From producer CHRIS MELEDANDRI (Ice Age, Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!) comes the story of one of the world's greatest super-villains who meets his biggest challenge when three children enter his life. Read an interview with producer Chris Meledandri
In a happy suburban neighborhood surrounded by white picket fences and flowering rose bushes sits a black house with a dead lawn. Unbeknownst to the neighbors, hidden deep beneath this home is a vast secret hideout. Surrounded by an army of mischievous little minions, we discover Gru (STEVE CARELL of Get Smart, Horton Hears a Who!, television's The Office) planning the biggest heist in the history of the world. He is going to steal the moon (Yes, the moon!).
Gru delights in all things wicked. Armed with his arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays and battle-ready vehicles for land and air, he vanquishes all who stand in his way. That is, until the day he encounters the immense will of three little orphaned girls who look at him and see something that no one else has ever seen: a potential Dad.
Starring alongside Carell in Despicable Me are comedy stars JASON SEGEL (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You, Man), MIRANDA COSGROVE (Nickelodeon's No. 1 live-action show iCarly) and legendary Academy Award winner JULIE ANDREWS (The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, The Princess Diaries series).
The troupe of established and emerging comedic actors who joins them includes RUSSELL BRAND (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), KRISTEN WIIG (Date Night, TV's SNL), WILL ARNETT (Monsters vs. Aliens, Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!), DANNY MCBRIDE (Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express) and JACK MCBRAYER (TV's 30 Rock, Forgetting Sarah Marshall).
Despicable Me is directed by Oscar-nominee CHRIS RENAUD (Annie Award-winning short No Time for Nuts, director of upcoming Dr. Seuss' The Lorax) & PIERRE COFFIN (Pat et Stanley).
Creating the original songs and themes for the film is Grammy Award-winning artist and blockbuster music producer PHARRELL WILLIAMS, who composes the score with HEITOR PEREIRA (It's Complicated, Beverly Hills Chihuahua). The music is produced by Academy Award winner HANS ZIMMER (The Lion King, The Dark Knight, Sherlock Holmes).
The 3-D CGI film is based on a story by SERGIO PABLOS and a screenplay by CINCO PAUL & KEN DAURIO (Horton Hears a Who!, Dinner for Schmucks). The animated comedy's executive producers are NINA ROWAN (Oscar-winning animated short Bunny) and Sergio Pablos.
Finding Illumination: Meledandri Joins Universal
In early 2007, Universal Pictures began to build its family and animation film business by bringing aboard blockbuster producer Chris Meledandri to shepherd the initiative. Meledandri had spent many years at 20th Century Fox, where he founded the studio's animation division and oversaw the launch of its blockbuster Ice Age franchise. With the creation of Meledandri's new production company, Illumination Entertainment, Universal would finance and distribute a slate of live-action and animated films that would be led by the successful filmmaker.
Meledandri, who had been an executive at Fox for 13 years, became founding president of 20th Century Fox Animation during his tenure at the studio. He headed that division for eight years, amassing more than $2 billion in global box-office revenue for the studio. The producer oversaw Fox's 1998 acquisition of the East Coast-based, small visual-effects house Blue Sky Studios and its transformation into the studio's successful CG-animation arm, which employs more than 250 artists. While there, Meledandri also supervised and/or executive produced such blockbusters as Robots, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Simpsons Movie and Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!
Offers Meledandri about the transition: "I found that I could not turn away from the extraordinary opportunity that Universal offered me: the entrepreneurial aspect, the excitement about a new company, the breadth of the production mandate to include all forms of animation, as well as live action, and the studio's ideas about movies--specifically their commitment to quality, as well as their ideas about how to market movies in an increasingly competitive marketplace."
So Despicable: The Project Begins
"The original concept of Despicable Me was pitched to me by Sergio Pablos, who is a Spanish animator based with a small animation studio in Spain," explains Chris Meledandri. "We immediately knew that screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio were the team to write the screenplay." The writers had worked with the producer on the global hit Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!, and Meledandri felt they had just the sensibility to bring Sergio Pablos' original story to life.
Paul and Daurio had navigated intricate animated worlds before with Meledandri. In their last film together, they gave life to Dr. Seuss' beloved character Horton, telling the story of a gentle elephant who hears a faint cry for help from a dust mote that's floated past. The film, directed by Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino, was an enormous hit and solidified the two as comedy scribes. For their newest project, they elaborated upon Pablos' idea of one of the world's greatest super-villains, a man who finds more to life than reveling in wicked deeds.
