Editor’s Notes: Minions is currently out in wide theatrical release. For another perspective the film, read Minions: Stretching the Sideshow by Jason McKiernan.
The little yellow sidekicks are back this summer for their own feature film. Ranking high was always going to be a given, but it’s just taken second place (Shrek the Third still holds record first) in box office figures for an opening animated film. The marvel that is the minions has quickly beaten the American animation giants Disney and Pixar at their own game, well done Universal.
No longer are they adorable sidekicks in the background of an overarching storyline, they are their own storyline.
What always sets a Illumination Entertainment animation feature apart from Disney and Pixar is the smaller characters in the background, or those that don’t have leading roles. The narrative attention and ability to balance decent jokes casually happening around the focus of the main characters actions was pretty much an industry niche. When Universal started out their journey with the minions characters in Despicable Me (2010) they were just that. An opportunity to showcase how multiple smaller characters with less to say could have a narrative influence and make a powerful impression beyond what the main characters do.
What the minions have become, rivals the influence in franchised merchandise pulling power of characters like Ghibli’s Totoro in Japan. They’re literally on and in everything you can merchandise, have been since 2010 but now it’s going to become more evident. The continued obsession with the tiny denim dungarees wearing anti-heroes has to be down to the obscure and brilliant intelligence their creators have developed them in.
Slapstick and fart jokes may seem outdated, but given the impeccable timing and the personable style of the minions it’s a popcorn feast for the soul.
Their art of appeal is surprising when you lay down the basis of their personable characterisations. Firstly they speak their own universal language that picks words from Spanish, French and English. The unique magic of the minions own language here is that it’s not isolating at all, it’s expressed sounds that sort of sound like relatable words at times, absolutely perfect for young language users in its simplicity. Secondly, the minions aren’t tied to any specific global location; they are nomads, roaming the world through the years trying to find their place with an evil master. They are their own culture as we see demonstrated in this film and they are very much their own little world with peculiar ways of being. Just as monsters and fantasy characters attract the attention of young and old minds alike, the minions have cornered that base. As we learn from this feature, all the minions do is expanding their universal appeal, constantly adding more to who they are and what they do. It’s fair to say that curiosity has played a large part in their attraction.
In their own film, there’s plenty of space to give them more detailed personalities and of course more scope for the trials and adventures they somehow get caught up in. No longer are they adorable sidekicks in the background of an overarching storyline, they are their own storyline. The minions go from one evil master to the next after fluke accidents and professional fails often leave them no choice but to move on in their never ending search for the best evil master. Queue hilarious montages of the minions getting really excitable about finding a new master, then subsequently morning from loosing their master and finding another. The first section of the film is like all the short films Universal released as teaser trailers for the Despicable Me films. Hugely enjoyable, fast paced and dramatic, it involves the formidable T-Rex, the mysterious abominable snowman and various other recognisable figures. Slapstick and fart jokes may seem outdated, but given the impeccable timing and the personable style of the minions it’s a popcorn feast for the soul.
There’s no stopping the tiny empire the minions have carved out for themselves and although it may be slightly overkill in some opinions, it seems like there’s plenty more where this came from. Don’t expect anything radically different to their antics in both the Despicable Me films, the Illumination Entertainment crew understand what works and are going to run with it until there’s nothing left. I can’t see that being anytime soon, but when it’s this well executed, frankly, who cares?
on’t expect anything radically different to their antics in both the Despicable Me films, the Illumination Entertainment crew understand what works and are going to run with it until there’s nothing left.