With Universal and Illumination Entertainment’s Hop opening this weekend, I was able to sit down with Christopher Meledandri (CEO of Illumination) for an extended interview. As most of you know, Illumination’s first movie, Despicable Me, went on to earn over five hundred and twenty seven million dollars at the worldwide box office. Not bad for a film that had no build in audience. As you might imagine, they’re hard at work on the sequel.
During my extended interview, Meledandri talked about the success of Despicable Me, the “it’s so fluffy!” line, how Hop came together and getting the cast, are there any Easter Eggs in Illumination films (like Pixar does it), his CinemaCon panel with George Lucas, James Cameron and Jeffrey Katzenberg, and he also talks about Illumination’s future projects which include Curious George, Tim Burton’s stop-motion animation adaptation of The Addams Family, Ricky Gervais’ Flanimals, and The Lorax. Hit the jump to watch:
Before getting to the interview, if you’d like to watch or read exactly what Meledandri said about Curious George, The Addams Family, Flanimals, and The Lorax, I posted that as a separate write-up the day I did the interview. Finally, here’s a number of clips from Hop.
Otherwise, here’s the full interview. A big thank you to Meledandri for giving me so much time.
- :50 – Talks about his initial take on the positive reception/grosses for Despicable Me. Says it was unexpected and overwhelming. Talks about Illumination’s approach following Despicable Me’s success.
- 2:09 – Why Meledandri thinks Despicable Me was successful. Says Universal’s enthusiasm for the film and marketing was key.
- 3:38 – Talks about the “It’s so fluffy!” line and how it was the final selling point for a lot of people in deciding to see the movie.
- 4:40 – Despicable Me 2 talk. Says the film will be released in 2013.
- 5:04 – The genesis for Hop. Says it was always planned to be a mix of live-action and CG. Began with the idea of adding detail to the mythology of the cultural celebration of Easter. Talks about the “collective” nature of screenwriters in the Illumination Entertainment family. Writers will move from project to project and collaborate on a number of films.
- 7:14 – Casting talk for Hop. Says it’s a bit harder to grab first-choice actors for family films now that animated/family films are much more common and actors are fielding a number of offers. The casting of Russell Brand came about because he had worked with Illumination on Despicable Me. Liked Brand’s ability to be both subversive and sweet.
- 9:00 – Chose Marsden because he could play the role grounded, but also has a very expressive face and could hold his own on the screen with an animated character. Worked with Hank Azaria on his first animated film (Anastasia).
- 11:30 – Talks about hidden Easter Eggs in Illumination films. Says they haven’t thought about it much, but in Despicable Me one of the characters is wearing a t-shirt that’s a faded image of The Lorax. Also are including the minions into the Illumination logo.
- 12:50 – Talks about his upcoming CinemaCon panel with George Lucas, James Cameron and Jeffrey Katzenberg. Says when he initially signed up to be on the panel, he had no idea he would be joined by such talent. Panel is about the state of 3D animation.
- 15:05 – Curious George talk
- 16:00 – The Addams Family
- 17:15 – Flanimals
- 18:00 - The Lorax