In ‘Despicable Me 4,’ Director Chris Renaud Got to Go Full Superhero Vibes with Mega Minions

With “Despicable Me 4,” director Chris Renaud finally got to embrace a superhero vibe through the creation of the yellow Mega Minions. They are rushed into service, thanks to a super-serum, after Gru (Steve Carrell) and his expanded family are forced into hiding when threatened by vengeful childhood rival Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell): a supervillain who’s harnessed the power of cockroaches.

“A long-held goal of mine was to have a chance to play with those kinds of [superhero] archetypes from Marvel and DC comics,” Renaud told IndieWire. “And it can be a challenge to take the Minions and come up with new configurations and new ideas visually, as well as new animation [from Illumination]. In ‘DM2,’ they were the subject of a plot to make them evil; in ‘DM3,’ they were in jail.

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“So in ‘DM4,’ they’re in this witness protection town, and we started with them as just AVL [Anti-Villain League] agents,” Renaud continued. “But then it just didn’t feel like it was going far enough because we’ve seen Minions in suits, and we’ve seen them test weapons, and so that was how the Mega Minion idea grew out of that with giving them superpowers.

But with limited screen time, the director chose to give the Mega Minions very simple superpowers in an effort to help take down the formidable Maxime: Dave grows and has super strength; Jerry turns into a spherical, rock-like structure that can chomp through tough material; Tim becomes super stretchy; Mel develops a heat ray; and Gus grows a cone-shaped head like a bullet or rocket and can fly with his cape.

“We wanted to radiate a little bit out of what they look like,” the director said. “Tim being the tall one made sense as the stretchy guy. The one-eyed Mel we gave the laser goggle. Dave and Jerry are the strong guys, and Gus is new and he’s got curly Q hair.”

'Despicable Me 4' Gru Jr.
‘Despicable Me 4’Illumination & Universal Pictures

The Illumination team also fitted them with yellow costumes and blue tights. “The servicing looks very much like all the Marvel stuff,” Renaud added. “It’s got that kind of honeycomb pattern, and if you note on the back, there are zippers.”

The Mega Minions also demanded the most animation attention in the performance of their superpowers in the high-end witness protection town of Mayflower. “For the stretchy guy, we played with a lot of ideas,” said Renaud. “We’ve seen Elastigirl and Mr. Fantastic and they can become shapes and things. Ultimately, where we landed with Mega Tim was that his arms stretched and he walks with his head bent. Their powers are maybe not so great. They’re aspirational.”

While “DM4” draws certain parallels to Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles,” it turns out that the introduction of the antagonistic baby Gru Jr. (Carrell) has very little in common with baby Jack-Jack. “We talked about it, but, honestly, for me, it starts and stops with the fact that they’re both babies with red hair,” said Renaud. “We wanted him to have a bit of his mom in him, so that’s why we gave him the red hair. They did this a bit in ‘The Incredibles,’ but our point of view on it was we wanted to give the character somewhere to go so Gru has this antagonistic relationship with the baby. He just doesn’t seem to like him and prefers his mother, which I think is a very relatable experience, where people have held a baby and the baby doesn’t seem to care for them.”

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