Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Animated Inspiration: Despicable Me

I'm going to preface this review with two facts about myself:

1. For years, a running joke I've had with my friends is that when I grow up, I want to be a supervillan so diabolical that the U.S. Government would gladly pop a nuke on American soil to get rid of me. Yep, I grew up reading a lot of comic books (that are all currently bagged, boarded, and cataloged for the eventual day when I either give them to my kids or donate them to a library).

2. I have never had the desire to bring a child into this world. Ever. But rather, I have longed to be in a place where I could adopt a couple of kids. Don't know why I feel that way, that's just how it's been for as long as I can remember.

So. As I'm sure you can imagine by now, "I" was the target demographic that the directors were thinking of when they made this film.

I've watched 'Despicable Me' three times now--twice in 3D and once in 2D, once by myself, once with parents and sibling, and once with parent and two nephews under the age of 10.

Each time I watched the film, I laughed, I cried, I marveled, and I reminded myself that this film was animated by the same French studio that brought us the surprisingly decent 2008 film Dragon Hunters (based on the animated series of the same name). 'Despicable Me' is the first feature-length animated film from Blue Sky and Fox veteran Chris Meledandri's studio Illumination Entertainment and he opened with a strong success.

All told, as far as animated films went this summer, I liked 'Toy Story 3,' I really liked 'How to Train Your Dragon,' but I loved 'Despicable Me!'

One of the biggest surprises for me was that Mr. Carell's voice acting and comic timing in this film was supurb! I'll admit it: I'm not a Steve Carell fan. At all. Nothing against him, I just don't find him funny (and the fact that I lived through a real world version of 'The Office' for several years doesn't work in his favor). Needless to say, I was cringing when I heard who was going to do the voice of Gru for this film. But after the movie, I left the theatre extremely satisfied by Mr. Carell's performance and looking forward to the character and dark humor that his voice acting will bring to Gru in Despicable Me 2.

Another thing about this film that I loved was how Gru's three daughters weren't caricatures or exaggerations of children, they acted like little girls. I was giggling inside as I recognized bits and pieces of my friends' children in the dialog, mannerisms, antics, and actions of Margo, Edith and Agnes. And as the following trailer shows us: in the end, it's all about the minions!

At this point, enough people have posted reviews about 'Despicable Me' and it's story, so I won't waste anyone's time with another breakdown on character and plot points. Rather, I'm going to link to a pair of articles found on Animation World Network's website. Both interviews discuss the ins and outs of producing this film, which I hope students looking at a career in animation will find useful.
The main point that I think we should take away from these two articles is that there is no singular way to take your education and experience and get your films produced. As animation students look towards an uncertain future in an uncertain economy, we should be continually learning from the examples of others and using their experiences to forge our own paths--and hopefully, the end result will be to see our own ideas on the big screen.