ANNECY – One day before one of Universal’s biggest bets of 2015, “Minions,” premieres at France’s Annecy Festival, Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination Entertainment and its producer, accepted MIFA and Variety’s first Animation Personality of the Year Award.

Mickael Marin, head of Annecy’s MIFA’s market, and Peter Debruge, Variety’s Chief Intl. Film Critic, presented the award.

The Mifa-Variety Animation Personality Award recognized the achievements of one of the toon industry’s global driving forces, whose “Despicable Me,” “Dr Seuss” and “Ice Age” franchises, the last produced at 20th Century Fox, have grossed over $4.9 billion worldwide. The creative force behind Universal’s family movie business, Meledandri is also a animation pioneer, reaching out to Jacques Bled’s Mac Guff for animation on ”Despicable Me,” and then to create Illumination Mac Guff, the studio for “Despicable Me 2,” “The Lorax” and now “Minions,” all produced by Melendandri’s Illumination Studios for Universal Pictures. Lower production costs at Illumination Mac Guff allows for larger risk-taking, and doesn’t require all the films made there to be global blockbusters, Meledandri arged at an Annecy keynote an hour before, where he also stressed that animation is the most collaborative medium.

“I’ve realized the critical importance of having great collaborators. And there’s no better illustration that my partners today at Illumination Mac Guff. My producing partner Janet Healey is the single most gifted producer working in animation. Jacques Bled, the founding partner of Mac Guff, is the soul of our studio and he’s built a team whose talented is only surpassed by their character and integrity.”

“I cannot imagine having a more supportive and dynamic motion picture studio partner than Universal Pictures. I wouldn’t be standing here today without the extraordinary talents of Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud among many, many others.”

Meledandri insisted again on the importance of his collaborators when accepting the MIFA/Variety Award, thanking his entire team, accepting the award on their behalf.

Produced by Meledandri and Illumination Entertainment’s Janet Healy, and directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, adapting a Brian Lynch screenplay, “Minions” is sparking enormous expectation at Annecy.