What was the inspiration behind the Minions from Despicable Me?
With three Despicable Me canned movies and one on the way in 2024, plus a spin-off Minions movie and Minions: The Rise of Gru coming this summer, with various short films, web series, video games, and theme park rides, it’s hard to imagine a world in general without Minions, forget the world of Despicable Me. But did you know that the Minions as we know them weren’t even in the original pitch?
According to a 2013 Los Angeles Times article, there wasn’t even a specific mention made of the tiny yellow mayhem makers in the initial draft of the script that would eventually turn into a franchise blaster Despicable Mewritten by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio.
The original concept of Despicable Me was pitched by former Disney animator Sergio Pablos, who pitched the idea to Illumination Entertainment executive Chris Meledandri, who then shared the idea with future directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. In an interview with cartoon brewRenaud notes that “the character of Sergio [of Gru] was Gothic, though it had the appearances of other things; he kinda looked like Dracula and he had these big ogre-like henchmen.
In the same interview, when asked how the ogres turned into the Minions we now know and love, Coffin said, “I guess it was an attraction issue for Gru. We continued to find that the sillier the better. So the Minions, as irresponsible, childish characters, somehow contribute to Gru’s appeal. They all love him as children unequivocally love their parents. And so it instantly gave him some sympathy because these little guys loved him.
But they weren’t always childish, and they weren’t always small. Initially, the characters were only brought into the storyline as background characters to help bolster the comedy involved in the evil mastermind Gru’s infamous moon-stealing scheme.
As they began fleshing out the characters, Coffin and Renaud began channeling other classic cinematic sycophants, in particular, according to the Los Angeles Time article, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory‘s Oompa-Loompas – who dutifully serve Mr. Wonka while hauntingly singing the exit music for every greedy Golden Ticket holder – as well as star wars‘Tiny droid-thieving Jawas. Filmmakers began to see that brevity was part of their appeal. Renaud also told Cartoon Brew that the Minions were influenced by “old Warner Bros. cartoons of the Bugs Bunny tradition.”
In order to bring the evil little enablers to life, Coffin and Renaud teamed up with character designer Eric Guillon. According vanity loungethe Minions actually started out, design-wise, as little human factory workers, whose size also served to contrast their taller evil leader.
Soon their development became more robotic, as the designers felt that audiences might find the naivety of the bots more believable, while they could also be seen as a better punching bag. In the end, they decided to merge the robots with something more human (or at least more organic) to create something totally new and undeniably adorable.
You will soon have the opportunity to fall in love with the little troublemakers again, because Minions: The Rise of Gru opens wide in theaters on July 1. Waiting, Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, and the first Minions movie are streaming now on Peacock.