Despicable Me‘s nefarious protagonist Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) is quite the character, but it’s his lovable minions who really steal the show. Yellow and pilular — somewhat resembling the reward in a Kinder Surprise — the minions are exceedingly simple, yet each one varies in appearance.
”There are six basic designs,” says producer Chris Meledandri. Smaller differences in shape, height, and hair — spiked, parted, balding — separate them further. And not only do the minions look different, but their individuality goes even deeper. ”At some point, they started to develop names and personalities. We’d say, ‘John’s in the scene,’ even if no one refers to him as John in the movie.”
One major factor in making these squishy blobs so endearing is their language, a squeaky pidgin gibberish invented by directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud. (Quick translation: Ba-boy means ”toy,” bi-do means ”I’m sorry.”) Minionese may not be linguistically or syntactically sound, but the filmmakers manage to express quite a bit. ”It’s more based on sounds and rhythms than the literal meanings of words,” says Meledandri. ”But somehow it all makes sense. Now that I’ve lived so closely to the movie for so long, if somebody didn’t remind me that they weren’t speaking in plain English, I’d forget.”