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 (film) (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 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.
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 $970 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 provide additional voices in the film. The second film, Sing, a comedy written and directed by Garth Jennings, was released on December 21, 2016. Despicable Me 3 was released on June 30, 2017, while Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas is scheduled for release on November 9, 2018, directed by Peter Candeland and Yarrow Cheney from an adaptation by Michael LeSieur, and The Secret Life of Pets 2 on June 7, 2019, Minions 2 is scheduled to be released on July 3, 2020, and Sing 2 is scheduled to be released 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.
|1||Despicable Me||July 9, 2010||$69 million||$543.1 million||81%||72|
|2||Hop||April 1, 2011||$63 million||$184 million||25%||41|
|3||Dr. Seuss' The Lorax||March 2, 2012||$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||$75 million||$631.8 million||72%||59|
|8||Despicable Me 3||June 30, 2017||$80 million||$1.027 billion||60%||49|
|Dr. Seuss' The Grinch||November 9, 2018|
|The Secret Life of Pets 2||July 3, 2019|
|Minions 2||July 3, 2020|
|Sing 2||December 25, 2020|
|Untitled films||July 2, 2021|
|July 1, 2022|
|December 21, 2022|
|June 30, 2023|
Films in development
|Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat|
|Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase|
|1||Home Makeover||December 14, 2010|
|2||Orientation Day||December 14, 2010|
|3||Banana||December 14, 2010|
|4||Brad & Gary||2011|
|5||Phil's Dance Party||March 23, 2012|
|6||Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem||July 2, 2012|
|7||Wagon Ho!||August 7, 2012|
|8||Forces of Nature||August 7, 2012|
|9||Serenade||August 7, 2012|
|10||Puppy||December 10, 2013|
|11||Panic in the Mailroom||December 10, 2013|
|12||Training Wheels||December 10, 2013|
|13||Cro Minion||December 8, 2015|
|14||Competition||December 8, 2015|
|15||Binky Nelson Unpacified||December 8, 2015|
|16||Mower Minions||July 8, 2016|
|17||Norman Television||December 6, 2016|
|18||Weenie||December 6, 2016|
|19||Gunter Babysits||March 21, 2017|
|20||Love at First Sight||March 21, 2017|
|21||Eddie's Life Coach||March 21, 2017|
|22||The Secret Life of Kyle||December 5, 2017|
- 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.