The Mediocre Production of Children’s Films
November 29, 2017
This year on June 30th, Illumination Entertainment came out with the third installment of its Despicable Me series, Despicable Me 3. The film, which confirmed its production a mere two months after the company released the film’s predecessor, Despicable Me 2 (2013), grossed over $1 billion dollars worldwide. Between the release of both of these movies, Illumination Entertainment also released a spin-off of the original Despicable Me franchise, Minions (2015). The company produced and released three box-office hits within four years of each other, which is highly unusual for any production company producing any genre of film. So, how does Illumination do it? According to a 2011 New York Times interview with owner Christopher Meledandri, by lowering production times and cost, hit movies are made. However, cutting costs and production time seems to be affecting the most important aspects of the films: plot and animation quality.
The reviews for Despicable Me 3 were less than satisfactory. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the average critic score was an insignificant 5.7/10. Jim Lane of the Sacramento News and Review claimed that the film’s plot was “all over the place-to the point where there’s really no story at all.” The animation of Despicable Me 3 was thoroughly flawed as well, particularly in the area of character design. As stated by Meledandri, “keeping investment in animation technology to a minimum…his costs down.” This lack of animation technology is ever-present in the movie in the form of one of the main characters. In the film, we are introduced to an entirely new character, Dru, the long-lost twin brother of the movie’s main protagonist, Gru. These two characters are almost exactly the same, as if the animators used the same character model for both. The only difference between the characters aesthetically is their hair color and outfit. That’s virtually unacceptable in terms of animation. A lack of plot and disappointing quality would be fatal to any other movie franchise; however, Illumination continues to break box office records. How is this allowed to happen? The answer lies within who the target audience of all of Illumination’s movies is: children.
“It’s just a kid’s movie” is often the excuse used when discussing poorly-made children’s films. However, children’s movies do not have to be trite and uninspired. Plenty of well animated and written movies have been made through the years, such as Pixar’s Inside Out (2015). The film received rave reviews from critics and general audiences alike. The screenplay was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Each character had a unique, memorable design. However, the film only grossed $857.6 million worldwide. Why do we as a society allow children’s movies to have such low standards? Children deserve to watch films with thought-provoking themes and creatively designed characters. Children are a huge movie market and by lazily producing movies, companies such as Illumination Entertainment insult the intelligence of the audience. Companies like Illumination view children as machines that produce money rather than human beings who want to watch well-made movies as much as anyone else. By continuing to see movies such as Despicable Me 3, we as an audience tell studios that profit is of more important to us than quality. We tell them that we do not truly care about the content we allow children to absorb.