Minions: The Rise of Gru Minions: The Rise of Gru

Speaking at CineEurope in Barcelona, Illumination Entertainment founder and CEO Chris Meledandri warned of the dangers of trying to please everyone, especially everyone on social media.

With Minions: The Rise of Gru set to hit theaters July 1, the CEO took to the stage and discussed the latest feature from the studio’s lucrative Despicable Me franchise, why he doesn’t worry about how different groups will respond to artistic output, and how the most costly decision of his career has helped mold him into the executive he is today.

Among his observations shared during the talk, Meledandri questioned the roll that social media and outsider opinion can and should play in film production.

Said Meledandri:

The minute you start using the point of view of Twitter or the point of view of every single culture, no matter how intolerant they are, to guide your creative expression, I think you’re on a very slippery slope — not only morally but creatively. It’s impossible to protect the creative process and still be trying to figure out how to thread a needle that’s never going to offend anybody.

To that end, he addressed the minor controversy that was stirred when Chris Pratt, a non-Italian, was cast as Nintendo’s famously Italian front man Mario in the upcoming animated feature adaptation of that IP.

Chris was cast because we felt he could give a great performance as Mario. And now that we’ve done about 15 recording sessions, and the movie is three-quarters done, I sit here and say that I love his performance as Mario… When people hear Chris Pratt’s performance, the criticism will evaporate, maybe not entirely — people love to voice opinions, as they should. I’m not sure this is the smartest defense, but as a person who has Italian American heritage, I feel I can make that decision without worrying about offending Italians or Italian Americans. … I think we’re going to be just fine.

Meledandri was also asked his opinion on Pixar’s move to include a same-sex kiss scene in Lightyear, which eventually got the film banned in several countries. He was keen to point out that the future of filmmaking at Illumination is likely only going to get more progressive, and he understands that may alienate certain groups:

There are topics of conversation right now that are very relevant to what we’re doing in the future that get into areas that potentially might not please everyone. I think you have to honor the stories that you tell, honor the choices that your filmmakers make, and you have to be willing to not have everybody pleased all the time.

Perhaps some of Meledandri’s brazenness comes from surviving what very well could have been the death blow for a lesser executive, greenlighting Titan A.E. while he was the head of 20th Century Fox Animation. After joking about how unwise it is to lose 100 million of Rupert Murdoch’s dollars, he explained:

There are things that are going to happen in your life that are highly dislocating, and you have to figure out how not to get crushed by them… The key to whether or not you’re going to get crushed by them is not the failure itself, failure is part of the price of admission to success, it’s really whether or not you’re going to get swallowed up in fear.

Meledandri’s comments were originally reported by Deadline.

Jamie Lang

Jamie Lang

Jamie Lang is the Editor-in-Chief of Cartoon Brew.

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