Illumination

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Illumination (formerly known 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 the Despicable Me film series and has also produced the films The Secret Life of Pets, Sing and Esqua.

Illumination has produced 11 feature films, with its latest release being Esqua, with an average gross of $695.4 million per film. The studio's highest-grossing films are Minions (2015), which has grossed $1.159 billion worldwide, Despicable Me 3 (2017), $1.034 billion and Despicable Me 2 (2013), $970.8 million. All three are among the 50 highest-grossing films of all time, and 7 of their films are among the 50 highest-grossing animated films, with Minions being the fifth all-time highest.

Illumination is currently managed by Chris Meledandri (Chief Executive Officer) and Keith Feldman (Chief Operating Officer), under the direction of David Stainton and Michael Wildshill who also oversee Universal Animation.

History[edit | edit source]

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, with Universal Animation founder Michael Wildshill heading Illumination as president of animation and production. 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, 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 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.

Meledandri prefers to keep Illumination adhering to a low-cost model, recognizing that "strict cost controls and hit animated films are not mutually exclusive". In an industry where film expenses often exceed $100 million, Illumination's first two releases were completed with significantly lower budgets, considering Despicable Me's $69 million budget and Hop's $63 million budget. 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.

In September 2012, Universal named former Walt Disney Feature Animation president Peter Schneider the new president of Universal Animation and Illumination; however, in January 2013, Schneider resigned for personal reasons. In September 2013, Universal named David Stainton, another former Disney Animation president, as the president of the Universal Animation and Illumination divisions.

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

On January 11, 2017, Universal announced that Illumination (including Illumination Mac Guff) would be integrated as an unit within the Universal Animation Studios, with Michael Wildshill and David Stainton retaining their positions as the heads and presidents of the studio, which would now operate as a label of Universal Animation Studios.

Projects[edit | edit source]

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 theatre count ever with 4,536 theatres 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 screenplay by Michael LeSieur. The Secret Life of Pets 2, the sequel to 2016's The Secret Life of Pets, was released on June 7, 2019. Esqua, an original film directed by Michael Wildshill and Colin Stimpson, was released on March 20, 2020.

On May 19, 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[edit | edit source]

Future projects include Sing 2 set for December 22, 2021 and Minions: The Rise of Gru set for July 1, 2022. After that, release dates have been set aside for two more films whose titles have not been announced: June 30, 2023 and June 7, 2024. Other films in development include Despicable Me 4. 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 frequent collaborator and musician Pharrell Williams on an original animated film that will be "made from scratch".

Filmography[edit | edit source]

Feature films[edit | edit source]

Further information: List of Illumination films

Released films[edit | edit source]

# Title Release date Distributor/Co-production with Animation service(s) Budget (millions) Gross Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic
1 Despicable Me July 9, 2010 Universal Pictures Mac Guff $69 $543 million 81% 72
2 Hop[a] April 1, 2011 Universal Pictures
Relativity Media
Rhythm and Hues $63 $184 million 25% 41
3 Dr. Seuss' The Lorax March 2, 2012 Universal Pictures Illumination Mac Guff $70 $348 million 53% 46
4 Despicable Me 2 July 3, 2013 $76 $970 million 75% 62
5 Minions July 10, 2015 $74 $1.159 billion 55% 56
6 The Secret Life of Pets July 8, 2016 $75 $875 million 73% 61
7 Sing December 21, 2016 $632 million 72% 59
8 Despicable Me 3 June 30, 2017 $80 $1.034 billion 58% 49
9 Dr. Seuss' The Grinch November 9, 2018 $75 $511 million 59% 51
10 The Secret Life of Pets 2 June 7, 2019 $80 $433 million 60% 55
11 Esqua March 20, 2020[b] $41 million 92% 78
  1. Combines live-action with animation
  2. The film was originally planned to be released theatrically in the United States on this date. However, on March 16, Universal Pictures announced that the film would be released simultaneously in drive-in theaters, as regular movie theaters closed due to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and through Premium VOD in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, South Korea and Italy. This affected the number of projections and the box office performance of the screenings. As the pandemic receded, the film was released back in regular theatres.


