‘Despicable Me 2’ Director: Minions Were Supposed to Be ‘Army of Orc-Like Brutes’

Variety Screening Series Q&A features Illumination's Chris Meledandri, directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud and musician Pharrell Williams

Directors Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud, Illumination
Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

Despicable Me 2” collaborators Chris Meledandri, Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud and Pharrell Williams shared some of their creative processes following a showing of their toon Nov. 14 at the Variety Screening Series.

Williams couldn’t stop gushing about animation and working with Illumination, in particular. “I love cartoons. I’ve loved them all my life and still, to this day — I’m 40,” and he wanted to be involved with them in some way. Writing the score for the first film and songs for the second, “It’s like the gift that just keeps on giving,” he said. “To see what ‘Despicable Me’ has done and what ‘Despicable Me 2’ is doing right now is just an incredible ride. I’m the luckiest one up here, OK?”

Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud talked about the evolution of the Minions, which started out in the first movie as a device to make their comedic villain Gru more sympathetic. They ended up becoming so popular that they are more central to the plot of the sequel. The characters were originally planned to be big hulking creatures in the original story by Sergio Pablos.

“Initially the Minions were supposed to be this army of Orc-like brutes, but they just kept becoming smaller and smaller,” said Coffin, who also provides the voices for a majority of the Minions. “We needed to make Gru sympathetic and the easy way was to actually have him surrounded by incompetence.”

“Then you can understand his frustration,” Renaud added.

The Q&A was moderated by Variety’s Chief Int’l Film Critic Peter Debruge at the ArcLight in Los Angeles.