Cast: Steve Carell Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan, Ken Jeong, Moises Arias, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher
Director: Chris Meledandri
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family
Synopsis: Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment's worldwide blockbuster Despicable Me entertained audiences around the globe in 2010, grossing more than $540 million and becoming the 10th-biggest animated motion picture in U.S. history. In summer 2013, get ready for more Minion madness in Despicable Me 2.
Chris Meledandri and his acclaimed filmmaking team create an all-new comedy adventure featuring the return of (former?) super-villain Gru, his adorable girls, the unpredictably hilarious Minions...and a host of new and outrageously funny characters.
Now that the ever-entrepreneurial Gru has left behind a life of super crime to raise Margo, Edith and Agnes, Gru, Dr. Nefario and the Minions have some free time on their hands.
But just as he starts to adjust to his role as a suburban family man, an ultra-secret organisation dedicated to fighting evil around the globe comes knocking. Now, it's up to Gru and his new partner, Lucy Wilde, to discover who is responsible for a spectacular crime and bring him to justice. After all, it takes the world's greatest ex-villain to catch the one vying to take his place…
Despicable Me 2
Release Date: June 20th, 2013
Life Post-Villainy: Despicable Me 2 Begins
In Despicable Me, we were introduced to our protagonist, super-villain Gru, who was given a monumental challenge when he encountered three orphan girls who unexpectedly changed his life. The arc of the relationship between Gru and Margo, Edith and Agnes was the heartbeat of this animated adventure, and remains an essential element in what has grown into a franchise.
As the filmmakers approached the story for Despicable Me 2, they felt that the ending of the first movie"Gru realising how much he loved the girls"was truly a beginning for the characters. The formation of this unusual family, and how they will move forward, provided a rich and identifiable point of engagement for moviegoers across the globe who saw their unique families reflected in this animated one.
After Despicable Me's success, what became clear to the team was that the first film served as a launching pad. Illumination Entertainment CEO Chris Meledandri elaborates that it was the outpouring of support that ensured that there would be more tales of Gru and his family: 'After Despicable Me's success, it was clear that we wanted to make another film. The storytelling process of determining what was going to happen in the next film was a natural evolution. I've never had an experience where a conversation about a sequel was as organic as it was with Despicable Me 2. The characters and relationships that had been formed suggested many different places that we could go with the story. But we knew that the underlying core was going to be about the evolution of this family. That was absolutely clear."
The creative team behind Despicable Me returns for Despicable Me 2 with a unified goal: to honour what worked so well in the first story, to amplify those elements through character and story, and deliver the combustible mixture of the sweet, the subversive and the unexpected that had such an impact on audiences. Chris Meledandri acknowledges that this was no accident: 'The team that made Despicable Me over a four-year period was nothing short of extraordinary. From our incredibly talented directors, Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin; to our writers, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio; to my producing partner, Janet Healy; and all of the animators, designers, storyboard artists, technical directors, sound mixers"there were hundreds of people who brought their talents together to realise this wonderful film. I am fortunate enough to have them back to make the sequel. The relationship that was forged through the first film has translated into shorthand and a collaborative spirit on the second film that's extraordinary."
Healy reflects that this easy rapport among her colleagues made for a much more fluid process this time around: 'Because Despicable Me 2 represents a reunion of the same crew, we knew one another very well and how to complement one another's strengths. It made it much easier to revisit these characters in this world. This allowed us to think more about what their story would be this time because we didn't have to figure out the look of the picture or how bad Gru should be or the characters of the girls. It was all there for us to mine."
In Despicable Me 2, we pick up with Gru, the girls and the Minions, and we see what life for them looks like post-villainy. For Gru, there are practical questions that he has to answer: Is he capable of being a good father and leaving the exciting (not to mention lucrative) world of villainy behind? How will he provide for his daughters and continue to employ Dr. Nefario and the Minions now that the spoils of wickedness are in his past? Sums Meledandri: 'For Gru, it's life after villainy, and now his primary responsibility is his family. He's trying to figure out how to support them and has started a cottage industry in his lab. He's retrofitted his lab to become a jam and jelly factory."
Still, Gru purists need fear not that our anti-hero has been watered down or lost his edge. It was crucial to the team that they kept many elements of the freeze-ray-trigger-happy, iron-maiden-housing misanthrope that we have grown to love.
Chris Renaud explains the conundrum: 'If Gru's not a super-villain, how does that feel? In the first film, we established his love of villainy. He wanted to steal the moon. He had these great big plans and wanted to prove himself to be the best villain, even if he wasn't. He had all these Minions, Dr. Nefario, this whole team, his lab. He was a gruff guy who loved that life. If he makes the decision to leave that behind because it's best for his family, how does he feel about that and what should he do next?"
The director is the first to admit that he didn't want to return to this world unless there was a logical story to tell about it. Says Chris Renaud: 'You're hoping, particularly if people respond well to the first film, that you've told the story that those characters were meant to tell. So we all felt strongly about rising up to this challenge and finding a new aspect of this family's story. How does the character of Gru evolve? How do the Minions evolve? What's a different way we can play with them? Despicable Me 2 is about the extension of"or potential completion of"that family."
Screenwriters Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio came up with just the idea: Gru decides to convert his underground lair into a factory for a legitimate business venture: a signature line of homemade jellies and jams. There's just one big problem: the product is absolutely terrible, so this scheme quickly falls apart. Still, what's more troubling for Gru is that his longtime associate and resident mad scientist/inventor, Dr. Nefario, deeply misses the business of being evil and decides to leave Gru's employ. Now Gru has even fewer resources available to him. This weighs heavily on him and affects his ability to adequately care for his three girls and the hundreds of Minions who rely upon him.
