It seems that Hollywood’s old boys’ club extends to yellow pill-shaped henchmen for animated supervillains.
According to “Minions” creator Pierre Coffin, in fact, all the title characters in Universal’s prequel to two “Despicable Me” hits are male, voiced by male actors (including Coffin himself).
For the French animator, who co-directed the new film with Kyle Balda, the masculine-only nature of the Minions owes to their all-around cloddishness. “Seeing how dumb and stupid they often are, I just couldn’t imagine Minions being girls,” he told TheWrap.
The new film, which is on track to earn $100 million in its opening weekend, does feature a female villain named Scarlett Overkill voiced by Sandra Bullock.
And the characters do occasionally dress up as girls, as when one Minion dons a maid costume to vacuum the house in “Despicable Me 2,” or another uses starfish to cover his nipples when he comes out of the ocean in “Minions.”
But it’s highly unusual for a mainstream children’s movie to lean so heavily on an all-male posse of heroes. Even Pixar’s “Cars” had female protagonists — Sally Carrera and Holley Shiftwell — while Andy’s playthings in the “Toy Story” trilogy included Jessie and Bo Peep.
Fans of the “Despicable Me” films have long speculated about the nature and origin of Minions, including their long-established gender imbalance.
Coffin has said that the creatures cannot reproduce or divide themselves, leading to at least two competing theories.
One is that ordinary humans are turned into Minions by a Minionizer, a machine similar to the one displayed on the Minions ride at Universal Studios theme park. Another is that they are essentially cloned from a single strand of DNA, as suggested by one of the short films.
Coffin was mum on the subject of the Minions’ origins, though he did have an explanation for how the new film’s lead trio got their names.
“Kevin comes from an ancient Greek word (‘Kevinos’) which means leader,” he said. “Stuart comes from the Latin word ‘Stuartalumni’ which means (loosely translated) ‘the one who slacks.’ As for Bob, it means short. For Robert.”