"Despicable Me Minion Mayhem," which officially opens on
Saturday at the Hollywood adventure park, brings to life the
animated world of "Despicable Me," with both an indoor ride and
an outdoor playground, both featuring detailed settings from the
Chris Meledandri, the producer behind the "Despicable Me'
franchise who showed Universal how to make big animated films
with more modest budgets, said he wanted the ride to be "true to
the movies themselves."
"It was very important for us to have tremendous animation and
the same kind of wit and irreverence," said Meledandri, who
makes the films through his company Illumination Entertainment.
"Despicable Me," released in 2010, is the story of evil
mastermind Gru, voiced by Steve Carell, who adopts orphaned
sisters Margot, Edith and Agnes as part of his scheme to steal
the moon and become the world's most evil villain.
The film, made for $69 million, became a box office hit for
Universal Pictures in 2010, earning $543 million worldwide,
according to BoxOfficeMojo.com.
"Despicable Me 2," in which Gru gave up evil schemes to become a
devoted dad, was made for $76 million and performed even better
in 2013 with $970 million at the worldwide box office.
The surprise stars of the first film were Gru's mischievous band
of Minions, diminutive creatures who speak "Minionese," a
fictional language with words like "papoi" for toy. Meledandri
said he was approached by NBC Universal's chief executive, Steve
Burke, after the first film to bring some of the Minions' box
office magic to a live attraction.
The attendance for Comcast Corp's Universal Studios Hollywood
trails far behind that of Walt Disney Co's Disneyland in
Anaheim, south of Los Angeles, bringing in 5.9 million visitors
in 2012, compared with nearly 16 million at Disneyland,
according to a report from the Themed Entertainment Association.
[to top of second column]
But Universal Studios is now banking on the recent box office
success of its "Despicable Me" and "Fast & Furious" franchises
to entice visitors with new rides over a five-year expansion and
revamp plan for its Los Angeles park, located a few minutes away
In 2015, the theme park will expand "The Simpsons" ride into a
Springfield land from the hit animated Fox television show, while
the "Fast & Furious Supercharge" ride will bring the car-racing film
franchise to life.
"The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" will open in 2016, based on
author J.K. Rowling's magical world, which became a film franchise
that made more than $7 billion worldwide.
MINIONS TAKE OVER
On the "Minion Mayhem" ride, visitors will plunge into a storyline
where Gru and the Minions are looking for new recruits, and are
hoping to turn humans into Minions. Meanwhile, Margot, Edith and
Agnes are trying to give Gru a present to mark the one-year
anniversary of him adopting them.
The ride's project designer and show producer, Jon Corfino, said
that rather than creating a rollercoaster, "a simulation is a
complete suspension of disbelief; you're completely immersed in the
sensations as you're in Gru's lab."
Outside of the ride, the "Despicable Me" attraction includes the
Super Silly Fun Land playground, based on the boardwalk pier where
Gru finally falls in love with the three girls he adopted.
Fans can also play the same space shooters game that Gru plays to
win Agnes her pink unicorn, in a scene that spawned the catchphrase
"it's SO fluffy."
The Minions will return in their own feature-length spinoff "The
Minions" next year, and in 2017's "Despicable Me 3."
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; editing by Ken Wills)
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