'Minions' box office: $115.2 million. What's driving the appeal?

'Minions' box office: The success of 'Minions' at the box office this weekend makes it the second largest opening in animated film history. What makes the mischievous, yellow henchmen so popular? 

Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures via AP
In this image released by Universal Pictures, various minion characters appear in a scene from the animated feature, "Minions."

This weekend the highly anticipated “Despicable Me” spin-off “Minions” opened at the box office with record numbers, garnering $115.2 million in North America and making it the second biggest animated film opening in history.

Minions first appeared as the ridiculous, and often times unhelpful, assistants of the villain Gru in “Despicable Me.”

What makes the villain-serving yellow minions so appealing?

Steve Carell, who plays “Gru,” put it this way:

“They’re funny and they’re physical and they’re violent in a very benign way. You can’t not love them,” he told etonline.com in 2013.

A BuzzFeed list titled “15 reasons we wish we had minions” includes “minions are always down to party” with an image featuring a group of the yellow henchmen under a straw-thatched umbrella wearing leis and eating bananas. The list includes images of minions in all kinds of ridiculous situations, highlighting their appeal – their ability to make any situation humorous.

Some of the recent hype around the minions may be a result of Universal Pictures’ huge promotional campaign. According to Deadline, the campaign is the “largest and most comprehensive in its history.”

McDonald’s is doing both an adult and kids promotion in its restaurants, with Happy Meal toys at the center. General Mills, Tic Tac, and Comcast are all doing advertising tie-ins as well.

As Deadline reported, “'Minions' originally had a release date of December, 19, 2014, but the studio moved the Illumination Entertainment film into summer 2015 and, by doing so, was able to extend the marketing push through a variety of promotions.”

David O’Connor, Universal’s executive VP of global brand marketing and partnerships, explained the wild success of the marketing campaign saying, “The minions have permeated pop culture so [they have] broad appeal from ages 3 to 84. We started hearing from brands [around the world], so it was a very coordinated global effort: we worked with all the local offices around the globe.”

And it seems like the “broad appeal” is still going strong. A Facebook page appropriately named “Minions Fans” has almost three and a half million likes and features thousands of pictures of minions along with funny phrases.

According to Variety Magazine, “Minions” came second to “Shrek the Third’s” $121.6 million kickoff in 2007.

Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief told Variety, that he became aware of the minions’ “cultural currency” when he saw a story at a mall promoting the “Despicable Me” characters.

“They’re everywhere, those yellow guys. In a way they exist in the culture without even having a film attached to them.”

As Jeff Brock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations, told Variety, “With anything that opens over $100 million, you breach all demographics. The Minions are the stars of the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise…. [K]ids love them, teens love the, and adults love them.”

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