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The Man Behind the Minions

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The Minions themselves have also become ubiquitous beyond the films: omnipresent as licensed merchandise, theme park rides, TikTok trends and Facebook memes. “The design of them and the feel of them is very toy-friendly,” said Renauld, who also directed “Despicable Me 4.” “It’s got this simplicity. You can create memes, they’re easy to draw — it’s something you want to park on your desk.”

But while the ubiquity of the Minions may be a testament to their popularity, Coffin seemed to have some regrets, creatively. “When ‘Minions’ came out, I had two reactions,” he said. “Firstly, the marketing is overwhelming, and I think they’ve overdone it. And second: How in the hell did we make a billion dollars with this movie?”

Yes, the first “Minions” movie, directed by Coffin and Kyle Balda, is one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. But in Coffin’s view, “it was the marketing that made the movie a financial success, and not necessarily a creative one.” In short, he said, “we could have done better.”

When Coffin catches “Minions” on TV in Paris, where he lives with his family, he finds himself thinking about what the film might have been: simpler, less conventional, maybe more like “Shaun the Sheep,” an 84-minute British comedy featuring no dialogue, just pure pratfalls. Renauld disagreed. “I think ‘Shaun the Sheep’ is great,” he said. But, “our films swung for the fences in a way that ‘Shaun the Sheep’ did not. If you’re going for a broad audience, it would be very tricky to do it straight-up with no dialogue.”

Meledandri, the producer, suggested that Coffin’s resistance to the conventional style of the Minions movies is emblematic of a “rebellious quality” that is “so important to who Pierre is as an artist.” He described working with Coffin as a process involving “a really healthy tension” between his independent spirit and the demands of a broadly accessible family film.

“He would not like me saying this, but there’s a lot about Pierre that reminds me of the Minions,” Meledandri said. “At the core he’s incredibly sweet, but that sweetness is combined with a subversiveness. His fierce independence is an essential part of continually surprising us as we worked on the films — and ultimately surprising the audience.”

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