As Gru struggles to adjust to his role as a suburban family man, an ultra-secret organisation dedicated to fighting evil around the globe comes calling. The Anti-Villain League (AVL) offers Gru the opportunity to help it uncover the mastermind responsible for a spectacular heist we see unfold in the opening sequence of the film. After all, it becomes abundantly clear, who better than the world's greatest ex-villain to catch the one who thinks he can take his mantle? It also doesn't hurt that they conduct their covert ops out of the world's coolest submarine.
Coffin explains a bit more about this super-secret organisation's"one that's only interested in hunting you down if you're gunning to vaporise Mt. Fuji, melt the polar ice caps or, ahem, steal the moon"role in the plot: 'If I can take the James Bond analogy, then the Anti-Villain League is MI-6. They're the good guys who have all the cool gadgets. The moral aspect of their work is, basically, -Oh, the world is in danger. We gotta save it!' For them to call Gru is an effort. But they ultimately understand that there is no one better to recognise a bad guy than one of his kin."
Energised by being back in the game (albeit on the other side of the law), Gru balances his new top-secret job with the realities of being a father. So what is new with the girls? Agnes is as adorable and innocent as ever, but also keenly feeling the absence of a mother in their very unconventional home. Edith thinks Gru is the coolest guy on Earth, and is secretly disappointed that his villainous lifestyle is over. For her part, Margo is at the age where she starts thinking about boys, a horrifying thought for Gru, and one that sits uncomfortably next to his own reluctance to date.
Chris Meledandri shares that part of the secret to this story's success is that these four characters remind us of ourselves: 'The core of the first film is this family unit, an unlikely one, but one made of disenfranchised characters who come together and form their own unique family. Even though they are dissimilar to any other family that we may know, so much of what Gru's experience"as well as Agnes, Edith and Margo's experience"is utterly relatable to us."
When Gru goes undercover to seek out the identity of the most audacious super-villain currently being tracked by the AVL, he is partnered (against his will) with novice AVL agent Lucy Wilde, whose enthusiasm for her job is matched only by her outsize personality. For Gru, it's dislike at first sight. He hadn't counted on being assigned a partner, and everything about Lucy just rubs him the wrong way"at least at first.
As Gru and Lucy set up a stakeout within a cupcake shop at a local mall, he finds himself having to face a question he's avoided all of his life. Still feeling the sting of rejection in a childhood schoolyard, is Gru capable of an adult relationship"and maybe even love? Agnes isn't the only one secretly crossing her fingers that this will happen.
Chris Meledandri appreciated that the writers dug even deeper into Gru's troubled past. After all, great super-villains aren't simply born; they're made. He offers up: 'One of the things that we discover is that Gru has no social life and absolutely is resistant to even thinking about starting one. We trace this back to Gru as a young boy when he was about seven or eight. The response to his request of a girl was massive humiliation from all the kids on the schoolyard. He shut the door on ever experiencing that type of rejection again. However, his girls think the best thing for him is to get back into the dating scene."
Coffin thinks that what set Despicable Me apart from many other films in the animated genre is the movie's embrace of deep human emotion, specifically love. He says: 'We wanted to have the heart of the movie become an evolution of that. Gru's now alone to raise the girls, and the most logical next step for him is to find his loved one, his soul mate. And that would be Lucy." Gru's not the only one who will be changed by Lucy's back-springing into his life. 'Seeing Gru with the girls will spark something in Lucy. Plus, her admiration for all the deeds he's done in the past, like stealing the moon, will grow on her and make her fall in love."
So just who is this elusive cad that Gru and Lucy are trying to find, one capable of using an enormous flying magnet ship to steal a secret research lab in the Arctic Circle? Gru grows convinced that a famous villain from the past"El Macho"is behind the heist that opens our film. But the AVL, run by Silas Ramsbottom, is much more skeptical. After all, El Macho supposedly died in a spectacularly macho way some years earlier. Trusting in his instincts, Gru is resolute in his belief that El Macho has adopted the guise of Eduardo Perez, the owner of Salsa & Salsa restaurant in the Paradise Mall.
As the story unfolds, Gru and Lucy pursue their investigation, and we discover that Eduardo, the loving, light-on-his feet father who ordered cupcakes for a Cinco de Mayo party, is actually the infamous El Macho. But what is El Macho's master plan, and what does it have to do with some of Gru's Minions being abducted?
Finding humour in an all-audience film is quite a tricky process. Naturally, the filmmakers didn't care to alienate either young children or adults with their artistic choices; they wanted something that was enjoyable for all ages. Chris Meledandri shares: 'That process happens organically because our wonderfully talented writers, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, and our directors, Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin, make the film for themselves. They happen to be parents, but they are not trying to make the film for adults and they're not trying to make the film for kids. They're making the film so they find it engaging and entertaining."
With story, motivations, plot and characters set, Chris Meledandri, Healy and the directors were off to the races for Despicable Me 2. So let's give you a guide to who's who in the world of Gru.
Krumpers and Shark Cowboys: Who's Despicable?
Now that Gru has (mostly) hung up his freeze ray and is in the business of making barely digestible jellies and jams, he's earned a few more friends (as well as his fair share of enemies). Below is a guide to the returning and new dastardly and delightful players who populate Gru's world:
Gru (Steve Carell), one of the world's greatest super-villains, has given up his despicable ways and is now on a quest to become the perfect dad. While juggling all that, he is recruited by a super-secret crime-fighting organisation, which puts him in the unlikely position of having to work with the good guys to help save the world. Usually fearless, Gru is now coping with the challenges of his girls growing up and wanting desperately to ask a woman out on a date. Both of which cause him to totally freak out.
Lucy (Kristen Wiig) is a cunning secret agent who has teamed up with Gru to hunt down an extremely dangerous super-villain. She loves one-upping Gru with her quirky gadgets and has perfected her own form of martial arts by combining Jujitsu, Krav Maga, Aztec warfare and krumping. Unlike Gru, she has trouble containing her overabundance of joy and excitement, which tends to draw unwanted attention…especially when going under cover. She keeps pace with Gru, despite always looking stylish in her six-inch heels.
Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) is Gru's oldest daughter and the backbone of the family. She's the responsible one who looks out for her sisters and keeps the family together. However, now that she's growing up, she becomes preoccupied with texting her friends and starts noticing boys her age, which drives Gru crazy.
Edith (Dana Gaier), Gru's middle daughter, is an incredibly mischievous and sarcastic tomboy. She asks for forgiveness rather than permission. She is going through a ninja phase and is always looking for an opportunity to take part in Gru's secret-agent action. She loves to play pranks and cause trouble with Dr. Nefario's gadgets.
Agnes (Elsie Fisher) is Gru's youngest daughter and the heart of the family. She's obsessed with unicorns and anything fluffy. She's so adorable that her hugs can melt even the hardest super-villain's heart.
Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) is Gru's trusted, slightly forgetful, and very, very old mad scientist. He's losing his hearing, which causes him to accidentally invent weapons with disastrously unintended consequences. With Gru busy being a dad, Dr. Nefario begins to long for the good-old days when they were focused on doing evil.
Gru's loyal yellow, gibberish-speaking Minions (Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud) love causing mischief and mayhem almost as much as they love bananas. They are easily distracted and can be unpredictable, curious and subversively sweet. They are extremely competitive with each other. This can lead to sudden slap fights, but if someone from the outside tries to harm them or Gru's family, they become fiercely protective.
Evil Minions (Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud) are the purple, crazy-haired and even more dim-witted versions of Gru's happy yellow Minions. They are indestructible, mindless eating machines that not only eat everything in your refrigerator, but they eat the refrigerator as well! El Macho (Benjamin Bratt) is the most ruthless, dangerous, and as his name implies, macho villain there ever was. That is…until he died riding a shark into the mouth of an active volcano with 250 pounds of dynamite strapped to his chest. However, his body was never found, and all that was ever retrieved was a pile of singed chest hair.
Eduardo (Benjamin Bratt) is the extremely warm, charming and flirty owner of the popular Salsa & Salsa restaurant whose passionate Latin dancing causes women to swoon. He has a larger-than-life personality that is dwarfed only by the size of his waistline. But is Eduardo secretly the No. 1 super-villain on the AVL's most wanted list?
Antonio (Moises Arias) is Eduardo's cute, rebellious and confident son. He is a ladies' man just like his father, and when Margo sees him in the mall and their eyes lock…it's all over. He feels the same way about her and is willing to stand up to an overprotective Gru to get closer to the girl he loves.
Floyd (Ken Jeong) is one of the shop owners at the local mall where Gru and Lucy work secretly undercover. Floyd runs the Eagle Hair Club for Men and has the perfect suggestion for how to make Gru more attractive to the ladies who are, ahem, lining up to date him. Beneath his outlandish exterior, Floyd may or may not have a very dark side.
Species unknown, possibly a cross between a pit bull and a piranha with the attitude to match, Kyle is Gru's guard dog. When he first met the girls, all he could think about was trying to eat them. Now, he can't imagine his life without their tucking him into bed every night.
Family Evolution: Casting Comic Talent
What attracted Steve Carell to the role of the curmudgeonly, oddly-accented super-villain with a heart of gold was that Despicable Me offered something for children and adults alike. He reflects upon why he chose to voice Gru, a character who finds that raising children is not all sunshine and lollipops: 'I'm a parent with two little kids, and I identified with the story in the first film because it was honest in its depiction. Having kids completely changes a person's life, in all the best ways."
When the first movie was released to worldwide acclaim, Steve Carell was thrilled that audiences wholly embraced the tale he so loved upon first read. He enjoyed bringing Gru's idiosyncrasies to life, noting: 'Kids could relate and enjoy the humour; parents related to what kids bring to the equation. In that sense, it's universal. But it was also funny, exciting and silly at times."
Whereas so many animated films are designed as a delivery mechanism for pratfalls and go for the cheap joke, the first adventure surprised many with its mix of heart and humour. Notes Steve Carell: 'These films are animated but very human. Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 are smart, funny and heartfelt without being cloying overly sentimental. They tug the heart strings just enough without going too far. The writers did such a great job creating something special and unique."
As the characters in this non-traditional family evolved, so did Steve Carell's perception of them. E.g., the performer identified with Gru's struggle to let Margo begin to grow up and go out on a date with Antonio. He explains: 'One of Gru's daughters starts to enter the dating scene, and that is an enormous transition for him, as it is for most dads. When they see their daughters maturing and becoming interested in boys, suddenly they're not the apple of their daughter's eyes. There is, I wouldn't even say a -jealousy' but there is a tension that comes about between a father and a potential suitor."
Chris Meledandri commends that there would be no series without the stellar performance work of Steve Carell. He gives: 'From the early days of the first film, Steve Carell has been a creative partner in the making of Despicable Me. We were so drawn to him for this role because we wanted an actor who brought empathy in his voice and performance. Not only was Gru a villain, but he is grouchy and acerbic and edgy. Yet, we knew that in order for the film to work, that audiences needed to like him. Steve Carell has helped to forge this and define the character. There has been tremendous writing in response to many of his instincts about how Gru should evolve and the specific definition of his personality."
When last we met Gru, the only thing about him that was unchanged was his dark wardrobe. Gru was not only adjusting to life post super-villainy, he was balancing his time as new father to three young girls and the last thing he thought he'd have time for is a burgeoning romance. But that's exactly what he finds when he meets Special Agent Lucy Wilde, the AVL's most energetic agent. While they're both focused upon solving a case and finding a super-villain who could put the entire world in peril, they find an unexpected, but not altogether unwelcome, romance.
The comedienne who brings life to Lucy is the same actor who played a pivotal role in Despicable Me. The producers and directors were so delighted by Kristen Wiig's work as Southern belle Miss Hattie, the acerbic orphanage matron in the first film, that they asked her back to play the female lead in this chapter. Kristen Wiig explains how her participation in the project came about: 'I was so happy that I was able to be in both films, and when I heard that they wanted me to play a different character in the second one, I was beyond thrilled that they would give me the opportunity."
