Director, Despicable Me 2 Key moment of inspiration: The first movie was really about career vs. family. In the second film, I think we wanted to take a second look at those two aspects of Gru’s life. We discussed Gru having a love interest very early on and how that could become an extension of this nontraditional family unit. Also, we made the choice that Gru had to work for the good guys, much like the reprogrammed Terminator in T2, in this new adventure. Those two ideas became the main inspiration for our story. Toughest challenge in making the movie: With a sequel, the toughest part is always how to make the characters and the world they inhabit feel fresh and worth revisiting. We wanted to find new ideas that built on the success of the first film. Even the Minions needed a new take, so now we have purple evil minions who are even dumber than the originals! Fave animated movie or character: That’s a hard question because, like many filmmakers, I love so many different films and characters. However, if I have to choose, I’ll probably have to go with the original Toy Story. It truly is a masterwork and, in my mind, still stands as probably the best CG animated movie to date. Obviously the technology has changed and improved (Andy’s kid sister is pretty scary) but it’s still hard to beat such solid characters and story plotting. On the state of the business: While it has definitely become crowded at the multiplex with animated features, it’s still an exciting place to be as a filmmaker. I think you may see a maturing of the marketplace regarding what kind of animated movies get made. If studios, filmmakers and production companies can find ways to lower their budgets and, by extension, their expectations, you might see a wider range of ideas being produced. Advancing technology and a larger global talent pool could help make that the standard way to operate. Career beginnings: I started as a comic-book artist, but my start in animation really came through a children’s television program called The Book of Pooh. It was a digitally rendered environment that looked like a Winnie the Pooh pop-up storybook. The characters were brought to life through traditional Japanese bunraku puppetry performed over a green-screen. It wasn’t truly character animation, but it did introduce me to the possibilities of the digital world. Best advice: I’m not sure if this is exactly filmmaking advice, but I used to work with a character designer for Jim Henson named Paul Andrejco who showed me the value of trying something unexpected as a way to make his character designs distinct and memorable. Pierre Coffin, my directing partner for both Despicable Me movies, strives to find a surprise in the animated performance of our characters as well. Finding and unlocking those unexpected turns or ideas along the way can really make the difference between a good movie and a great one.