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Chris Meledandri: Animated hit launches Illumination

Comedy Impact Report 2010: Animation Sensations

When Chris Meledandri exited 20th Century Fox Animation two years ago to create Illumination Entertainment, the move was viewed by industryites as a huge loss for the Century City brass.

And that was before Meledandri far exceeded even the most optimistic expectations with Illumination’s debut pic, “Despicable Me,” which has earned $507 million worldwide. The animated tale that centers on underachiever supervillain Gru instantly gave Illumination a seat at the table of elite toon houses.

“I am more proud of this film than anything else I’ve been involved with,” says Meledandri, who brought Fox’s lucrative “Ice Age” to the bigscreen. “I never expect a movie to be this successful. I tend to protect myself against disappointment, and I kind of go in with lowered expectations.”

Steve Carell, who starred as the voice of Gru, says that Meledandri’s sense of humor is secondary to a great sense of story and character.

“I don’t think he set out to make a funny or cute animated movie,” says Carell, who is eyeing a second “Despicable” outing. “He wanted to tell a story, and I think that’s where the success of that movie really lies. He took great pains to create characters and a plot that was ridiculous and somewhat grounded at the same time.”

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