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Illumination Entertainment is an American animation film production company, founded by Chris Meledandri in 2007. It is owned by Meledandri and Universal Studios, a division of NBCUniversal, with Universal fully financing, owning, and distributing 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's highest-grossing films are Minions (2015), which has grossed $1.159 billion worldwide, Despicable Me 3 (2017), $1.032 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 films are among the 50 highest-grossing animated films, with Minions being the second all-time highest.

History

Meledandri left his post as President of 20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios in early 2007 where he supervised or executive produced movies 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 that would produce one to two films a year starting in 2010. As an independent production company, Illumination retains creative control and Universal exclusively distributes the films. 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 April 28, 2016, NBCUniversal announced its intent to acquire competing studio DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion. Meledandri will oversee both studios following the completion of the merger. On August 22, 2016, the acquisition was completed.

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.

Projects

The studio's first film, 3D CGI feature, 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 $251 million domestically and $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 on March 2 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 $970 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 spin-off to Despicable Me, titled Minions, was released on July 10, 2015 It has grossed over $1 billion worldwide. It was then followed by two original animated stories.

The Secret Life of Pets was released on July 8, 2016.[1] Directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, it features Louis C.K. as a Jack Russell Terrier named Max,[2] Eric Stonestreet as a mongrel named Duke, and Kevin Hart as a rabbit named Snowball.[3] Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Lake Bell, Ellie Kemper, Jenny Slate, and Albert Brooks provide additional voices in the film.[4] The second film, Sing, a comedy written and directed by Garth Jennings, was released on December 21, 2016. Despicable Me 3 was released on June 30, 2017, while Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas is scheduled for release on November 9, 2018, directed by Peter Candeland and Yarrow Cheney from an adaptation by Michael LeSieur, and The Secret Life of Pets 2 on June 7, 2019, Minions 2 is scheduled to be released on July 3, 2020, and Sing 2 is scheduled to be released on December 25, 2020. It will be followed by four more untitled films; the release dates are: July 2, 2021; July 1, 2022; December 21, 2022; and June 30, 2023.

Other films in development include the animated feature adaptation of books like Ricky Gervais' Flanimals, Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat and Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase, the film adaptation based on the Johnny Express short, and Despicable Me 4.

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 Orlando, Hollywood, and Osaka. The ride officially opened on July 2, 2012 in Orlando, Hollywood on April 12, 2014, and Osaka on April 21, 2017.

In November 2017, the Wall Street Journal claimed that Illumination is teaming up with Nintendo to make an animated Mario film.

Filmography

Feature films

Released

# Title Release date Budget MC
1 Despicable Me July 9, 2010 $69 million $543.1 million
2 Hop April 1, 2011 $63 million $184.0 million
3 Dr. Seuss' The Lorax March 2, 2012 $70 million $348.8 million
4 Despicable Me 2 2013 $76 million $970.8 million
5 Minions July 10, 2015 $74 million $1.159 billion
6 The Secret Life of Pets July 8, 2016 $75 million $875.5 million
7 Sing December 21, 2016 $632.2 million
8 Despicable Me 3 June 30, 2017 $80 million $1.032 billion

Upcoming

Title Release date
Dr. Seuss' The Grinch November 09, 2018
The Secret Life of Pets 2 June 6, 2019
Minions 2 July 3, 2020
Sing 2 December 25, 2020
Untitled films July 2, 2021
July 1, 2022
December 21, 2022
June 30, 2023

In development

Title
Flanimals
Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase
Johnny Express
Despicable Me 4
Untitled Mario film

Short films

Title Release date
Home Makeover, Orientation Day, and Banana December 14, 2010
Brad & Gary 2011
Phil's Dance Party March 23, 2012
Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem July 2, 2012
Serenade, Wagon-Ho, and Forces of Nature August 8, 2012
Puppy, Panic in the Mailroom, and Training Wheels December 10, 2013
Cro Minion, Competition, and Binky Nelson Unpacified December 8, 2015
Mower Minions July 8, 2016
Norman Television and Weenie December 6, 2016
Gunter Babysits, Love at First Sight, and Eddie's Life Coach 2017
The Secret Life of Kyle December 5, 2017

Accolades

Academy Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2014 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
2011 Despicable Me Best Animated Feature Film Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin Nominated
2014 Despicable Me 2 Best Animated Feature Film
2017 Sing Best Animated Feature Film Garth Jennings
Best Original Song "Faith" – Ryan Tedder, Stevie Wonder and Francis Farewell Starlite

BAFTA Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2011 Despicable Me Best Animated Film Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin Nominated
2014 Despicable Me 2 Best Animated Film
2016 Minions Best Animated Film Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda

Critics Choice Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2011 Despicable Me Best Animated Film Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin Nominated
2014 Despicable Me 2 Best Animated Film
Best Original Song "Happy" – Pharrell Williams

Annie Awards

Year Film Category Winner/Nominee(s) Result
2011 Despicable Me Best Animated Feature Chris Meledandri 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
2012 Hop Character Animation in a Live Action Production Andrew Arnett
2013 The Lorax Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Eric Guillion, Yarrow Cheney and Colin Stimpson
Music in an Animated Feature Production John Powell, Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul
2014 Despicable Me 2 Best Animated Feature Chris Meledandri
Best Animated TV/Broadcast Commercial 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 Guillion
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
2016 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 Gullion
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
2017 The Secret Life of Pets Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Eric Gullion
Music in an Animated Feature Production Alexandre Desplat
Sing Joby Talbot

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