Mac Guff is a French visual effects company based in Los Angeles and Paris (where its main headquarters is located) that specializes in CGI for commercials, music videos, and feature films. Its name was inspired by the term MacGuffin, a film technique popularized by Alfred Hitchcock and his films. In mid-2011, the company was split in two. The animation department was acquired by Universal Studios’ Illumination Entertainment and renamed “Illumination Mac Guff.” For this latest installment of Animation Corner, I’ll be focusing on the second and third animated features they made, Dragon Hunters (now celebrating its fifth anniversary) and Despicable Me (in honor of the recent release of the critically acclaimed Despicable Me 2).
Directed by Guillaume Ivernel and Arthur Qwak, 2008’s Dragon Hunters centers on a young girl who recruits a trio of dragon hunters and sets off with them to the end of the world to slay a dragon. Featuring the voices of Forest Whitaker, Rob Paulsen, Mary Mouser, Nick Jameson, Jess Harnell, and Dave Wittenberg (in the English language dub), this critically acclaimed film grossed $12 million internationally on a $14 million budget (it’s only screened a couple of times in the U.S. at the Sarasota and Newport Beach International Film Festivals). Klaus Badelt turns in a terrific score for this film (which is based on the French animated TV series of the same name). This film was France’s official submission for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award (it made it to the 14-film shortlist, but ended up not getting a nomination).
Directed by Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, 2010’s Despicable Me centers on an inept super villain who adopts three little girls as part of his plan to battle a new villain who constantly one-ups him. Featuring the voices of Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Jack McBrayer, Jemaine Clement, Ken Jeong, Danny McBride, and Mindy Kaling, this critically acclaimed film grossed $251.5 million domestically on a $69 million budget (it added over $291.5 million internationally for a worldwide total of $543 million). The directors actually wrote a language for the gibberish the minions speak throughout the film, calling it “minion-ese” (each word the minions speak in the film actually translates into a word). Gru’s name is taken from the Russian Military Intelligence agency GRU (an acronym for Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye, which roughly translates to Main Intelligent Department/ Directorate). The look and body language of Gru seems to have been inspired by British comic cartoon character Grimly Feendish. Among the film’s accolades are six Annie Award nods (incluing Best Animated Feature), as well as additional Best Animated Feature nominations from the Critics Choice Awards, BAFTA, Saturn Awards, Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards, Satellite Awards, and the Golden Globes.
For those of you who’ve been counting, I’ve now profiled 50 animated films and am halfway to my goal of 1oo animated films for this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these so far.