From the beginning, it was important to Illumination to construct a tale that would put a trademark stamp on the types of films the production house would be creating. That would not involve two-dimensional heroes or antagonists. Reflects Meledandri: "The idea of making an animated film in which the villain is your protagonist is unusual and very challenging. By the end of the film, Gru has undergone a transformation, and it's that transformation that's made possible by starting him in a place where there are aspects of him that are downright unlikable. You would not have a sense of appreciation for the journey he's gone on as a character had we not started him at that point."
Fellow producer John Cohen knew that Despicable Me would stand out by showing the side of our humanity of which we're not always so proud. "For a while, we've wanted to make a movie about a villain told from the villain's perspective," he says. "Chris heard this idea that came from Sergio Pablos, who is a terrific animator. Sergio and Nina Rowan, who are executive producers, brought this original idea to Chris, and he immediately fell in love with it. It's a great, clear concept for a movie with comedy built in and a very unique character at the core."
Cohen liked exploring the notion that each of us has a bit of wickedness inside just waiting to be expressed. He continues: "Gru offers a wish fulfillment. When you're waiting in line at a grocery store--and the person in front of you has 25 items in the express line and decides to pay with a check--that would be the perfect time to use a freeze ray. There's a great deal of comedy that springs from a character who gets to act out some of the things we wish we could do."
When it was time to select the project's directors, Meledandri turned to Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Chris Renaud and acclaimed Sorbonne-trained animator Pierre Coffin to helm the project. Renaud's years of collaboration with Marvel and DC Comics allowed him to illustrate some of the most iconic characters of the modern era. For his part, Coffin has created several of the most viewed animated shorts on YouTube, including "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."
"Chris Renaud is somebody who I've worked with for many years, going back to Fox and Blue Sky Studios," Meledandri comments. "He came up through our story department and started out as a storyboard artist, but his experience prior to joining us involved a much deeper level of animation experience. His roots come from the comic book world, where early on in his career he illustrated comic books. Chris has a wonderful sense of story and how to translate that into imagery. We had a particularly successful experience with him directing a short at Blue Sky called No Time for Nuts, which was nominated for an Oscar."
Coffin comes to this side of the industry from his work in such celebrated animated shorts such as Flying Fish Tobby Who Aimed for the Stars and Pings. "He's worked on a number of short animation pieces that are absolutely extraordinary," continues Meledandri. "Pierre has that gift of being able to capture and define personality with the most subtle of movements. My attention was drawn to Pierre while visiting Paris and being shown about 15 minutes of his work. I knew that he could bring a sense of personality and character to this film that would be wonderful in defining the character of Gru and finding his vulnerability, as well as his edge."
While Renaud's strength is in storyboarding, fellow director Coffin's primary work has been in animated performance. Indeed, that is primarily how the two men split their Herculean responsibilities as they crafted Despicable Me. Management of the lighting, compositing and art direction teams would be divided between the two.
Good vs. Evil Who's Who in Gru's World?
While it's initially a bit uncertain who is naughty and who is nice in Despicable Me, all will be revealed as the story unfolds. Explore the dastardly and delightful players in Gru's world. Read more
Populating Despicable Me: Casting Comic Talent
When bringing together the cast for Illumination's first animated feature, the directors and producers of Despicable Me were adamant about selecting actors who could not only bring out the humor of their voices, but also channel their comic physicality to inspire the many animators who worked on the project. Cohen explains: "The way we approached the casting is that we wanted to find the absolute best improvisational comedians out there. They brought a level of spontaneity and naturalistic performances to the film." Read more Read an interview with Steve Carrell Read an interview with Jason Segel Read an interview with Julie Andrews
Suburban Gothic: Visual Style of the Animated Comedy
When the filmmakers were determining what the world they had imagined would look like on film, they instinctively knew that Gru should never plot his villainy in a boring, humdrum neighborhood. Explains Cohen: "The look of Despicable Me and the world of the movie is very much inspired by a Charles Addams and Edward Gorey sensibility. The art director of the movie, Eric Guillon, and the production designer, Yarrow Cheney, have come up with a bright and vibrant visual aesthetic that's unlike any other animated movie you've ever seen." Read more
Adorable Gibberish: Amassing a Minion Army
Born out of the animation process were the scene-stealers the production came to know as Gru's minions. Though not in the original pitch, the adorable (yet incredibly mischievous) minions quickly became favorites for the animators as they built Gru's world. Renaud laughs: "Minions tend to work best when there are at least 20 of them. So that's 20 more characters to animate. Almost every scene with them became a crowd scene, which was technically very challenging." Read more
Space for Comedy: Shooting in 3-D
Not only is Despicable Me Illumination's first film, it is also the first project that the Meledandri team has produced in 3-D. Before the layout began, the producers and directors knew that Gru's world would be further embraced by audiences if an extra dimension was added. They requested that Paul and Daurio look for opportunities to utilize 3-D as they crafted their script, but only when it made logical sense. The screenwriters were guided in their decision making to insert 3-D suggestions in such scenes as when Gru and Vector fire their array of missiles, when airships fly past or when smoke trails from a vehicle float out across the audience. Read more
A Global Production: From France to the U.S.