As was Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig was a bit taken aback by the global success of Despicable Me. She relays: 'The first film was unexpected, and I loved that the lead character is this horrible villain. Still, it's a sweet, funny story with great music about this awkward guy opening his heart and finding himself, as well as a family. It has a great message and has a lot of action and comedy." Discussing this chapter, she offers: 'People want to see where it left off. At the end of the first film, you wonder how it's going to work with this new family. Now, you see them as a unit and you see them evolve. Despicable Me 2 is funny and has lots of action, and it's a smart, sweet story."
While the actress is known as the woman of a thousand faces and voices on Saturday Night Live"as well as from a film career that skyrocketed with the release of Bridesmaids (which she also co-wrote)" Kristen Wiig admits there is a freedom to vocalising animation. She says: 'Physically you can be doing anything with your face or body because it isn't about how you look. The scripted lines and the story were so smart that you could just have fun with it."
Her filmmaking team was thrilled with her vocal work for the quirky heroine who immediately bests Gru upon first match up. Provides Chris Meledandri: 'Lucy is one of the most surprising and distinctive female characters that I have seen in an animated film. She is incredibly self-directed, and though she may look a bit nutty, she is actually quite powerful when it comes to getting her way. I can't imagine anybody other than Kristen Wiig portraying her. Lucy is unlike any Kristen Wiig character I've seen before, and when you watch her in the film, you realise that the animators and our directors were taking great inspiration from the voice track that she provided."
The producer appreciated the arc that Paul and Daurio created for Gru and Lucy. He says: 'A wonderful thing happens through the course of the movie. As Gru begins to realise that he actually likes his new partner, and these are feelings that sneak up on him, the audience's response is moving in sync with Gru's response. The chemistry of Steve Carell's and Kristen Wiig's performances is undeniable."
Now that the girls are over the issues that they had with Gru in the first film, they are firmly ensconced in their lives together. In turn, the same three actresses return to these definitive roles. Shares Chris Renaud: 'We have the same terrific young ladies playing Agnes, Edith and Margo: Elsie Fisher, Dana Gaier and Miranda Cosgrove. What's fun is that the girls have gotten a little older and a bit more mature. Agnes, of course, is still cute, and Edith is still acting out a bit. Through half the this film, she's dressed as a ninja, which is one of those weird, fun things that kids do…and that's fair enough. Margo is discovering boys, and seeing Gru's reaction to that, as the father of a daughter myself, is one of the more fun elements to experience."
Portraying Gru's eldest, Margo, is actress Miranda Cosgrove, known for her starring role in Nickelodeon's long-running juggernaut hit iCarly. On her return to the series, Miranda Cosgrove provides: 'I was excited to make Despicable Me 2 because I had so much fun making the first movie." She catches us up on her character, one whose own desire to find love mirrors Gru's: 'Margo has grown up a bit, and she definitely sees Gru more as her dad. You can tell that they're a family now. And it's also cool because she has her first love interest; that was fun playing those scenes because Margo is completely enamored with this guy. I just tried to remember my first crush when I was in elementary school."
Miranda Cosgrove concurs with Kristen Wiig about what makes the series unique: 'One of my favourite things about Despicable Me, even though it's this crazy fantasy world, is that there are also a lot of relatable things, like dating. There's a character for everyone to relate to. When my Dad went to see the first movie, he loved Gru and the idea of getting to be the hero. Then there are characters for the younger kids, like the three girls who are all very different."
Middle sister Edith is once again played by Dana Gaier, a young actress who is quick to admit that she and her on-screen character are not so dissimilar. Laughs Dana Gaier: 'Edith and I have some similarities. We both definitely like to make trouble, and we both like to tease our sisters. I have an older sister, and I can't say that there's a time when I don't want to make fun of her a little bit. It's the sibling love."
While Margo is the overprotective big sister who is falling in love for the first time and Agnes is the doe-eyed baby of the family, Edith remains on constant vigilance. Says Dana Gaier: 'Edith's fearlessness makes her a good role model. Kids should admire the fact that she's not afraid to face situations head-on. I started the first film in the sixth grade, and every time I came in and did a recording session and learned more about the films, I just fell more in love with the story and with the character of Edith."
Last, but certainly not least is Agnes, voiced with unequivocal joy by young Elsie Fisher. Thought she was only four when she began providing vocals for the character, the infectious Fisher almost stole the film out from under Gru and the Minions. ('It's so fluffy!"). Perhaps most succinctly, Fisher describes the experience of watching her animated self on the big screen: 'When I saw the movie in the theater, it was amazing. I felt like I was watching myself in a mirror."
With a penchant for hugs and adorable non sequiturs, Agnes is a fierce loyalist. She captured the hearts of the Minions the minute they made her a favourite toy out of a toilet scrub brush, and she will fight for her family to stay together. Explains Elsie Fisher: 'Agnes is a sweet girl, and she's always going to be Daddy's Girl. She has different personalities: Sometimes she's crazy, then sweet, and then sometimes she's just adorable. Agnes is like me because we're always changing our emotions, depending on where we are. Sometimes we're sassy, and sometimes we're funny and adorable and crazy."
When it came to drawing from personal experience to unleash her inner yeller"while on the run from evil Minions" Elsie Fisher admits that it wasn't too difficult to get into character. For one rough scene, she drew from a scary memory. The young actress shares: 'I have a dog, Allie, and one time she almost got ran over, so I cried and screamed. Out of that, I remembered for Despicable Me that I might have to scream, so I screamed really, really loud. And then, I just practiced and practiced and I got louder and scarier and screamier."
Gru's family wouldn't be complete with the doddering, delightful Dr. Nefario, who is just as hard of hearing as ever in the series' new chapter. Once again, comedian Russell Brand brings his signature wit and humour to the role of the scientific brains behind Gru's ambitious schemes. Nefario, tired of making foul-tasting jams and jellies, longs for the days when it was just villainy, villainy, villainy. When he makes his abrupt (well, as abrupt as Nefario can go anywhere) departure, Gru, the girls and especially the Minions mourn the absence of the senior member of their family. But don't count out Nefario's ability to accidentally drag a certain single parent back into his schemes.
Joining our returning voice talent are two seasoned comics, one young actor who has been stealing scenes on television and a multitalented performer who has effortlessly straddled the worlds of film and TV since his career began.
Best known for his role as the duplicitous"and occasionally back from the dead"gangster Mr. Chow in The Hangover series, Ken Jeong comes aboard the series as Floyd Eagle-san. The AVL has its eyes on Floyd as the most likely suspect in a recent super-crime spree, but Gru is quite certain that this owner of a hair club for follicly-challenged gentlemen is innocent of any crimes. Floyd is more comfortable disseminating bad hair wisdom than he is cooking up schemes for global domination.
A celebrated comic actor from across the pond, Steve Coogan, appears as Silas Ramsbottom, the very British boss of Lucy at the AVL who recruits Gru because of the former super-villain's reputation in the field. Chris Meledandri was glad that the actor was willing to join the team: 'Steve Carell's vocal abilities are just outstanding. He has such a rich voice and brings an incredibly dry sense of humor to the character. It's not possible for this man to utter a line that doesn't sing the minute he says it."
While 21-year-old performer Moises Arias is most well-known for his work as Rico on the smash television series Hannah Montana, he has done voice work on films from Astro Boy to The Secret World of Arrietty. In Despicable Me 2, Arias plays Antonio, the just-as-light-on-his-feet dancing son of Eduardo Perez and supreme flirt who wants to steal Margo's heart. Coffin shares that Antonio ratchets up the tension in Gru's household: 'Having a daughter who is falling in love with a boy makes a father very nervous, obviously. And so how would you react? You would want to react like Gru reacts: You'd want to freeze ray him."
For the pivotal double role of Eduardo Perez and El Macho, the filmmakers were fortunate to land the multitalented Benjamin Bratt. The uber-charming owner of the Salsa & Salsa restaurant at the mall, Eduardo possibly might be hiding a big secret that will not only affect Gru forever, but the Minions as well. Chris Meledandri introduces us to the character: 'El Macho died in the most macho way possible, which was riding on the back of a shark with dynamite strapped to his chest"into the mouth of an active volcano. Gru is absolutely certain that Eduardo is this nefarious figure from the past."
Fortunately for the production, Benjamin Bratt was familiar with Despicable Me and has two children who were big fans of the first film. Chris Meledandri reflects: 'Benjamin Bratt is a fantastic actor and has a wonderfully expressive voice. The combination of his passion for the role and his incredible acting chops ignited our conviction that he would fully embody this character."
The directors appreciated the range that Benjamin Bratt offered in his dual roles as Eduardo and El Macho. Offers Chris Renaud: 'Benjamin Bratt would have this big bravado, and then he would talk like this. He had this great range in his vocal abilities, and it really invigorated his entire performance. Even though Eduardo is a heavy guy, he's very light on his feet. There is a twinkle in him that emanates from Benjamin Bratt's vocal performance."
Coffin also commends the nuances of Benjamin Bratt's performance: 'Ultimately, when Eduardo switches around and we discover that he's this evil character, Benjamin changes his voice ever so slightly just to bring that level of menace that you didn't see coming. To hear that voice coming out of this design that we have"a short guy who used to be very strong but let himself go"is fun and offers a great contrast."
Discussing his decision to join the series, Benjamin Bratt reflects: 'I was intrigued by the idea of playing a character that fit right into Gru's universe, a larger-than-life persona that was expansive in every way imaginable. And what an outrageously fantastic opportunity it was to play someone so outsized in his passions and his appetites, a spectacularly macho man who is as dangerous as he is tender. The film is hysterically funny, and part of the humour comes from the fact that Eduardo/El Macho possesses an irresistible exuberance, a zest for life, love, and even evil, that is often comical in its zeal."
As Eduardo, he could be charming and gregarious in his vocals. As El Macho, he became truly menacing. Benjamin Bratt continues: 'Both the fun and the challenge in doing the voice for this character was finding the balance between his charm and his menace. Of course, we wanted to mine the humour from the lines but also root them in a real place. I think the key was to play him as a man who truly relishes all aspects of his life"whether it's raising a son, running a restaurant or planning a takeover of the world."
Joining Despicable Me 2 in supporting roles are Saturday Night Live's Nasim Pedrad as Jillian, the nosy next-door neighbor who won't leave Gru be until he agrees to go out with Shannon (played by 30 Rock's Kristen Schaal), a bottle-blonde who is as obsessed with fitness as she is with plastic surgery.
You Must Wear a Scarf: Visual Style and Character Design
Many aren't aware, but the look and design of Despicable Me was inspired by the work of artists Charles Addams and Edward Gorey in a style the crew came to call 'suburban gothic." One of Despicable Me 2's production designer's, Eric Guillon, served as art director on the last film alongside his fellow production designer from this film, Yarrow Cheney. For the sequel, they've honoured the work of Charles Addams and Edward Gorey, while allowing for a unique take that blends gothic with bright, visual designs.
Once again, Paris-based animation powerhouse Illumination Mac Guff served as the company responsible for executing the creations of Despicable Me 2. The French production house embraces the country's tradition of unique animation and carefully navigated the pipeline to develop the film. Compliments Healy: 'What I see is an animation team that's benefitted from French culture in a very unique way. There are amazing schools that turn out wonderful animators every year"people who model and can make all the texturing beautiful, as well as artists who know how to light and composite, as well as do the effects so well."
Coffin sums up the team's approach to this filmmaking process: 'Our motto, in terms of character and animation, is that in the five first seconds of the movie, you've got to forget that it's an animated movie. You have to understand what each character is feeling. The design informs the voice; the voice informs the design." He appreciates the collaboration, noting: 'It's always about how can we plus the movie? How can we make it better, funnier, more emotional?"
In terms of returning character design, of course we know what Gru, Nefario, the girls and the Minions look like. But with the addition of Paul and Daurio's latest creation, Lucy, the animators were allowed to dovetail her look into this established world, while making Lucy stand out as a heroine new to this world. Healy walks us through the team's inspiration: 'Eric Guillon came up with a wonderful character design that contrasted to Gru. Lucy has a lot of style; she's tall and thin with red hair." And just like Gru, she needed some neckwear. 'Everybody who is designed by anybody in France has to have a scarf. It makes it a little bit harder to animate, but it's totally worth it."
The French animators were often inspired by the visual comedy style of cinema icons Charlie Chaplain, Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati, as well as recent movement masters such as Rowan Atkinson and Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther films. France native Coffin reflects on the animators' inspiration: 'It's part of the culture. Being brought up with these movies, as well as comics and graphic novels, must have an influence on how this movie looks because everyone who's worked on the film is a very creative person."
Coffin discusses an example of this style, in which scenes are played out in an elongated manner: 'When Lucy tries to get poor, tazed Gru in the trunk of a car, we play it long. We could have cut it short: She'd put him in the trunk and be done with it. But we really pulled it and made it feel like it was painful and humiliating for Gru to get into that trunk, which is great for Gru's character because he's supposed to be this superior guy, but he's not."
For Chris Renaud, the Paris-based animation house was the perfect place to meld inspirations from all over the globe. He offers: 'The city Gru lives in has water towers like the ones that were in Brooklyn when I lived there after college. Meanwhile, the door handles in the center of the doors are ones like those you find in Paris. It's a great fusion of cultures that support each other and help make the design of the film better overall."
This willingness to find inspiration anywhere permeated the production. Adds Renaud: 'We always try to find an answer to a design question that isn't expected or cliché. The visual development team and the art team have put together something unique, and that comes from a few different sources. Yarrow Cheney, along with Eric Guillon"who has done a lot of the visual development art"have been able to create a unique world. Some of the character designers that worked with us on the first film and then have carried over to the second film have created looks that are still distinct."
As an example, the design for El Macho began with an unlikely source of inspiration. Offers Chris Renaud: 'We thought of things like El Santos, who is a famous wrestler character, and started with El Macho, sort of in his prime"muscular and dressed in a mask and cape. As the story evolved, we realised what we would be better served if the guy wasn't in top shape anymore and Gru only thought he recognised him."
Whether in Ramsbottom's dandy clothes or the doorknobs on the homes of Gru's fellow denisens, the design of Despicable Me 2 remains quite memorable. Offers Chris Meledandri: 'I never cease to be amazed at the incredible detail that our team in Paris can realise on film, especially when it comes to fabrics and surfaces. The experience of watching a film that is clearly not real, but one that is filled with characters who are dressed in detailed clothes that convey a sense of reality, is amazing. That combination of the animated world combined with the realism of detail is just extraordinary."
The directors acknowledge that there was a fine line between designing the world of Gru and the one in which they lived. As form follows function, Renaud laughs that he drew several aspects of the former super-villain's family life from his own, especially Gru's turn as Gruzinkerbell at Agnes' birthday party (when the actual fairy princess was a no-show). The director laughs: 'We talked about how Gru could show that commitment and how far he'll go to make her princess birthday a special one. Usually, frankly, it's my wife that forces me to do it, but I've been a shark, Darth Vader and a pink character for my daughter that I forget the name of. It's based on those common parental things, or maybe it's just common to me."
Coffin offers that the design created by their team was married to the voice work of the actors. Indeed, the design informs the voice, and the voice informs the design: 'It's almost like magic, because when you have, for example, Gru delivering a line, we can tweak not only the line itself, but the animation"such as the body movement of Gru so that he means something other than what he's saying. Obviously, that's an actor's dream, and all the animators are basically actors."
France to Les États-Unis: Illumination Entertainment at Work
As Illumination Entertainment is headquartered in Santa Monica, California, and Illumination Mac Guff is housed in Paris, the production was indeed a global one. Chris Renaud believes that being in Paris and in L.A. gave the team the best of both worlds: 'In France, the animation education system is second to none, and the animators, artists and talent who are educated here are the best. There's also a cultural love of animation filmmaking and comics that is not so easy to find anywhere in the world. And from the American side, we're getting an experienced level of filmmaking and animated features"particularly in global release animated features"that isn't present in many other countries."
Healy expounds upon the logic: 'One of the things that Chris Meledandri thought should be a tenet of Illumination was for artists to work where they lived. We were lucky to establish the pipeline and the company at a time when telecommunications was facile. You could use iChat and Skype for conversing across time zones. But our story artists, our visual development artists and our colourists are from all over the world; they don't have to be site specific. That's been a wonderful part of being able to grow key talent. When we found Illumination Mac Guff, which evolved from Mac Guff Ligne in Paris, it was this company that had been here for almost 30 years but had a strong technical foundation."
She gives us a look inside the process: 'What we find is that from the script page to storyboarding to cutting and then to animation, everything changes. Everyone contributes. It gets better, and it sometimes gets more elaborate as the artists touch it. So we're constantly seeing how that fits into the context of the whole movie. Every 10 or 12 weeks, we step back and look at the entire movie to see it as an audience would see it. Still, we work on it in increments. From the time a scene is looking good in storyboards and has been cut to scratch voices, to the time it gets recorded and into animation"and through the 14 departments of computer graphics that it needs to"many months go by."
Although Despicable Me offered brilliant visuals, the filmmakers were in the unique situation of being able to up their game. Says Coffin: Despicable Me 2 is such a step forward technically. Illumination Mac Guff revamped everything in terms of pipeline, particularly in terms of rendering, which is so intricate. It's looking so good because we're now using radiosity, which is when a system in which color bounces from everywhere"one used in special effects as opposed to animated features. It brought something to the level of details that we didn't have in the first one."
Healy elaborates that the fact that Illumination Mac Guff wasn't starting from scratch allowed the team to perfect the character designs. She discusses one of her favourite examples: 'Because we had some time between the two films, we could change the model of Margo. There's something I noticed that probably not a lot of people will. The new Margo is so expressive; there are scenes where I watched the animation of Margo and I love her because she has such great acting and is so relatable in this movie."
Poulet Tika Masala: Good Minions Gone Bad
Originally imagined as yellow, pill-shaped henchmen who aided Gru as he did his dastardly deeds, Gru's Minions evolved over the course of Despicable Me 2 into some of the movie's biggest scene stealers. As the characters progressed in storyboarding, in design and in the script, the filmmakers saw the power of their potential and wove them further into the story. Meledandri discusses their evolution: 'Minions are going to continue to be surprising and disarming. As wonderful as the Minions are and as beloved as they are in the first movie, one of the qualities that defines them is the unexpected.
'The closest I've ever seen to this would be the reaction between audiences and Scrat from Ice Age," he continues. 'Yet our experience with Scrat was that because it was a defined character with a defined goal, there wasn't the opportunity for the breath of exploration. The Minions are nonverbal characters, and their entire creation was borne out of the visual process. They're characters that aren't defined by a script but they're defined by the visual exploration, which enables them to communicate across every culture because they are not specific to any one culture."
Coffin recalls the evolution of the Minions into the iconic characters that we know and love: 'Chris Renaud and I said, -Well, these guys in the script were described as thugs, an army of big muscular guys.' We just couldn't have Gru as an underdog being followed by this Orc-like army, so we asked Eric to find some simple looking characters so we could have plenty of them. He came up with the idea of pills with goggles on. In terms of graphic design, that was very appealing."
When initial vocalisations for Gru's henchmen weren't working, Coffin stepped up to the plate and tried them out himself. He recounts: 'I used to do a lot of commercials and TV series and temped in my voice just for pacing reasons. I told Chris Meledandri, -Let me make a test. It won't be an official one; it's just to show whoever is going to design the voice a way to go.' So I did this voice in a couple of minutes, and when I asked Chris to listen to it, he said, -Well, you're going to be the voice of the Minions.' So, these words pop out, and I have them speak Indian, French, English, Spanish and Italian. I mix up all these ridiculous sounding words just because they sound good, not because they necessarily mean something."
Coffin's off-the-cuff vocals evidently hit the mark, because the characters took off and audiences absolutely fell in love with them. Chris Renaud continues with his fellow director's story: 'Their language sounds silly, but when you believe that they're actually communicating that's what makes it funnier. What's great about the Minion language, while it is gibberish, it sounds real because Pierre puts in words from many languages and does the lion's share of the Minion recordings. There are a lot of food references. For example, -poulet tiki masala" is French for the Indian chicken dish. Pierre and I cut together the scene in which one of the Minions is at the speaker box. I'm the voice of the evil Minions on one side of the speaker box, and Pierre says the bizarre password. And then when the Minion goes, -bla-bla-bla, raspberry sound,' that's me."
Healy offers that what makes the Minions so crucial is that the hundreds of characters not only provide a sense of scale to Gru's world, they offer much needed humour. She sums: 'There's something about their design that is just wonderful. With the simple yellow shape, the big eyes, the goggles and the little kid overalls, they're just so expressive. It's the collaboration and the union of these directors with their voices and the funny character design that evolved in the first movie that makes the Minions wonderful characters that are universally appealing. "
She acknowledges that having on-site voice talent in both films often proved useful: 'Because the directors voice the Minions, and we've got them right here, it's not a big deal to bring them in and say, -We need new lines for the Minions. Chris and Pierre work very closely together after all these years of collaborating. When you get them in a room and they start to work off of one another with situations that the Minions could be in, the result is bigger than the sum of the parts."
As El Macho needs an army of his own to make his dastardly plans come to fruition, he enlists a mad scientist's help in creating the wild-haired, evil-by-design, purple Minions. After all, what bad guy wouldn't want hundreds of unstoppable creatures that will serve his wildest ambitions? Says Chris Meledandri: 'Once Gru has accepted this assignment from the Anti-Villain League, we begin to notice that the Minions are disappearing in interesting ways. They're being swept right up off of his front porch or tempted out into the street by an ice cream truck. All of these things are simply traps that have been set. Ultimately, what we discover is that the very plot that Gru is trying to crack now involves the capturing of the Minions and the transformation of them into a force for evil."
For the indestructible, purple Minions who don't know what to eat, so they eat everything, Renaud provided much of the vocals. Once again, the purple, zombie-like cousins to our favorite characters were imagined by Guillon. According to Coffin: 'The idea was to make Minions look dumber…so that came from their big under bite. They have big teeth, and they're menacing but also funny just because they're round and pointy and not at all regular."
Renaud shares an interesting story on the inspiration for the evil Minions: 'There is a great classic Looney Tunes cartoon where Tweety Bird drinks a Jekyll and Hyde formula and becomes a big hairy monster. The idea of something cute becoming something monstrous is an appealing thought. We always laugh because the Minions, although they're Minions that work for a bad guy, are not really evil at all. They're the cutest little harmless things you could ever find. So, for the evil Minions, we changed the color of their little outfits to purple. What color is more evil than that?"
His producer concurs on the colour selection. Adds Healy: 'With their wild hairstyles and their big teeth, they are the antithesis of the cute yellow Minions. As you know, purple and yellow are on opposite sides of the colour spectrum. While the good Minions are mostly bald, these guys are really hairy. They twitch and are actually a little bit scary…but in a fun way."
Strap on the Sharks: Filming in 3D
Despicable Me was not only the first from Illumination Entertainment, it was also the producers and directors' entrance into the work of 3D. It was never the team's intention to create 3D moments just for 3D's sake, but rather to further immerse the audience into the world of Gru, the girls and the Minions. Naturally, writers Paul and Daurio looked for opportunities as they crafted their script, but only when it made logical sense. And when you write a story that has the most macho villain of all time dropping into a volcano with a shark strapped to him, 3D immersion is a logical side effect.
Chris Meledandri believes that Despicable Me 2 lends itself quite well to the medium of 3D: 'Chris and Pierre love sequences that have scale. We saw it in the first film with everything from the attempt to steal a pyramid to the wonderful roller coaster ride in Super Silly Fun Land to stealing the moon. As filmmakers who are students of the James Bond movies, they love these large, exciting sequences. Once again, in the sequel, they return to that terrain with a massive sequence set in the Arctic Circle at the opening of the film. We go underwater to find the Anti-Villain League"which has as its headquarters an incredible submarine that travels underwater"to a final sequence that takes us to a level unlike anything we've seen before."
The reason that the film lends itself to 3D is not only the scope and scale of the set pieces, but because of worldwide audiences' fascination with the best use of the medium. Relates Healy: 'One of the things that was important to Chris Meledandri when we started looking to create Despicable Me was to be able to have a global sensibility. Because he realised very early on that we're not just making movies for the domestic marketplace, we're making movies for audiences worldwide."
While Gru was building rockets that flew to the moon in Despicable Me, he has some stiff competition from his partner at the AVL in this film. Renaud walks us through a few of the Guillon-designed gadgets that Lucy has on her missions, all of which lend themselves to audience immersion. Indeed, you feel like you're on the three-dimensional trip with her. He says: 'What we wanted to do with Lucy as an agent of the Anti-Villain League, was push the kind of gadgets that you would see in the Bond films, but make them even bigger than life. She's got an amazing purse that's a real bag of tricks, with a mini flamethrower and a lipstick taser. Lucy's purse can actually become a hand glider. She's got spray to identify any laser-beam alarm triggers"so she's always ready"and a bracelet that can shoot an epoxy that can stop an attacking chicken, should that come up. She can also shoot moose tranquiliser darts."
As the production designers crafted audience involvement opportunities, they relied on their inner little boys to imagine the possibilities. Coffin laughs: 'Eric is possibly the most childish of us all. He wants those designs to become so true that he puts all of his soul into them. When the script informed us that we needed a car, then we tweaked it and asked ourselves, -Wouldn't it be cool to have that small car change into an airplane or a submarine?'"
Still Having a Bad, Bad Day: Music of Despicable Me 2
Grammy Award-winning artist Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D. and The Neptunes has written and produced for blockbuster musical artists around the globe. With Despicable Me, the artist tried his hand at composing the score"alongside returning composer Heitor Pereira"as well as created original songs and themes for a film. Williams reflects on conversations with Chris Meledandri, Chris Renaud and Coffin: 'We had extensive conversations about music and what they were feeling and what they really wanted, and it was a more soulful sound this time"something that was right in the world of the late-'60s, early-'70s." The longtime fan of animation poured his creative energy into the project, and the team was thrilled with the results.
Chris Meledandri discusses the work of the two men: 'The music for the first film was distinctive and defined the character of the movie. It was borne out of collaboration between Pharrell Williams and Heitor Pereira. It was clear that was a relationship that we wanted to continue for the second film. That process of scoring is something that happens in a parallel to the making of the film, and as we created the musical landscape for the sequel, they've done work that is outstanding."
Pharrell Williams wrote three new songs for Despicable Me 2, as well as reprised several of his songs from the first film. In addition, Heitor Pereira has created new themes for characters such as El Macho and Lucy that weave in beautifully with themes for Gru and the girls from the first adventure. Heitor Pereira recalls: 'There was a lot for Gru to digest, and I find that music can help how deep those feelings are. For example, his search for love without him knowing it. And the villain, El Macho? He's a crazy villain! He's different and attached to the Mexican culture. I had to make sure we didn't miss that spot because it's a colorful addition to the storytelling, music-wise."
Chris Renaud was adamant that they not simply redo the first film's score. He explains: 'The new songs from Pharrell Williamsare full of fun, but it's a tough process. We sit down with Pharrell Williams and say, -Hey, write a great song,' and he does. It takes several iterations, but when we go back to him and say, -Could it be a little more like this?' he will always say, -You know what? I'll try again.' He and Heitor Pereira are so dedicated to getting it right; it's incredible to be able to work with them."
For Despicable Me 2, Pharrell Williams created the songs 'Fun Fun Fun," 'Happy" and 'Just a Cloud Away." Pharrell Williams says, 'I'm very proud of -Just a Cloud Away.' It's meant to be a Hallmark card for people who are going through a tough time. You can never get tired of new iterations of -It's going to be okay.' I'm happy that in Despicable Me, of all films, we get to make music and give and offer people happiness."
Pharrell Williams also wrote 'Scream," which is performed by Cee-Lo Green. Audiences will find a good deal of upbeat numbers on the soundtrack with 'Don't Stop the Party," performed by Pit Bull; Bob Marley's 'Jamming," performed by Ali Dee; 'Where Them Girls At?" performed by David Guetta, featuring Nicki Minaj and Flo Rida. Finally, what self-respecting super-villain would call himself 'El Macho" without the sound of 'Echa Pa'lla (Manos Pa'rriba)," performed by Pitbull, featuring Papayo; and Ali Dee's 'Cielito Lindo" inspiring him to woo the ladies who frequent Salsa & Salsa.
Music was apparently infectious to other members on set. When the filmmakers needed Agnes to carry a tune, Elsie Fisher was always up for the challenge. When asked about her inspiration, she thinks hard: 'Songs just comes to my mind; you don't have to think about it for too long when you're making up a song."
Despicable Me 2
Release Date: June 20th, 2013