Upcoming films[edit | edit source]

# Title Release date Distributor/Co-production with Animation service(s)
12 Sing 2 December 22, 2021 Universal Pictures Illumination Mac Guff
13 Minions: The Rise of Gru July 1, 2022
14 Untitled animated Mario film 2022 Universal Pictures
Nintendo

Television shows[edit | edit source]

Online series[edit | edit source]

# Title Premiere date End date Network Co-production with
1 Brian the Minion June 10, 2015 present Movieclips Trailers Fandango

Short films[edit | edit source]

# Title Release date Distribution/co-production with Animation service(s) Release with Notes
1 Home Makeover December 14, 2010 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Mac Guff Despicable Me Home video release
2 Orientation Day
3 Banana
4 Brad & Gary July 1, 2011 Universal Pictures Illumination Mac Guff N/A Theatrical release
5 Phil's Dance Party March 23, 2012 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Rhythm and Hues Hop Home video release
6 Wagon Ho! August 7, 2012 Illumination Mac Guff The Lorax
7 Forces of Nature
8 Serenade
9 Puppy December 10, 2013 Despicable Me 2
10 Panic in the Mailroom
11 Training Wheels
12 Cro Minion December 8, 2015 Minions
13 Competition
14 Binky Nelson Unpacified
15 Mower Minions July 8, 2016 Universal Pictures The Secret Life of Pets Theatrical release
16 Norman Television December 6, 2016 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Home video release
17 Weenie
18 Gunter Babysits March 21, 2017 Sing
19 Love at First Sight
20 Eddie's Life Coach
21 The Secret Life of Kyle December 5, 2017 Despicable Me 3
22 Yellow is the New Black November 9, 2018 Universal Pictures Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Theatrical release
23 The Dog Days of Winter November 23, 2018 NBCUniversal Television Distribution Trolls Holiday Television release
24 Santa's Little Helpers February 5, 2019 Universal Pictures Home Entertainment Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Home video release
25 Super Gidget August 27, 2019 The Secret Life of Pets 2
26 Minion Scouts
27 Puffy and the Egg June 9, 2020 Esqua
28 Minion Vacation
29 Minions Holiday Special November 27, 2020 NBCUniversal Television Distribution N/A Television release

Miscellaneous work[edit | edit source]

Release date Title Notes
2012 Despicable Me Minion Mayhem Theme park ride at several Universal Studios parks and resorts.
Co-production with Universal Creative and Reel FX Creative Studios
2020 The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! Theme park ride at several Universal Studios parks and resorts.
Co-production with Universal Creative

Franchises[edit | edit source]

Title Films First release Latest release
Despicable Me 4 July 9, 2010 June 30, 2017
The Secret Life of Pets 2 July 8, 2016 June 7, 2019

Accolades[edit | edit source]

Academy Awards[edit | edit source]

Year Film Category Recipient(s) Result
2013 Despicable Me 2 Best Animated Feature Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin & Chris Meledandri Nominated
Best Original Song "Happy" – Pharrell Williams
2020 Esqua Best Animated Feature Michael Wildshill

Golden Globe Awards[edit | edit source]

Year Film Category Recipient(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
2020 Esqua Best Animated Feature Film Michael Wildshill

Annie Awards[edit | edit source]

Year Film Category Recipient(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 Dr. Seuss' 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 Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Music in an Animated Feature Production Danny Elfman and Tyler, The Creator
Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Habib Louati
Editorial in an Animated Feature Production Chris Cartagena
2020 Esqua Best Animated Feature Michael Wildshill
Voice Acting in a Feature Production Awkwafina
Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Eric Guillon

BAFTA Awards[edit | edit source]

Year Film Category Recipient(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[edit | edit source]

