It is unclear whether Universal Pictures were aware of exactly what they had on their hands with the release of Despicable Me in July of 2010 – nearly 12 years ago to the day at the time of writing.
Based on the criminal-career arc of central character Gru – the light-hearted, animated villain invigorated by the voice-work of the incomparable Steve Carell – it’s difficult to ascertain whether the production studio were cognizant of the cash cow – or rather, herd of cash cows – meandering about within the confines of their newest project.
The central character was and remains likable enough, but its primary function has essentially become that of providing a framework within which the mascot(s) of the series’ can engage in general tomfoolery, shenanigans, buffoonery, and all-around convivial slapstick absurdity.
The character(s) in question, of course, are the Minions: adorable (depending on who you ask,) yellow henchmen whose popularity so saliently eclipsed that of its parent film franchise over time that, in 2015, the little guys were given their own origin story film or which they, obviously, were the titular character(s).
The name has since essentially become shorthand for the franchise, as bounteous sales of toys, lunchboxes, t-shirts, and any other product which can be feasibly adorned with the likeness of an overall-wearing critter have no doubt resulted in untold fortunes for those with rights to the copyright.
Where public attention goes, big money follows, which is why it comes as little surprise that the Minions machine continues to move as resolutely as ever over a decade after the fact.
The recent theatrical release of Minions: The Rise of Gru – more on that here – marks the second spin-off film for the franchise after 2015’s Minions, and the fifth overall film, with a sixth – Despicable Me 4 – expected in 2024.
Even when a cinematic universe has squeezed every tenable scrap of creative lifeblood from a franchise, it’s hard to argue the methodology of continuing to produce assembly line sequels so long as consumers continue beating down the doors to bear witness to half-baked plot-lines weaved through a visual labyrinth of bright colors and high (but not really) stakes – more on that here.
If there’s anything to be proven with the continued financial dominance of tired, regurgitated film narratives in a sequel-esurient society, it’s that these little guys are, in all likelihood, not going anywhere.
The profitability of these critters has reached such a magnitude as to have warranted the green light from the men with the money for the production of a big-budget, star-studded soundtrack album to be released in conjunction with the film. But that is an issue to be explored at another time. Stay tuned.