Minions: The Rise of Gru may be full of familiar faces of lovable yellow creatures, but it takes it back to the ’70s, when Gru (still voiced by Steve Carell) was a super expert in training and the Minions were looking to integrate into his thriving world.
The final installment of the popular franchise from Universal and Illumination was directed by Kyle Balda, himself a veteran of the Minion world and a child of the seventies. The animation team had to glean tons of research on color, music, architecture, clothing, and hairstyles in the mid-1970s for the film, which follows elementary school student Gru as he applies to join Vicious 6, a team of super-moderators. , but of course, events, with the help of minions, deviate.
The feature has the fun of referring to 1970s kung fu movies, something that Balda loves. Plenty of action takes place in San Francisco and the city’s famous Chinatown, with the venerable Michelle Yeoh playing a key role as martial arts master Zhao, who trains three Minions for battle.
Jackie Chan is one of the biggest influences in the training and fight scenes. “Jackie Chan is across the board because his movies are a great mix of action and comedy. He’s kind of a huge influence on the minions,” says Balda. In previous films, both Charlie Chaplin and Peter Sellers influenced the Minion animators because with them “everything depends on the Mummering” with them.
“And Jackie Chan is really good at bringing acting and comedy into action,” Balda says. One of the clearest winks [to kung fu films] I would say, it’s for Stephen Chow and things like “Shaolin Soccer” and “Kung Fu Hustle”, which you can really see with Master Chow. Her character is really grounded in this kind of comedy. There is also a little “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” as well.
But one of the biggest stars of the era, Bruce Lee, was also a huge influence. “Even the Minions dressed like him when they went to rescue a puppy,” Balda says.
Minions pay homage to Bruce Lee in their yellow suits.
Balda and the animation team went with the hottest ’70s designs and colours, bypassing the ubiquitous beige and avocado tones in the period kitchens and apparel. The animation team conducted rigorous research in the 1970s using books, archival materials, YouTube, and other online sources.
Oftentimes, it was just hard to choose from a few options. For example, there was an alternate version of the opening credits that ended up being like ‘Brady Bunch’, with the characters in it tic tac toe [grid.] But then we chose the James Bond-style opening.”
Balda says, “Brad Abelson, who was the co-director of the movie, did a lot of research in terms of comedy and that kind of thing to find references that would really connect to people of our generation.”
Balda and the animators worked on their own memories of the era’s cultural stops, including a Tupperware party hosted by Gru’s mother (voiced by Julie Andrews) and the quintessential ‘Jaws’ screening of the 1970s.
“I think the Avon and Tupperware culture that happened at the time, it was just something that I and a lot of people who worked on the movie remembered from their childhood, and we felt like that would be something that would really connect with people because you know, I remember those Tupperware parties happening, with eggs Satan and all that kind of thing. There are a lot of hubs like that, and we wanted to find ones that also work well with storytelling.”
And while San Francisco itself has a timeless look, “there’s also plenty of macrame in the home of a puppy and an owl’s mother.” [decoration]”That was Balda’s mother in their house.
As for ‘Jaws’, ‘I think a big part of it is that when you hear anyone talk about ‘Jaws,’ it’s like the first time they’ve been waiting in a very long line to see a movie. Gru and the Minion cut a line to sneak onto the stage. And because Gru’ was always trying to do things against convention and Minions and Gru ended up rooting for the shark in the movie, but you know, for me personally like many people, I couldn’t go to the pool [after seeing the film]. Just the psychological effects it left on me and it was one of the films that made me want to make films.”
Another great reference is “Easy Rider,” when the newest Minion Otto takes a trip to San Francisco on a custom helicopter. The biker is not wearing a helmet, in the style of Peter Fonda, but Otto is wearing a vintage helmet, complete with era-specific embellishment. “The blueprint work on it was inspired by something we saw in a truck from one of the 1970s photos. We adapted it to fit a helmet,” says Balda.
The Vicious 6 hideout is located beneath an independent record store, something that was ubiquitous in the 1970s. “A lot of it came through thinking, it’s kinda used like James Bond, it’s a great touchstone for movies. What’s the secret face of the underground villain’s lair? So, thinking of something really pedestrian, like a record store, but then it let us Also a lot of things [to play with]like just the fun of calling it criminal records.” Linda Ronstadt’s single “You’re Not Good” was the password to covert operations, and Gru had to run it in reverse to get to it, referring to the “diabolical panic” of an era when people were still reading satanic meaning Turn the recordings back on. Episode 6 itself includes some familiar metaphors but is infused with comedy. There’s the glamorous Belle Bottom (Taraji P. Henson), in a sleek afro and old cyclist Wild Knuckles (Alan Arkin), but they then veer into hilarious absurdity: Jean Cloyd , who already has a giant lobster claw attachment and is voiced by Jean-Claude Van Damme.
“The idea of choosing Jean-Claude Van Damme came very early,” Balda says. “I started out as a drawing of this character with an enormous lobster claw, and it seemed natural that his name was Jean Claude. Then came the idea for Jean-Claude Van Damme to voice him, and we were thrilled when he actually agreed to do it!”
Then there is Svengeance, voiced by Dolph Lundgren. Stronghold, voiced by Danny Trejo; Noon Chuck, voiced by Lucy Lawless. These are the action movie stars everyone loves, but who are also “Gru’s enemies, and we want to give you some bets,” says Balda. But they look at the top, “so there’s a kind of balance there and the irony of not taking ourselves too seriously.”
But movies always had to balance Gru as a villain and a comedian.
“All the bad guys we’ve seen in the ‘Despicable Me’ movies and the Minion movies, there’s always been a ridiculous twist on them. Something really silly because we finally start making a funny movie and having fun. … But there’s nothing really bad about it; same with Minions, no There’s something evil in them. And there’s innocence to these characters that they don’t even know they’re not familiar with—their idea of them being bad is, you know, cutting in front of a line.”