A Rant on Illumination Entertainment

phillysports
To clarify for those of you who don't know, Illumination Entertainment is an animation studio that has produced many successful films in the last decade. The company is famous for producing the Despicable Me/Minions franchise, The Lorax, The Secret Life of Pets, and Sing as of 2016.

When discussing the most hated animation studios, most people usually point to companies such as Blue Sky or Sony Pictures Animation. And for good reason. Blue Sky has only made two films that are considered good by the majority of people since its creation with the first Ice Age movie and The Peanuts Movie. The studio is infamous for its cash grab mentality with its FOUR Ice Age sequels and many movies like Rio 1 and 2 that just seem to be meh at best. Sony Pictures Animation is hated for many of the same reasons as Blue Sky. The films that they make are generally immature with only two of them being considered good movies with Surf's Up and the first Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. A lot of people (especially my man AniMat) just can't get behind the overly cartoony and crazy style of animation that these films have. The studio is also infamous for its shameless reboots of franchises like The Smurfs as well as bringing pandering to a new level with next year's Emoji Movie. I'm not kidding. That's really happening. Look it up. While these studios are thought of negatively by many people, another studio exists that is doing pretty much the same thing as them, only it's actually LIKED by the majority of critics and audiences. That studio is Illumination Entertainment.

All my life I've been an animation fan. Whenever a new movie were to come out, I always used to beg my parents to go and see it. In the summer of 2010, when I was 12 years old, a little movie named Despicable Me came out and we saw it as a family. I loved pretty much everything about it and I still do now. The story and characters seemed new and fresh to me, the comedy was good, and it offered many engaging characters. But what I really loved were the minions. Those guys were just so funny with their made-up language and cartoony spirit that really reminded me of classic cartoons like Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry. This was Illumination's first feature film as a company. I had known what Pixar, Disney, and DreamWorks were all my life so I figured that one of them made the movie. When I sat down in the theatre, I didn't see the Pixar lamp, the Disney castle, or the DreamWorks moon so I was confused which company this movie was from. I just saw these big, almost intimidating, white letters that read ILLUMINATION ENTERTAINMENT, and that's when I realized that a new animation studio had arrived on the scene. Thus, my complicated relationship with Illumination had begun.

My two favorite animation studios are Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios. There's something about each of those two companies that have always appealed to me. They each have an identity. Pixar's identity has always been its outside-the-box ideas with loads of intelligence and heart. Disney's identity has always been an unmistakable sense of magic, fantasy, and the feeling that anything is possible. While both these studios make tons of money with every new feature they release, it's obvious that quality is their highest priority. They are looking to create products that leave a large effect on the viewer and most of them become popular due to their critical acclaim and broad appeal to both children and adults. Here's what I get from Illumination: WE NEED TO MAKE AS MUCH MONEY AS POSSIBLE BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY! MONEY! MONEY! MONEY! MONEEEEEEEEEEEYYY!

Allow me to explain. The first Despicable Me was a hit with both critics and the box office, so obviously a sequel was going to be released. While I enjoyed Despicable Me 2, it did show me that Illumination is definitely a company focused on the financial spectrum. The film, while good, did include much more of the profitable minions than in the first installment and numerous pop songs like "Where The Girls At" that obviously seemed to be marketing towards younger audiences. But that didn't really matter to me that much. If the movie's good, why should I care? That changed in 2015 with the release of Minions. They advertised the CRAP out of this movie. There were commercials out a full two months the movie hit theatres and there were minion products everywhere. The advertising of Minions nearly reached Frozen levels of in-your-face obnoxious. The film eventually became the second highest grossing animated feature ever with $1.159 BILLION dollars being made at the box office despite mixed reviews from both critics and audiences. This is where Illumination must had realized that their movies didn't necessarily have to be good. They just needed to reach mass appeal and promote it non-stop. And the fact that a critically mixed movie created only for the purpose of making money made over a billion dollars at the box office and even outsold my favorite movie of all time in Inside Out kind of got under my skin.

In the summer of 2016, Illumination released The Secret Life of Pets. Usually when an animated movie comes out from a major studio like Pixar and Disney, you see commercials on TV about four weeks before the film is released in theatres. Afterwards, if it's successful, you might see promotional spots like cereal toys or merchandise. That was NOT the case for this movie. I noticed commercials for Secret Life of Pets about two months before the movie came out and toy commercials for it a full MONTH before anyone had even seen it. The commercials all really wanted to emphasize that the movie was made by the same people who made Minions and the fact that they had many famous stars like Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, and Louis C.K. providing voices.That's when I really started to notice a pattern when it came to Illumination's movies. The studio wants to make really safe and marketable films that will try to appeal to as many people as possible with easily recognizable character types and plots. I haven't seen this movie, but based on the trailers and everything, it seems to be Toy Story just with household pets. And as expected, the film was a box office smash despite receiving lukewarm reviews from critics and audiences. Everyone pretty much said the same thing: the movie was cute and innocent enough but there are plenty of better animated features out there. That, in my opinion, is Illumination's identity. Safe, profitable features that won't challenge you in the slightest but aren't stupid or offensive enough to be considered bad.

