Illumination, formerly known as Illumination Entertainment, is an American film production company, founded by Chris Meledandri (formerly head of Blue Sky Studios) in 2007 and based in Santa Monica, California. They are best known for their inaugural film, the 2010 animated feature Despicable Me, which has since become the studio's Cash-Cow Franchise. The Minions, who first appeared in the film, are the studio's mascots and starred in their own spin-off prequel film that was released in summer 2015.
Illumination has an exclusive financing and distribution partnership with Universal Pictures. In April 2016, it was announced that Universal's parent company and Comcast subsidiary, NBCUniversal, would purchase rival studio DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion. The effects of the acquisition to Illumination wasn't made clear, other then bringing the two studios under the same roof and shaking up the release dates of both companies' future films. Illumination is expected to remain a separate brand from DreamWorks for the time being, making the two sister brands. In contrast, Laika, which co-produced its first four films under Universal Pictures' Focus Features label, remains an independent studio unaffiliated with NBCUniversal or Comcast.
On January 2018, Nintendo had announced that they are collaborating with Universal and Illumination to produce an animated feature film based on their long-running flagship franchise, Super Mario Bros., following their deal with constructing the Super Nintendo World attraction at Universal Studios Japan.
In 2022, Illumination announced the launch of a banner for adult animation known as Moonlight.
List of films produced by Illumination Entertainment:
- Despicable Me (2010)
- Hop (2011)note
- The Lorax (2012)note
- Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem (short, 2012)
- Despicable Me 2 (2013)
- Minions (2015)
- The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
- Sing (2016)
- Despicable Me 3 (2017)
- The Grinch (2018)note
- The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019)
- Sing 2 (2021)
- Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022)
- The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)note
- Migration (2023)
- Despicable Me 4 (2024)
- The Secret Life of Pets 3 (TBD)
- Big Tree (TBD)
- Sing 3 (TBD)
Tropes associated with Illumination:
- Cash-Cow Franchise: Despicable Me.
- Creator's Oddball:
- The short film, Penglai, is a massive contrast to everything the studio has worked on prior, as it is a 2D animated film (a first from the studio) done in a traditional Chinese style and in contrast to their past films, which consist of lighthearted comedies, it is a dramatic adventure story with little humor. It is also the first short they have done that has no connection to their pre-existing films.
- Hop is their only film that is a live-action/CGI hybrid, as that film's failure caused them to stay strictly to animation.
- The Super Mario Bros. Movie, while having comedic moments, is a straightforward adventure film whose comedy is way less gag-based and has much more detailed animation than their other, more mid-budget films.
- Dueling Movies: Sing with Disney's Zootopia; both films boast an all-animal cast.
- Karma Houdini: In all their movies, there is at least one character who manages to evade the consequences of some form of negative behavior.
- Logo Joke: The studio is famous for its various vanity plates featuring the Minions engaging in some kind of humorous activity.
- Noodle People: A lot of the characters in the studio's films tend to be pretty skinny.
- Production Posse: When it comes to the "additional voices", expect at least one of the following actors: Lori Alan, Carlos Alazraqui, Cathy Cavadini, Townsend Coleman, Jim Cummings, Bill Farmer, Keith Ferguson, Jess Harnell, Danny Mann, Laraine Newman, Mindy Sterling, Tara Strong, and Jim Ward. For their Japanese dubs, expect this to happen with Kōichi Yamadera and Mamoru Miyano. Pharrell Williams is also a frequent collaborator on the films' soundtracks.
- Prop Recycling: A common feature of their films, due to their lower budgets than most other companies. Car models in particular get reused regularly between movies.
- Running Gag: Expect disco to pop up somewhere in their movies.
- What Could Have Been: They were originality intended as a family and animation label of Universal Pictures but after the critical and commercial failure of their second and only live action film Hop, Universal purchased Mac Guff's feature animation branch (Mac Guff Ligne), became Illumination's in-house studio and all of their work was made by them alone.