They can be found in McDonald’s Happy Meals, on cereal boxes, promoting bags of potatoes and are also available as a laptop skin [amongst other random things]. These small yellow creatures, that very much look like a stuffed packet of contraband, are literally taking over your world.
But what’s the secret of The Minions’ success?
The Minions are a spin off from the successful Despicable Me movie series. As a product of Universal Studios it follows the enormous smash hits of Fast and the Furious 7 and Jurassic World as a perfect trifecta of money making for the movie producers. The three movies are reported to have generated nearly $1billion for their owners.
Surprisingly they are based on the back story of James Bond-type henchmen:
Before they were little yellow creatures, the original idea for the Minions was to have big thugs working “Despicable Me” villain Gru. “In the ‘James Bond’ tradition, you’d always see the villain in the cave, with guys in the background pushing missiles for him,” Coffin says. “Out of that, it’s like, ‘What does a guy like that do when he comes home from work? Does he have money problems, does he have children, does he have a family? And what about these guys pushing missiles in the background. Do they have a union?’ That core concept was very attractive.” From there, the producers landed on the idea of a tiny, yellow creature, which were attractive from a production standpoint. “We could multiply them at a very low cost, rendering-wise, to get hundreds on screen.” via
Even though they work for evil, they themselves are not evil. In fact because of their complete natural incompetence they are very good at making an absolute hash of everything that they do, ensuring ultimately that evil fails and good wins every time.
Success then, in our opinion, is a result of:
- They’re easy: Unlike being a fan of Game of Thrones, you don’t need to fully commit to The Minions to enjoy them. The story and characters are simple enough just to have and to hold when it suits you. Watch the movie, get a Minion costume for your dog, eat a Minion potato chip…carry on with your life.
- They’re everyone: The Minions have no gender, language or race – so they have universal appeal. Primarily targeted at the most racially diverse generation the world has ever seen [Generation Z] they are immediately seen as a belonging to everyone.
- Great story: You can throw as much production as you like at a film, but if your story isn’t rock solid, you will fail. Luckily the producers of The Minions have made sure they’re on a winning track with the narrative they have crafted. It also helps that they cast Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm as voiceover artists, which adds a certain amount of star-appeal directed mainly at the adults.
- Licensing: The new business model for animated movies relies heavily on character licensing revenue that comes in from select product partners. The licensing drives the movie’s success and visa versa. Hit the trend just right and you have an infinite feedback loop of delicious PR that keeps on giving.
- Statistical randomness: As much as it would be nice to put all of the above into a blender, hit the switch and hope to replicate this success every time, a lot of the popularity of The Minions movie is a result of statistical randomness. It’s just the right movie at the right time.
It feels like The Minions could be Ghostbusters and The Smurfs all over again. Judging by the present depressing news flow of ‘reality’ circulating the world these days, they couldn’t have arrived soon enough.