Universal bets on moneymaking Minions in LA theme park refresh

Thu Apr 10, 2014 7:35pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

UNIVERSAL CITY, California (Reuters) - The adorable yellow goggle-wearing Minions of "Despicable Me" are not just taking over the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood, they're ringing in a revamp of the film-themed park as it takes on competing resorts with blockbuster rides.

"Despicable Me Minion Mayhem," which officially opens on Saturday at the Hollywood adventure park, brings to life the animated world of "Despicable Me," with both an indoor ride and an outdoor playground, both featuring detailed settings from the films.

Chris Meledandri, the producer behind the "Despicable Me' franchise who showed Universal how to make big animated films with more modest budgets, said he wanted the ride to be "true to the movies themselves."

"It was very important for us to have tremendous animation and the same kind of wit and irreverence," said Meledandri, who makes the films through his company Illumination Entertainment.

"Despicable Me," released in 2010, is the story of evil mastermind Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, who adopts orphaned sisters Margot, Edith and Agnes as part of his scheme to steal the moon and become the world's most evil villain.

The film, made for $69 million, became a box office hit for Universal Pictures in 2010, earning $543 million worldwide, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.

"Despicable Me 2," in which Gru gave up evil schemes to become a devoted dad, was made for $76 million and performed even better in 2013 with $970 million at the worldwide box office.

The surprise stars of the first film were Gru's mischievous band of Minions, diminutive creatures who speak "Minionese," a fictional language with words like "papoi" for toy. Meledandri said he was approached by NBC Universal's chief executive, Steve Burke, after the first film to bring some of the Minions' box office magic to a live attraction.   Continued...

Two life-size minion characters wait for actor Steve Carell to arrive while promoting his upcoming movie "Despicable Me 2" in Los Angeles, California June 14, 2013. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni