'Minions' finds 'Despicable Me' protagonist Gru's helpers taking center stage

The film 'Minions,' which features the voice work of Pierre Coffin, Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, and others, opens in theaters today. How will it perform against such competition as Pixar's 'Inside Out'?

Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures/AP
'Minions' is directed by Pierre Coffin.

The film “Minions,” which is based on the breakout characters from the “Despicable Me” animated film series, hits theaters today.

“Minions” features the voices of Pierre Coffin, who also co-directs the film, as the minions, small yellow creatures who converse in gibberish and in the “Despicable” films help wannabe villain Gru (Steve Carell) with his schemes. “Minions” also stars Sandra Bullock as Scarlet Overkill, a villain whom the minions are assisting in this story. Jon Hamm, Allison Janney, Michael Keaton, and Steve Coogan co-star.

The film follows the box office success of 2010’s “Despicable Me” and the 2013 sequel “Despicable Me 2,” the latter of which featured actress Kristen Wiig. Industry watchers are predicting a good performance for “Minions” this weekend as well. 

The success of the first two “Despicable” films, which made “Minions” possible, demonstrates how the animated movie market has diversified. Disney and Pixar, the latter of which is owned by Disney, are of course cultural forces and perennial champions at the box office (Disney more so since it recovered from a slump with the recent films “Tangled,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” and “Frozen”).

Hopeful competitors such as Universal Pictures and Dreamworks Animation had mixed results at first with going up against the two titans. Dreamworks' Shrek” series and the movie “Shark Tale” became hits in the early 2000s but other films like 2003’s “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” and the 2006 movie “Flushed Away” did not succeed. Recently, however, Dreamworks has triumphed with the “Kung Fu Panda” film series and the “How to Train Your Dragon” movies. 

Universal, which is behind "Minions" and the "Despicable" movies, had success with the 1980s animated films “An American Tail” and “The Land Before Time.” More recent efforts like “Coraline” and “Curious George” did fairly well, but it was “Despicable” that was a huge hit for Universal, eventually coming in at number seven on the highest-grossing movies of 2010. The sequel grossed even more and came in at number four on the list of the highest-grossing movies of 2013. Time will tell how “Minions” does at the box office and what Universal does with this success, but the fact that another studio is even thinking of releasing an animated film a couple of weeks after a Pixar film shows how the animated movie landscape has changed.

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