I really made this post to emphasize my complete distaste for their upcoming film Sing. I will never see this movie under any circumstances. I don't care if it's good or not. I don't care if it's a critically acclaimed culturally phenomenon. This movie is being made for one purpose and one purpose only: to make money. This pretty much follows the checklist on how to make an animated movie profitable in the most insultingly obvious way imaginable.

#1: Easily relatable characters and story setup
How many times have you heard a plot like this? A business of some kind is closing and it takes the hard work of a wacky group of characters to keep it from going under. I can name so many movies and TV show episodes with that premise that it's kind of insane. The characters are all look to be cookie-cutter stereotypes You got the optimistic business owner in the koala, the dreamer whose father disapproves of him in the British gorilla, the quirky oddball in the German pig, the relatable stay-at-home wife with a dream in the female pig, the cocky jerk in the Seth MacFarlane mouse, the reluctant sidekick in the John C. Reilly sheep, the slob husband pig, the rebel in the Scarlett Johansson porcupine, and much, MUCH more character stereotypes that the audience will be able to figure out in five seconds. Also, this movie just seriously seems to be ripping of the 2011 Muppet movie's entire plot.

#2: Animals
This movie takes place in a world where everybody's an anthropomorphic animal. Does the fact that they're animals mean anything to the plot of the film? Nope. Not at all. It's not like Zootopia where the fact that everyone's an animal is integral to the plot and themes of the movie. These characters are just animals because kids love themselves some talking animals. The Lion King, Ice Age, Finding Nemo, Madagascar, The Little Mermaid, and Illumination's own Secret Life of Pets are profitable movies that feature talking animals as the main characters.

#3: Obvious Celebrity Voices
Illumination has made a big point to advertise the fact that they got TONS of big name celebrities to star in their movie. They got Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Nick Kroll, Nick Offerman, Tori Kelly, and Taron Egerton to just name a few. "Hey, you! Target audience age 7-20! You know these people, right? RIGHT?!"

#4: Pop Songs
In 2011, Illumination attempted to make their first ever animated musical with The Lorax. They wrote their own songs for the movie and everything. The movie didn't perform as well as they wanted, and it's one of the most forgettable animated films of the 2010s. Illumination figured, "I want to make an animated musical, but I don't want to hire songwriters and spend the time and effort to create original songs like Disney does. I got it! It's all so clear to me now! How about we just have the characters sing preexisting pop songs from the past 25 years! Our target audience will be able to easily recognize these tunes and we don't even have to show any effort whatsoever!"

That's pretty sums up my distaste for Sing. I don't care how good it's going to be. It's just a film that reeks of pandering and is an enormous cash grab in my opinion. And the sad thing is, this movie probably is going to make a crap ton of money at the box office. I'm talking like upwards of $800 million. It seems that so many people have fallen into Illumination's trap. The studio has one objective and one objective only: make money. Pixar and Disney are as great as they are because they take huge risks and end up changing the animation and film industries as a result. Illumination just seems like white noise for me at this point. The films that they make are never going to be great. They're just going to be innocent and harmless enough to the point where they will make tons of money even though critics will never consider them to be amongst the animation elite. It really gets me mad that Illumination has managed to follow the same exact formula in terms of making their movies profitable, and no one has really called them out on it at this point. Hell, people are actually putting Illumination in the same category as Pixar now! Friggin' Pixar! The animation studio that has brought us new, thoughtful, and engaging material for over 20 years now. And the fact that a studio like Illumination that makes half-hearted material just for a quick buck is this popular really concerns me as an animation fan.

To close, I do not hate Illumination Entertainment. I love the first two Despicable Me movies and I believe the studio can make good material if they want to. I just don't think their hearts are in the right place. People typically rate animated films by the messages they spread and the strength of their characters and stories. Movies like Pixar's Inside Out and Toy Story or Disney's Fantasia and Beauty and the Beast are considered masterpieces because they broke new ground when it came to animated storytelling. Sure, they were all hits, but that's not what their recognized as immediately. Movies like Minions, Secret Life of Pets, and Sing have not and will not break any new ground, and I wouldn't be surprised if they fade into obscurity in the next 10 years. Illumination needs to stop making their movies based on what focus groups want to see and instead tell the stories that THEY want to tell. They're still a young studio, so I do hope that they can get their priorities in order and give us new and exhilarating content in the future. Either that, or they can continue to make rehashed cash grab sequels to Despicable Me and Secret Life of Pets.....

