Illumination Entertainment, or simply Illumination, is an American film and animation studio, founded by Chris Meledandri in 2007. It is owned by Meledandri and Universal Studios, 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 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), $1.033 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. While at those companies 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.
In 2016, NBCUniversal acquired competing studio DreamWorks Animation, appointing Meledandri to oversee both studios.
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, Despicable Me, 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), which opened to a much bigger than expected $37 million opening, and ended up with $108 million domestically and $183 million worldwide. An adaptation of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, debuted on March 2, 2012, 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 over $970 million worldwide, 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, and has 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 theater count ever with 4,536 theaters in its 2nd week. The second film from Illumination based on a Dr. Seuss book, The Grinch, is scheduled for release on November 9, 2018, and is directed by Peter Candeland and Yarrow Cheney from an adaptation by Michael LeSieur. Other future projects are The Secret Life of Pets 2, Minions 2, and Sing 2. 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 feature adaptations of books such as Ricky Gervais' Flanimals, Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat and Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase; a film adaptation based on the short Johnny Express, and Despicable Me 4.
In 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 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.
On November 14, 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported that Illumination is teaming up with Nintendo to make an animated Mario film. In January 2018, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima stated that, if plans go smoothly, a Mario movie could happen by 2020. On January 31, 2018, Nintendo of America announced on Twitter that they are partnering with Illumination on a movie starring Mario, it will be co-produced by Shigeru Miyamoto and Chris Meledandri.
|#||Title||Release date||Co-production with||Animation service(s)||Budget||Gross||RT||MC|
|1||Despicable Me||July 9, 2010||N/A||Mac Guff||$69 million||$543.1 million||81%||72|
|2||Hop||April 1, 2011||Relativity Media||Rhythm & Hues Studios||$63 million||$184 million||25%||41|
|3||Dr. Seuss' The Lorax||March 2, 2012||N/A||Illumination Mac Guff||$70 million||$348.8 million||53%||46|
|4||Despicable Me 2||July 3, 2013||$76 million||$970.8 million||74%||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||$631.8 million||72%||59|
|8||Despicable Me 3||June 30, 2017||$80 million||$1.035 billion||59%||49|
|#||Title||Release date||Co-production with||Animation service(s)||Current Production Status|
|9||Dr. Seuss' The Grinch||November 9, 2018||N/A||Illumination Mac Guff||Post-Production|
|10||The Secret Life of Pets 2||June 7, 2019||Production|
|11||Minions 2||July 3, 2020||Pre-Production|
|12||Sing 2||December 25, 2020|
|13||Untitled films||July 2, 2021||TBA||Development|
|14||July 1, 2022|
|15||December 21, 2022|
|16||June 30, 2023|
Films in development
|Despicable Me 4|
|Untitled Mario film (co-production with Nintendo)|
|#||Title||Release date||Co-production with||Animation service(s)||Release with||Notes|
|1||Home Makeover||December 14, 2010||N/A||Mac Guff||Despicable Me||Home video release|
|4||Brad & Gary||2011||Illumination Mac Guff||Theatrical release|
|5||Phil's Dance Party||March 23, 2012||Rhythm & Hues Studios||Hop||Home video release|
|6||Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem||July 2, 2012||Reel FX Creative Studios||Theme park ride|
|7||Wagon Ho!||August 7, 2012||Illumination Mac Guff||Dr. Seuss' The Lorax||Home video release|
|8||Forces of Nature|
|10||Puppy||December 10, 2013||Despicable Me 2|
|11||Panic in the Mailroom|
|13||Cro Minion||December 8, 2015||Minions|
|15||Binky Nelson Unpacified|
|16||Mower Minions||July 8, 2016||The Secret Life of Pets||Theatrical release|
|17||Norman Television||December 6, 2016||Home video release|
|19||Gunter Babysits||March 21, 2017||Sing|
|20||Love at First Sight|
|21||Eddie's Life Coach|
|22||The Secret Life of Kyle||December 5, 2017||Despicable Me 3|
|The Secret Life of Pets||2016–present|
- The Minions are Illumination's mascot.
- 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.
- This company 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.