As the team began preproduction for Despicable Me, Meledandri searched across the world to find production houses that would be ideal partners in animating the film. As they built Illumination, they felt it was important to choose the shops that were the best fit for each production in the pipeline. After visiting a number of studios, the producer traveled to France to investigate shops from that country's tremendous traditions in animation. Read more
Having a Bad, Bad Day:Music of Despicable Me
In the past several years, Grammy Award-winning artist Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes and N.E.R.D. has written and produced for such blockbuster global musicians as Gwen Stefani, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Madonna, Kanye West and Shakira. In 2009, Billboard magazine named The Neptunes producers of the decade, and Williams and his collaborators have played an enormous role in shaping the culture of the music landscape. Naturally, the next step for the artist was to explore the interplay between music and movies. Read more
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Having worked for Marvel and DC Comics from 1994 to 2000, CHRIS RENAUD (Directed by/Dave the Minion/Additional Character Design) comes from a background in comic art. From there, he moved to production design at Shadow Projects and Big Big Productions, where he worked on the Emmy-nominated children's programs Bear in the Big Blue House and It's a Big Big World. With these projects, he oversaw all aspects of the animation process, including character development, creating concept storyboards and managing teams of digital modellers and artists.
He progressed to Blue Sky Studios/20th Century Fox Animation, where he worked as a story artist on a number of feature animation projects, including Robots, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. His role was to translate the screen story into the visual language of cinema, inventing and staging both dramatic and comedic action.
In 2007, Renaud conceived, wrote and storyboarded the animated short No Time for Nuts, overseeing every creative aspect of production, including design, layout, lighting, rendering, music composition and sound design. No Time for Nuts was nominated for an Academy Award, and it went on to win the animation industry's Annie Award for Best Short.
Renaud will next direct Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment's Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, scheduled for release on March 2, 2012.
PIERRE COFFIN (Directed by/Minion Voices) studied cinema at the Sorbonne University between 1985 and 1988. While engaged in his military service, he withdrew in order to sit for the Gobelins entry exam. He succeeded and followed the 2-D course from 1990 to 1993. Coffin then moved to England and worked for one year as a junior animator at Amblimation, Steven Spielberg's animation studio. Back in France, he worked as a freelance CG artist for the National Center of Pedagogical Documents, helping to create various educational programs for French television.
In 1996, Coffin began working at Ex Machina, the leading animation company at the time. He became lead animator, then head of animation, and worked on short films including Flying Fish Tobby Who Aimed for the Stars. But it was with his short film Pings (1997) that his style was recognized. Shortly thereafter, he co-directed, with SoandSau, a commercial for Pastilles Vichy.
He joined Wanda as an animation director and then Passion Pictures, which works hand in hand with Mac Guff Ligne on all its CG commercials. While there, he worked on several commercials, as well as a miniseries for BBC1 (part of The Lenny Henry Show) called Polar Bears. Recognized as the "animal-commercial director," Coffin is famous for commercials including Dédé (for the Française des Jeux, the largest French lottery), Caisse d'Epargne (a leading French Bank) and, recently, Oasis.
In 2007, Coffin directed a seven-minute teaser for his feature film Bones Story (Les Films d'Antoine/Mac Guff Ligne). He also directed Pat et Stanley, which was awarded Special Prize for a TV Series at the 2009 French Annecy Animation Festival.
As 3-D productions are on the way to becoming the norm, CINCO PAUL (Screenplay by) is right on trend with two high-profile 3-D animated films on his resume. He is set to co-direct the highly anticipated Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, an adaptation of the iconic environmental-themed children's book, which is scheduled for release in March 2012.