Year Film Category Recipient(s) Result
2010 Despicable Me Best Animated Film Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin Nominated
2013 Despicable Me 2
Best Original Song "Happy" – Pharrell Williams
2017 Despicable Me 3 Best Animated Film Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda
2018 Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney
2020 Esqua Michael Wildshill

Kids' Choice Awards[edit | edit source]

Year Film Category Recipient(s) Result
2010 Despicable Me Favorite Animated Movie Won
Favorite Buttkicker Steve Carell Nominated
2012 Dr. Seuss' The Lorax Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Taylor Swift
2013 Despicable Me 2 Favorite Animated Movie
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Steve Carell
Miranda Cosgrove Won
2015 Minions Favorite Animated Movie Nominated
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Sandra Bullock
2016 The Secret Life of Pets Favorite Animated Movie
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Kevin Hart
Favorite Villain Won
Most Wanted Pet
Sing Favorite Animated Movie Nominated
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Reese Witherspoon
Most Wanted Pet
2017 Despicable Me 3 Favorite Animated Movie
2018 Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Won
Favorite Male Voice from an Animated Movie Benedict Cumberbatch
2020 Esqua Favorite Animated Movie Nominated
Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie Awkwafina

Producers Guild of America Award[edit | edit source]

Year Film Category Recipient(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
2018 Dr. Seuss' The Grinch
2020 Esqua

Visual Effects Society[edit | edit source]

Year Film Category Recipient(s) Result
2013 Despicable Me 2 Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy, Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin Nominated
2017 Despicable Me 3 Pierre Coffin, Chris Meledandri, Kyle Balda and Eric Guillon
Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature Eric Guillon, Bruno Dequier, Julien Soret, Benjamin Fournet for "Bratt"
Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Axelle De Cooman, Pierre Lopes, Milo Riccarand, Nicolas Brack for "Hollywood Destruction"
Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project Eric Guillon, Francois-Xavier Lepeintre, Guillaume Boudeville, Pierre Lopes for "Dru's Car"
Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature Bruno Chauffard, Frank Baradat, Milo Riccarand, Nicolas Brack
2018 Dr. Seuss' The Grinch Outstanding Visual Effects in an Animated Feature Pierre Leduc, Janet Healy, Bruno Chauffard, Milo Riccarand
Outstanding Animated Character in an Animated Feature David Galante, Francois Boudaille, Olivier Luffin, Yarrow Cheney for The Grinch
Outstanding Created Environment in an Animated Feature Loic Rastout, Ludovic Ramiere, Henri Deruer, Nicolas Brack for Whoville
Outstanding Effects Simulations in an Animated Feature Eric Carme, Nicolas Brice, Milo Riccarand for Snow, Clouds and Smoke

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Posters[edit | edit source]

Logos[edit | edit source]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • The Minions are Illumination's mascots.
  • 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[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]


v - e - d
Illumination logo 2017.png
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) • The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019) • Esqua (2020)
Upcoming films
Sing 2 (2021) • Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022) • Untitled animated Mario film (2022)
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) • Yellow is the New Black (2018) • The Dog Days of Winter (2018) • Santa's Little Helpers (2019) • Super Gidget (2019) • Minion Scouts (2019)
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 MeledandriMichael WildshillDavid StaintonPierre Coffin
Signature Voice Actors
Steve CooganJenny SlateChris RenaudMichael BeattieJim CummingsBill FarmerTara Strong
Visual Development & Storyboard Artists
Eric GuillonYarrow CheneyColin Stimpson


v - e - d
NBCUNI Logo.png
Universal Filmed Entertainment Group
Universal PicturesUniversal Pictures Home EntertainmentUniversal AnimationIlluminationIllumination Mac GuffDreamWorks AnimationFocus FeaturesGramercy PicturesWorking Title FilmsNBCUniversal Entertainment Japan
Television Production
NBCUniversal Television DistributionUniversal TelevisionUniversal Television AnimationGingo AnimationNightHouse 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