Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Despicable Sequels: Illumination Announces Sequel-Heavy Slate

Illumination Entertainment... What a well-oiled hit-making machine...

As Sing continues to hang on at the box office, the studio has rolled out a revised slate that adds two sequels to the mix.

Remember how The Secret Life of Pets 2 was set to open in July of 2018, just two years after the release of the first one? That's no more, the film has now taken the July 3, 2019 slot.

Another sequel fills their summer 2020 slot: Minions 2. That is opening July 3, 2020. When will enough be enough?

Finally, and this was totally inevitable, Sing 2 has been penciled in for Christmas Day 2020. Four years after numero uno.

No word on what will take the July 2018 slot Pets 2 left vacant, but... Yeah, sequels sequels sequels.

Forget your old complaints about DreamWorks being sequel-heavy, forget the "Pixar is a sequel factory now!" schlop. Illumination has gleefully taken the cake. Outside of an already-adapted Dr. Seuss story, their slate is sequels and franchise entries. So far, they've already released two sequels... All within the span of five years. Unless an original miraculously finds its way into July 2018, this is what we're stuck with. What the heck's going on with Johnny Express and Flanimals? So much for a push for more original stuff. PR-friendly words...

Now, nothing is ever concrete. It's very possible that Illumination will slate an original (read: something that isn't a sequel, before someone chimes in) in-between two of the three sequels. They have nothing else slated for 2019, so maybe Johnny Express can worm its way into a fall slot and give us something cool. Something to off-set the barrage of sequels. I don't dislike sequels, but three in a row? C'mon.

You could bring up the fact that DreamWorks did a three-in-a-row once... Kung Fu Panda 2, Puss in Boots (yeah yeah, spin-off! Still a franchise entry, though), and Madagascar 3. All released back-to-back, all were pretty well-received. I found all three to be strong pictures. It's a good point! To be fair, many an animation fan in 2011 looked at Puss in Boots - coming off the heels of the relatively unwanted and safe-as-vanilla Shrek Forever After - and deemed it unnecessary. Kung Fu Panda 2 was highly anticipated because of how good the first one was, whereas I think we kind of treated Madagascar 3 as an "oh well, they had to make it" kind of movie.

That being said, we got the three-in-a-row because of scheduling issues. In 2009, DreamWorks' 2010-2012 slate was a whole lot different. The same is true of Sony Pictures Animation. The Smurfs 2, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, and Hotel Transylvania 2 all opened back-to-back as well. Leave out Goosebumps, and you actually get four in a row, with Smurfs: The Lost Village. The streak is ironically going to be broken by The Emoji Movie. In Sony's case, it was two things... At one point, 2014 was supposed to house a feature called The Familiars, which would've put it between Cloudy 2 and Hotel Transylvania 2. At another time, Sony Animation's 2014 film was going to be Genndy Tartakovsky's Popeye. Second... There was a complete management overhaul not too long ago. Their slate looked a whole lot different before the late 2014 hack and subsequent switcheroos.

I think it's a me problem as well, because Illumination kind of frustrates me to be honest. I think their movies show potential and have some charm, but end up feeling very plastic and corporate. Plus their only Dr. Seuss adaptation (for now) is another issue. I like that they put out two original, half-decent movies this year, but they can do better. For a studio run by one guy that keeps its budgets down, they really play it safe. Despicable Me, as far as I'm concerned, is their only genuinely good film. But like all overhyped things, it took on a form of its own that can be somewhat annoying when crammed down your throat during a period of time. Minions, Minions, Minions... Screaming yellow tictacs, their designs so generic, yet people love them so much. So much for their "animation is for kids" attitudes, they find joy in the simplest of animated characters.

I don't hate the Minions, I think they're a lot of fun in the first Despicable Me, because they didn't overuse them in that film. In part deux, yeah, they're more prominent and the film's could've-been-great story about the kids wanting a mother takes a backseat. Despicable Me 3's teaser intrigues me because the Minions only appear for like a few seconds, the trailer's all Gru and the new villain.

I'll put aside my bias for a few seconds. Minions 2 could work if it's still set before the events of Despicable Me. The first spin-off ends with them ending up with Gru, so the sequel could be about them and their relationship with Gru throughout his childhood. I'm not saying that Gru is some hyper-compelling character who needs all this backstory (the stuff with his mother rejecting him was enough), but in this world of "everything needs a sequel", might as well salvage it in some way.

Sing 2's existence doesn't bother me, but where do they go from there? Same thing with The Secret Life of Pets 2. They could use the sequels to explore new avenues and experiment, but they didn't do that with Despicable Me 2, which leads me to believe that they'll just be business-as-usual entries that gross a billion dollars each and Universal/Comcast/Illumination goes home happy. Hey, it's business, I get it... But I still think they should even things out a little bit.

Despite the fact that these things reel in money, maybe I wouldn't be as ornery if they only announced Sing 2 and pushed Pets 2 - already a known thing - back. Minions 2 in-between both, instead of an original, kind of irks me a bit.

What say you?


  1. I think you are going to love Sing, even more than the first Despicable me

    But making a sequel to it is like making Up 2

    1. They need to cut back on making sequels.

  2. Perhaps Universal could put Larrikins in the 7/13/2018 spot so that it doesn't face off against Black Panther. I've noticed that the spot is no longer being used by Illumination when I looked at their slate on Wikipedia.

  3. Personally, I'm fine with Sing 2, but I'd rather see Illumination Entertainment make more originals rather than too many sequels.