‘Despicable Me’ Spin-Off to Hit Theaters Dec. 19, 2014

Universal will release a sequel to the Illumination Entertainment film next year, before launching the minion-focused spin-off

Universal will release “The Untitled Minions Project,” a spin-off of its 2010 animated hit “Despicable Me,” Dec. 19, 2014, the studio announced Tuesday night.

Universal had announced it greenlit a spin-off earlier this summer, and Brian Lynch has already written the script, which Pierre Coffin will direct.

“Despicable Me” was the first film released by Universal in conjunction with Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment, with which the studio has a partnership. Meledandri, the former chief of Fox’s animation unit, founded the company in 2007.

“Despicable Me” grossed more than $540 million at the global box office, and Universal has scheduled a sequel for July 3, 2013. This spin-off will focus on the minions, who in the original film work for Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand).

Universal has been quite active in its scheduling of late, assigning release dates to projects from Ron Howard, Guillermo Del Toro and Matthew Vaughn, among others.

Most of those films will bow some time next year, but with this project Universal has already targeted the lucrative Christmas season two years from now.