Illumination Entertainment, or simply Illumination, 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 and owning all the films. The studio is best known for being the creators of the Despicable Me franchise, its spin-off/prequel Minions and the films The Secret Life of Pets and Sing. The Minions, characters from the Despicable Me films, are the studio's official mascots. Its films are co-produced and/or distributed by Universal Pictures.
Illumination's highest-grossing films are Minions (2015), which has grossed $1.159 billion worldwide, Despicable Me 3 (2017), $1.027 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.
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 within its feature animation group (alongside Gingo Animation) 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.
To maintain the separation of Illumination and Gingo despite their now common ownership and management, Gingo founders Geo G. and 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 Geo "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 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.
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.
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 $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 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. Directed by Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, it features Louis C.K. as a Jack Russell Terrier named Max, Eric Stonestreet as a mongrel named Duke, and Kevin Hart as a rabbit named Snowball. Hannibal Buress, Bobby Moynihan, Lake Bell, Ellie Kemper, Jenny Slate, and Albert Brooks also provide voices in the film. The second film, Sing, a comedy about "courage, competition and carrying a tune," written and directed by Garth Jennings, was released on December 21, 2016. Despicable Me 3 was released on June 30, 2017, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas on November 9, 2018, directed by Pete Candeland and Yarrow Cheney from an adaptation by Michael LeSieur, and The Secret Life of Pets 2 on June 7, 2019, while Minions 2 is scheduled to be released on July 3, 2020, and Sing 2 is scheduled to be released in time for the holiday season 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.
Feature films Edit
Released films Edit
|#||Title||Release date||Budget||Box office||RT||MC|
|1||Despicable Me||July 9, 2010||$70 million||$543.1 million||81%||72|
|2||Hop||April 1, 2011||$63 million||$184.0 million||25%||41|
|3||The Lorax||March 2, 2012||$70 million||$348.8 million||53%||46|
|4||Despicable Me 2||July 3, 2013||$76 million||$970.8 million||73%||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||74%||61|
|7||Sing||December 21, 2016||$632.2 million||73%||59|
|8||Despicable Me 3||June 30, 2017||$79 million||$1.029 billion||61%||49|
Upcoming films Edit
|9||Dr. Seuss' The Grinch||November 9, 2018|
|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||June 30, 2023|
Films in development Edit
|Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat|
|Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase|
|Despicable Me 4|
|Untitled Mario movie|
Short films Edit
|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 7, 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||March 21, 2017|
|The Secret Life of Kyle||December 5, 2017|
- Illumination has not yet made a G-rated production, as every one of its feature-length films so far has been rated PG by the MPAA (as of the short film Mower Minions), due to stricter reasons.
- Official website
- Illumination Entertainment on Wikipedia
- Illumination Entertainment on Internet Movie Database
- Illumination Entertainment at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- Official YouTube channel