Has Pixar and DreamWorks' reign over the animated film industry come to an end? Of course not, but those two heavyweights will have to make some room for newcomer Illumination Entertainment, the company responsible for the certified hit, Despicable Me. Fingers were crossed for a $30 million opening, but the studio's first feature film wound up taking in a whopping $56.4 million. When a movie is that successful it's quite obvious what happens next: sequel talk.

As reported by Deadline, Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio along with Illumination CEO, Chris Meledandri, are already hard at work on Despicable Me 2. On top of that, there's also a plan to make bank on the true stars of the film, Gru's henchmen, the minions. In addition to the sequel, the studio will develop two short films focusing on the diabolical little yellow guys. However, it's still unclear how and when these shorts will be released; they could precede future Illumination films, get a DVD release or perhaps even be broadcast on NBC.

Should the mini minion movie be shown Pixar-style before new Illumination films, they'll certainly have a number of options to choose from. In addition to breaking the news of Despicable Me 2, Deadline goes into detail about the man in charge, Meledandri. Three years ago Universal Pictures managed to coax Meledandri away from his gig at Fox Animation. Not only did Meledandri take the job for Universal, but he took a few things from Fox with him, the best of the best in available talent. From there he had those folks sign exclusive contracts and go to work in Illumination's Sanata Monica and Paris facilities.
Now that Despicable Me is off and running, the next out of the gate on April 1st, 2011 will be Hop, the live-action CG film in which Russell Brand voices the Easter Bunny. The Hop director, Tim Hill, as well as the film's executive producer, Missy Imperato, are both Fox transfers having worked on Alvin and the Chipmunks. From there we'll get Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, which is co-written and will be co-directed by the Despicable Me duo, Paul and Daurio, the same two who wrote Horton Hears A Who! for Fox. The next one will likely be Ricky Gervais' Flanimals, which is written by Matt Selman, who co-wrote The Simpsons Movie. There's also that Tim Burton The Addams Family project, a Where's Waldo film and a handful of other original ideas the company is developing as well all of which I'd imagine will keep the same filmmakers in play.

Not only is this good news for any fan of Despicable Me, but for the animation industry as well; we're adding another player to the game and a good one at that! With Despicable Me an official success, the pressure is really on Illumination for round two. Their first film may be remembered as one of the better movies of the summer of 2010, but should Hop be a disappointment, the studio's potential will certainly be reconsidered. Perhaps I was swayed by Deadline's flattering piece, but Meledandri seems to know exactly what he's doing. With him at the helm, I'm putting my money on Illumination to maintain a positive track record.

Which of these upcoming animated films are you looking forward to the most?
categories Movies, Cinematical