How did ‘toon sequel become such a phenomenon?

Forget ‘Iron Man 3’ or ‘Man of Steel’, ‘Despicable Me 2’ is the year’s big box office winner.

The animated sequel has proven insanely lucrative – so successful in fact that NBCUniversal bigwig Steve Burke said in a conference call that ‘Despicable Me 2’ will become “the single most profitable film in the 100 year history of Universal Studios”.

Some context: Universal made box office barnstormers ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’, ’Jurassic Park’, ‘Jaws’, The Sting’, the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise… and the list goes on.

 

[From Harry Potter to Batman – the hit movies that lost money]
Despicable Me 2
Despicable Me 2

‘Despicable me 2’ has made an incredible £437 million so far, with a production budget of just £50 million. No wonder it’s trebles all round at Universal HQ.

But why has ‘Despicable Me 2’ become such a huge success? It’s made by little known animation house Illumination, rather than Pixar or DreamWorks, so it’s not the prestige of the creative team.

It helps of course that the original came from nowhere to become a huge hit (£358 million worldwide), so the fanbase was there.

Animations, especially nowadays, can be cash cows thanks to their huge captive audience (i.e. kids and their parents). The ‘Ice Age’ and ‘Madagascar’ series’ were similarly profitable.

Cartoons also have international appeal. They rely on visual humour and can easily be re-dubbed into all languages. The minions in ‘Despicable Me 2’ don’t even speak English… in the English version.

‘Despicable Me’s voice cast must have helped. Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig both worked hard promoting the film – Carell appeared on Ellen literally in character, for example. They are both well loved for their live-action hits (‘40 Year Old Virgin’, ‘Bridesmaids’, ‘The Office’).

Laughing all the way to the bank… minions (Credit: Universal)

More important than any of is though is those minions. The yellow critters, who speak in a French-style gibberish, steal both ‘Despicable Me’ movies and have proven so popular they’re getting their own spin-off film.

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