Why Universal's 'Minions' are the perfect 21st century movie stars
Next week, I'm taking my kids to see the press screening of "Minions," and the next day, we're going to Universal to check out the new "Fast & Furious" ride as well as the other major additions to the park, including their new emphasis on the Minions from "Despicable Me."
I'm not remotely surprised by the way the Minions have taken root in pop culture. When they were in production on the original "Despicable Me," a group of us went to the Illumination Entertainment offices to see some footage and talk about what the film was going to be, and my big takeaway that day was "No matter what, kids will love the Minions."
When the film opens and absolutely destroys at the box-office worldwide, I'm sure there will be box-office pundits who count it as some sort of surprise, but it won't be. Not really. And considering we are now in what I would consider a post-Movie Star era in Hollywood, the Minions make even more sense.
In fact, I'd argue that the Minions are the perfect movie stars for the 21st century.
There are several reasons this is true. First and foremost, they are almost entirely non-verbal, and with international box-office more important than ever to the overall success story of a movie, that's more important than ever. The Minions make noise, sure, but it's unimportant in all but the broadest sense. Everything is conveyed visually, and any audience anywhere, no matter how unsophisticated, is going to be able to get something out of what they watch.
Even more importantly, they aren't real. They can't renegotiate their contracts based on the success of the series. And while I can tell you who wrote and/or directed the movies, most people can't. It is a case where the characters are bigger than any single offering with them. The studio figured out that these things push some button in the audience, and they steered directly into it.
There's a reason Universal just smashed the landspeed record for making it to a billion dollars at the international box-office. They have become very shrewd about managing the properties they already own, and Donna Langley deserves credit for the way both the "Fast and Furious" and "Jurassic World" series are growing this late in the series, instead of shrinking. That's amazing, just from a business perspective, and spinning the Minions off so they can anchor their own series is another move that I bet will pay off in a major way for them.
While there are certainly still plenty of famous actors of all types, I think the age of the giant monolithic movie star is over. It is more about the brand name than who i starring than ever before, and Universal has perfected a model here that we'll see more and more studios embracing in the near-future.
"Minions" is in theaters July 10th.