2010 Despicable Me Best Animated Film Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin Nominated
2013 Despicable Me 2 Best Animated Film
Best Original Song "Happy" – Pharrell Williams
2017 Despicable Me 3 Best Animated Film Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda
2018 The Grinch Best Animated Film Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney Pending

Kids' Choice Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2010 Despicable Me Favorite Animated Movie Won
Favorite Buttkicker Steve Carell Nominated
2012 The Lorax Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Taylor Swift Nominated
2013 Despicable Me 2 Favorite Animated Movie Nominated
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Steve Carell Nominated
Miranda Cosgrove Won
2015 Minions Favorite Animated Movie Nominated
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Sandra Bullock Nominated
2016 The Secret Life of Pets Favorite Animated Movie Nominated
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Kevin Hart Nominated
Favorite Villain Won
Most Wanted Pet Won
Sing Favorite Animated Movie Nominated
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Reese Witherspoon Nominated
Most Wanted Pet Nominated
2017 Despicable Me 3 Favorite Animated Movie Nominated

Producers Guild of America Award

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2010 Despicable Me Outstanding Producer of Animated Theatrical Motion Picture Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy and John Cohen Nominated
2013 Despicable Me 2 Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy
2015 Minions
2016 The Secret Life of Pets
2017 Despicable Me 3

Gallery

Posters

Logos

Trivia

  • The Minions are Illumination's mascot.
  • Despicable Me is popular for using the theme song for the 1968 MGM movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and the opening theme for the original 1967 Columbia Pictures version of Casino Royale.
  • Illumination has not yet made a G-rated production, as every one of its feature films so far has been rated PG by the MPAA (as of the short film Mower Minions).
  • Starting with Despicable Me 3, the company is referred to as Illumination in their logo and marketing.

See also

External links


v - e - d
Illumination logo 2017
Theatrical films
Despicable Me (2010) • Hop (2011) • The Lorax (2012) • Despicable Me 2 (2013) • Minions (2015) • The Secret Life of Pets (2016) • Sing (2016) • Despicable Me 3 (2017) • The Grinch (2018)
Upcoming films
The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019) • Minions 2 (2020) • Sing 2 (2020)
Short films
Home Makeover (2010) • Orientation Day (2010) • Banana (2010) • Brad & Gary (2011) • Phil's Dance Party (2012) • Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem (2012) • Wagon Ho! (2012) • Forces of Nature (2012) • Serenade (2012) • Puppy (2013) • Panic in the Mailroom (2013) • Training Wheels (2013) • Cro Minion (2015) • Competition (2015) • Binky Nelson Unpacified (2015) • Mower Minions (2016) • Norman Television (2016) • Weenie (2016) • Gunter Babysits (2017) • Love at First Sight (2017) • Eddie's Life Coach (2017) • The Secret Life of Kyle (2017)
Franchises
Despicable Me (2010–present) • Minions (2015–present) • The Secret Life of Pets (2016–present) • Sing (2016–present)
Directors
Pierre CoffinChris RenaudYarrow CheneyGarth Jennings
Producers
Chris MeledandriJanet HealyJohn Cohen
Writers
Cinco Paul and Ken DaurioBrian Lynch
Associated Figures
Chris MeledandriPierre Coffin
Signature Voice Actors
Steve CooganJenny SlateChris RenaudMichael BeattieJim CummingsBill FarmerTara Strong


v - e - d
NBCUNI Logo
Universal Filmed Entertainment Group
Universal PicturesUniversal Pictures Home EntertainmentUniversal Animation StudiosIlluminationIllumination Mac GuffDreamWorks AnimationFocus FeaturesGramercy PicturesWorking Title FilmsNBCUniversal Entertainment Japan
Television Production
NBCUniversal Television DistributionUniversal TelevisionUniversal Television AnimationDreamWorks Animation Television
Former Studios
MCA Inc.Pacific Data ImagesUniversal Interactive
Universal Parks & Resorts
Universal Studios HollywoodUniversal Orlando Resort (Universal Studios FloridaIslands of AdventureCityWalk) • Universal Studios JapanUniversal Studios SingaporeUniversal Studios Beijing