Weirdest Details About Illumination Movies

Weirdest Details About Illumination Movies


Illumination Entertainment has become one of the biggest and most influential animation studios in the world with movies like Despicable Me and The Grinch. Their blend of family-friendly comedy, gorgeous 3D animation, and deep world-building has led to an array of massive, original franchises. The studio has recently produced Migration, which Illumination hopes continues the trend of growth after The Super Mario Bros. Movie’s massive success.

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Illumination, which usually partners with Universal Studios as a distributor, wasn’t always the juggernaut that it is today. In fact, the first 10 films from any studio’s archives are always going to set the stage for how audiences will define them. Illumination’s first 10 films were a diverse array of original and adapted stories, but many of those projects boast some pretty weird details. It’s, therefore, vital to look at Illumination’s past as it gears up for the future.


Gru Was Initially Too Annoyingly Evil in Despicable Me

  • Despicable Me’s
    popularity is enough to rival the Shrek franchise.

Gru is now known as a loveable and goofy father, boasting some exceptional quotes and hilarious moments of slapstick comedy. But in Gru’s past, he was a heinous villain and only adopted his three children as part of a sinister plan. Despicable Me ended up launching Illumination Entertainment because of its fantastic array of characters and charming narrative.

However, when Despicable Me was early into development, producer Chris Meledandri was unsure that audiences would be able to relate to Gru. He was annoyingly evil throughout the film, and eventually, the creative team had to water him down so that viewers could form that vital connection. The changes to Gru led to Despicable Me becoming a triumph, but it almost went too far down the villainous route.

Hop Was a Flop & Is Still Illumination’s Only Live-Action Project

Weirdest Details About Illumination Movies

  • Hop
    once had a float in a parade in Universal Studios Florida.

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Illumination Entertainment wanted to experiment in its early years and played around with the idea of producing a live-action movie. In its only live-action outing to date, Illumination created Hop, an Easter film about the heir to the Easter Bunny not wanting to take on his massive responsibilities.

Although some will still defend Hop as a fun family film, the production was a big flop. Critics slammed the picture for being an unoriginal mess, and it is still the lowest-grossing Illumination release to date. Although the studio should probably be commended for this risk, it’s clear to see why Illumination has never entered this space again.

The Lorax Was Illumination’s First Time In IMAX Tree-D

The Lorax and Ted by Danny DeVito and Zac Efron

  • The Lorax
    featured an important message about conservation and the environment.

It’s always a difficult challenge to adapt books into animation, especially when the narrative is already so familiar to mainstream audiences. The Lorax marked the first time Illumination would adapt a pre-existing text and this movie would go on to forge a long-term partnership with the custodians of Dr. Seuss’ library.

Illumination wanted to go all out with its release of The Lorax and thus embraced popular technology at the time. The film was made for both 3D and IMAX, forcing the studio into the modern age of cinema. The Lorax was promoted as being viewable in IMAX Tree-D, a pun that played on the plot of the film. The move paid off, with The Lorax staying at the top of the box office multiple weekends in a row, thus influencing Illumination’s future strategy.

Despicable Me 2’s Complex Special Effects Crashed Illumination’s Hardware

The Minions and Gru in Despicable Me 2

  • Despicable Me 2
    introduced a love interest for Gru.

A sequel usually has to be bigger and better and Illumination Entertainment was keen to take its Despicable Me franchise to the next level. Thus, the team worked tirelessly to create a realistic yet stylized final product that was as gorgeous to look at as it was moving and fun. Illumination was ambitious in its animation plans, and that came back to bite the studio.

Despicable Me 2’s special effects, such as fire and water, were so complex that they crashed Illumination’s systems. Despicable Me 2 is still among the best animated movies in existence, but it almost fell at the first hurdle with such big technological challenges knocking back the studio. Luckily, a change in drives put the animators back on track.

Minions Was Inspired By a Theme Park Ride

  • The Minions have now expanded to restaurants and another ride in Universal Studios.