Wait. They are?!

Crap.

Comments

I Don't See Much Wrong With Them Other Than Milking The Minions Too Much, But I Can Respect Your Opinion, Blue Sky Studios Is Worse, because They HAD TO MILK ICE AGE UP OUR FACES! - VideoGamefan5

Also Why Is Everyone Hating On The Secret Life Of Pets? , I Can Respect Opinions But Why Is It Getting So Much Random Hate? - VideoGamefan5

I don't hate The Secret Life of Pets. I don't feel anything at all towards it. I guess people don't like it because they feel it's a commercialized, safe, lukewarm Toy Story ripoff that doesn't challenge you in the slightest. - phillysports

Nice rant. - ModernSpongeBobSucks

Don't forget DreamWorks is known for being out there as well. They also made some fantastic films as well. Like seriously, who would've thought Kung Fu Panda would be so good, let alone it's two sequels, which I think are better. - cjWriter1997

Yeah. DreamWorks has always been known for taking ideas that sound stupid on paper (a kung fu fighting panda, a Viking riding a dragon, etc.) and turning them into fantastic overall animated motion pictures. How To Train Your Dragon, Shrek 2, and Kung Fu Panda 2 all rank amongst my favorite movies of all time. - phillysports

I think I found the list just for you after reading this rant:

https://www.thetoptens.com/reasons-why-illumination-entertainment-sucks/ - ModernSpongeBobSucks

Illumination Entertainment in a nutshell:

https://www.bing.com/images/search? view=detailV2&ccid=TINlLRHo&id=D8BE35124F25DCFF06F1FC8C15969A28895F818E&q=moar+krabs+&simid=608041579534876944&selectedIndex=0&ajaxhist=0 - ModernSpongeBobSucks

MONEY! MONEY! MONEY! MONNEYYY! MONEY! MONEY! MONEY! MONEEEY! MONEY! MONEY! MONEY! MOOONNNEY! - TwilightKitsune

Sounds like Mr. Krabs is running Illumination Entertainment. - visitor

ACK ACK ACK ACK ay Spongebob - TwilightKitsune

MONEY! EVEN BLUE SKY AFTER ICE AGE 5 KINDA IS TAKING A PAUSE THEY ARE TRYING WITH FERDINAND AND they're INTERESTING MOVIE NEXT YEAR! AND THEY MADE THE PEANUTS MOVIE AND didn't MODERNIZE THEY HAVE SERIOUSLY GOOD POTENTIAL SO DOES ILLMUNATION AND SONY BECAUSE THEY ON THEIR OWN, MADE SURFS UP - visitor

I like Sing and The Secret Life of Pets. - PeeledBanana

Well, thankfully, now people are opening their eyes up to see that Illumination isn't as good as they think it is. One example being my favorite YouTube animation critic Saberspark (I recommend you check him out if you would like), While he hasn't made a video mainly focused on Illumination, he is one of the few YouTubers I have ever seen criticize Illumination, with the first instance being in his What Ruined DreamWorks? video, where he considers Illumination to be a carbon copy of DreamWorks nowadays since all the former does is make movies with low risk and high reward and meant to be turned into cash cow franchises. And it seemed the criticism of Illumination was already present online that isn't just here, but on YouTube as well. Either way, your post still does a great job analyzing Illumination and what problems it has. - ModernSpongeBobSucks

I've watched a lot of Saberspark videos. He's a great critic. - phillysports

True that. Glad you like him. I really love his passion for animation in general. - ModernSpongeBobSucks

It seems like this year these studios have cash grab animated movies
IE: despicable me 3,
Sony: emoji movie
WB: lego ninjago

It seems like blue sky is next, with ferdinand, that movie seems like a joke, and it stars JOHN CENA, seriously blue sky? - VideoGamefan5

Cena is not a bad voice actor though - iliekpiez

Illumination CEO: “Remember how the Lorax flopped? Well let’s make another cash grab musical film about another Dr. Suess classic! How about the Grinch? Brilliant! ”

What’s next Illumination? The Cat in the Hat movie? Please don’t. We already suffered through the live action Cat in the Hat. - PackFan2005

Bebedict is not a good grinch. - iliekpiez

Every movie has the same animation.
Every movie - iliekpiez

Some of their future movies
Despicable me 4
Minions 4
Sing 2
Secret life of pets 2
The Grinch-ughh - iliekpiez

The president of the company also.. controls.. Dreamworks...
Oh no - iliekpiez

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