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Illumination’s Chris Meledandri Melds Together Cinematic Art and Cutting-Edge Technology

At the heart of every project from Illumination, which counts the highest-grossing global animated film franchise in its “Despicable Me” series among its roster, are what Academy Award-nominated founder and CEO Chris Meledandri describes as “characters and stories that live on in our audience’s lives long after they leave the theater.”

To achieve that sort of lasting impression, Meledandri, who will be inducted into the Variety Home Entertainment & Digital Hall of Fame on Dec. 5, has brought together world-class creative forces in the United States and the company’s French studio, Illumination Mac Guff. “The creation of beloved animated movies starts with great talent, and I attribute our success to the extraordinary teams that [producing partner] Janet Healy, [Illumination Mac Guff CEO] Jacques Bled and I have assembled at Illumination and Illumination Mac Guff.”

“Despicable Me 3” — the fourth highest-grossing animated film of all time — “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Sing” have helped Illumination gross more than $5.7 billion worldwide.

“A key to our success is that Jacques and Janet and I have forged a process where there are virtually no walls between the technology and the storytelling parts of the studio,” Meledandri says. “The technology enables the storytelling, and yet our technical research and development is every bit as creative as the most artist-driven parts of our filmmaking process.”

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The union of art and technology is also at the heart of Illumination’s content for a variety of platforms, from social media and mobile tech to theme parks, such as “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” in 3D at Universal’s Hollywood and Orlando locations. The company’s first mobile game, “Despicable Me: Minion Rush” has already been downloaded more than 800 million times.

“The simplicity of ubiquitous access to high-quality video, and other forms of media, across any device, anytime and anywhere, it’s having a tremendous impact on the in-home dynamics,” says Meledandri. “These advances, and always-on, always-connected devices are just now allowing us to provide enhanced experiences that will open up all kinds of engagement opportunities where we can create direct relationships with our audiences

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