Paul and his writing partner, Ken Daurio, are the hot Hollywood screenwriting team who penned the Horton Hears a Who! screenplay for executive Chris Meledandri during his tenure at 20th Century Fox. When Horton Hears a Who! led to a nearly $300 million worldwide box-office gross, Meledandri formed the film production company Illumination Entertainment, which specializes in animation. Illumination's first three movies given the green light were all written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio: Despicable Me, Hop and Dr. Seuss' The Lorax. Paul and Daurio are known throughout the entertainment industry for their unique pitching style, often singing their pitches to high-level studio executives. For the Disney film College Road Trip, they belted out the '80s tune "Double Dutch Bus" complete with harmony and melody. An estimated 90 percent of their pitches in the last nine years have involved a musical performance.Paul met Daurio while working on a church musical and they bonded immediately. In 1999, they sold the screenplay for their first short film, Special, and the film went on to play in the festival circuit due to the dark comedic storyline. Next came the 2001 cult classic Bubble Boy, which starred Jake Gyllenhaal as Jimmy Livingston (a boy without an immune system), a twisted take on the John Travolta television movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Paul also turned the movie Bubble Boy into a full-length musical and wrote the music and lyrics. It will be directed by Stephen Schwartz and released in 2011. His other film credits include Disney's megahit The Santa Clause 2. Paul and Daurio had the distinct honor of being handpicked by Audrey Geisel (the widow of Theodor Seuss Geisel) to pen Horton Hears a Who! and The Lorax film projects on behalf of the estate of Dr. Seuss. Paul studied at Yale University, where he graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English. Upon moving to Los Angeles, he attended the screenwriting program at the University of Southern California, winning a fellowship grant to pay for his second year.
As 3-D productions are on the way to becoming the norm, KEN DAURIO (Screenplay by) is right on trend with two high-profile 3-D animated films on his resume. He is set to co-direct Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, an adaptation of the iconic author's environmental-themed children's book that is scheduled for release in March 2012. Daurio and his writing partner, Cinco Paul, are the hot Hollywood screenwriting team who penned the Horton Hears a Who! screenplay for executive Chris Meledandri during his tenure at 20th Century Fox. After Paul and Daurio's work on Horton lead to a nearly $300 million worldwide box-office gross, the duo found themselves in demand in the animation world. Daurio and Paul further forged their strategic relationship with Meledandri when he formed the film production company Illumination Entertainment, which specializes in animation. It's no coincidence that Illumination's first three movies that were given the green light were all written by Daurio and Paul (Despicable Me, Hop and The Lorax), something unheard of in the history of animation. Daurio and Paul are known throughout the entertainment industry for their unique pitching style, often singing their pitches to high-level studio executives. For the Disney film College Road Trip, they belted out the '80s tune "Double Dutch Bus," complete with harmony and melody. An estimated 90 percent of their pitches in the last nine years have involved a musical performance. Daurio met Paul while working on a church musical and they bonded immediately. In 1999, they sold their first screenplay, Special, which they later turned into a short film that played the festival circuit due to the dark comedic storyline. Next came the 2001 cult classic Bubble Boy, which starred Jake Gyllenhaal as Jimmy Livingston (a boy without an immune system), a twisted take on the John Travolta television movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. Paul and Daurio also had the distinct honor of being handpicked by Audrey Geisel (the widow of Theodor Seuss Geisel) to pen Horton Hears a Who! and The Lorax film projects on behalf of the estate of Dr. Seuss. Upon graduating from high school, Daurio began directing music videos for up-and-coming bands like Blink 182, AFI and Jimmy Eat World. More than 100 music videos later, he teamed up with Cinco Paul to write his first feature script. Daurio and Paul are now one of Hollywood's most sought-after screenwriting teams.
SERGIO PABLOS (Based on a Story by/Executive Producer) was born in Barcelona, Spain, and studied character animation at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. He is the creative director and CEO of Animagic SL, based in Madrid. Some of his early animation work includes Batman: The Animated Series, Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too!, A Goof Troop Christmas and A Goofy Movie. Pablos also worked on the Disney films The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Tarzan and Treasure Planet. For his work on Treasure Planet, Pablos was nominated for an Annie Award for Outstanding Character Animation. He was a supervising animator and team supervisor on Asterix and the Vikings and Nocturna; was the art supervisor on Simon and Schuster's "Trucktown"; was the character designer and team supervisor for Blue Sky Studios' Rio; and is currently the supervision animator and team supervisor on Moonscoop's Titeuf.
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