“The Minions 2: Once Upon a Time Gru” is released on Friday in the United States, England, China, and on July 6 in France, two years late, due to the pandemic.

A release awaited by millions of fans: the franchise, since the first installment, “Despicable Me” (2010), has grossed 3.7 billion dollars at the box office, according to the specialized site IMDB, not counting the multiple derivatives, making it one of the most profitable in history.

Scenario reduced to a minimum, frenetic succession of gags sometimes at the level of the daisies … “The main thing in these films is just to be stupid and to have fun”, cheerfully assumes with AFP the American director from the latest film, Kyle Balda.

Dirty, capsule-shaped kids with yellow bodies dressed in overalls, the “Minions” were originally just secondary characters, but stole the show from Gru, the anti-hero of “Ugly Me. and mean”.

From 2015, they are at the heart of a first “spin-off”, “the Minions”. Risky bet, to fit an entire film on characters expressing themselves in an invented and random mixture of Latin and Asian languages. But won: $1 billion in box office revenue.

“Of course, they talk. But no one understands what they’re saying!”, laughs Kyle Balda, who likes to draw inspiration from classics like Charlie Chaplin or Jacques Tati: to make people laugh “without depending on the dialogues”, for a animation director, it’s like “climbing Everest”, he notes.

In spirit, burlesque and anarchic, the success of the “Minions” “can be compared to that of the Rabbids” in the video game, endearing and stupid too, points out Gersende Bollut, author of books on animation who collaborates to the specialized journal Animascope.

– “Flower power” – 

The new opus does not change a proven formula, at the risk of repetition.

The film goes back to the beginnings of Gru, this failed villain: surrounded by an army of Minions, the teenager hopes to join a group of supervillains, the Vicious 6. A project that will inevitably be derailed.

Only the decor changes, a dive into the San Francisco of “flower power” and the 1970s, with an introduction to martial arts (a nod to the “Shaolin Soccer” spirit) and cover of hits, including a Minions version of the Stones (“You Can’t Always Get What you Want”).

Universal, which holds with the “Minions” one of the rare brands likely to face the other giants of animation, waited because of the pandemic two years to release this new opus of a saga always produced on both sides. of the Atlantic.

If the Frenchman Pierre Coffin, father of the “Minions”, and probably the only human being to master their language, is no longer co-director, he still watches closely over his creation, and still records all the voices of the Minions.

And it is in the Paris offices of the tricolor Mac Guff studios that the Minions come to life, with a neat, but somewhat standardized image.

On the Hollywood side, the “Minions” are produced by the American Christopher Meledandri, head of the Illumination studio. Much less known to the general public than Pixar and Dreamworks, the latter “has always wanted to compete” with these studios which have revolutionized animation, analyzes Gersende Bollut.

At the box office, “Illumination succeeded”, with in addition to the “Minions”, the successes of “Comme des Bêtes” and “Tous en scène”, but without obtaining the same prestige or the same recognition, he continues.

The studio will soon be talked about again: the Illumination teams are working on the animated cinema version of the legendary video game “Super Mario Bros”, expected in 2023.

As for the Minions, “I don’t think it’s over. There is clearly a future for these characters”, slice Kyle Balda.