Minions should have seemed like a no-brainer for Illumination, as the silly sidekicks were massively popular among younger viewers and could serve as a natural protagonist to continue the Despicable Me franchise. Oddly enough, though, it was not those original films that gave executives the idea to create a Minions spinoff.

Writer Brian Lynch had noticed that the simulator ride, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, at Universal Studios was incredibly popular. It was that attraction that first got the concept of a Minions prequel greenlit, with the ride’s story indicating that there was actually some narrative potential in the goofy henchmen.

The Secret Life of Pets Was Supposed to Be a Murder Mystery

A cat and two dogs in Secret Life of Pets

  • The Secret Life of Pets featured Easter eggs to another Illumination movie,
    The Lorax
    .

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The Secret Life of Pets is yet another franchise builder in Illumination Entertainment’s arsenal and one they would revisit in a few scenarios down the line. The first film provided evidence that Illumination wasn’t a one-hit wonder, but when the creative team first started playing with ideas for the movie, they almost landed on something quite different.

There was talk in the early stages of The Secret Life of Pets’ development that the film could be a murder mystery. However, that kind of genre doesn’t always fit well within family-friendly storytelling and the creative team was finding it hard to locate a heart to the piece with that narrative premise. Illumination eventually moved away from the idea toward something more relatable.

Sing Was Originally Called Something Else

SING Movie cast listening to someone singing

  • Sing
    served as a fun take on shows like
    American Idol.

Sing was another franchise starter for Illumination Entertainment, which was starting to truly build its currency in the industry. The talent show film is known for its sinister yet funny villains, erratic plot structure, musical numbers, and killer puns. Sing seems to set up the premise perfectly, but that wasn’t always the title Illumination worked with.

While The Secret Life of Pets was once titled Max because of its lead character, Sing worked with the name Lunch. It’s a bizarre choice and one that doesn’t seem to have any reasoning behind it. Needless to say, it’s obvious why the name was changed, but the marketing would have been very different had Lunch become the surefire name for the musical movie.

Despicable Me 3 Doesn’t Feature The Same Agnes

Agnes stares with mouth agape in in Despicable Me 2

  • Agnes is arguably the most adorable character in the franchise.

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Despicable Me 3 continued to act as a return to form for Illumination Entertainment, with the accolades of the threequel leading to a fourth installment in the near future. The cast returned once more to lend their voice-acting talents to these iconic roles. Well, most of them returned at least.

Traditionally, Agnes was voiced by up-and-coming performer Elsie Fisher, who brought a sense of charm and humor to the role. However, with Elsie continuing to age, it soon became apparent that someone would have to step into the role. Thus, Despicable Me 3 doesn’t feature Fisher as Agnes but brings in Nev Scharrel, who has voiced the character in every short appearance since.

The Grinch Was Almost British

The Grinch has dinner with Cindy Lou in the animated Dr Suess' The Grinch

  • The Grinch brought the character back to animation after decades.

With so many iconic animated movies from studios like Disney and DreamWorks based on pre-existing narratives, it made complete sense for Illumination Entertainment to return to the realms of adaptation in a bid to compete on the grand stage. After The Lorax, it was fitting that Illumination would craft a new iteration of Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch.

Executives were excited about bringing Benedict Cumberbatch onto the project to voice the titular character. It seemed as if he’d use his regular accent, and thus, the Grinch was almost British. However, the decision was made late into the process for Grinch to have an American accent instead to fit in with the remaining cast. The film would have felt strange with an English iteration of the character.

The Secret Life Of Pets 2 Was Inspired By Warner Bros. Cartoons

  • The Secret Life of Pets 2
    was followed by a successful theme park ride.

Both The Secret Life of Pets 1 and 2 performed remarkably well for Illumination as an original property, but the franchise has plenty of other big brands to thank for its inspiration. In fact, when crafting both movies, Illumination cited a very specific animation studio as its major influence.

Illumination was aiming to create something as iconic as the Warner Bros. animated characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. In homage to those classic animals and the Warner Bros. Animation style, animators made sure to rarely show the pets’ owners in shots. Indeed, just like those old WB hits, The Secret Life of Pets 2 tried to avoid depicting human faces as much as possible.

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