In terms of animation production studios, Illumination Entertainment is relatively new, making a splash in 2010 with the story of a supervillain and his adoptive daughters: Despicable Me. The movie was a financial and critical success, and additionally introduced the world to lead character Gru’s team of Minions. The silly yellow characters became such fan favorites that Illumination released a Minions spinoff in 2015, which became the studio’s highest earning film, surpassing the $1 billion mark at the box office.
Although none of Illumination’s other animated features have been quite as successful as Despicable Me and Minions, the studio saw relative success with its two 2016 films. The Secret Life of Pets follows the adventure of two New York City dogs that get lost and try to find their way home, while Sing is another animal-starring movie, though it focuses on a singing competition. Now, Illumination updates its upcoming film slate, which includes a number of sequels.
Universal – the parent company of Illumination – announces Sing 2 will hit theaters on Christmas Day, Friday, December 25, 2020. Additionally, Universal shifted previously announced sequels to The Secret Life of Pets and Minions. The Secret Life of Pets 2 will release a year later than previously expected, moving from July 13, 2018, to Wednesday, July 3, 2019; Minions 2 will move up a few days from July 10, 2020 to Friday, July 3, 2020.
In addition to these sequels, Illumination is gearing up to release a third installment in its Despicable Me series this summer, and will debut an adaptation of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the start of the 2018 holiday season. The latter film will feature Sherlock and Doctor Strange actor Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular anti-Christmas baddie. Although it’s unclear why the studio pushed Secret Life of Pets 2 back a year, it was revealed prior to the first movie’s theatrical debut that a tie-in Universal theme park attraction was in the works – with its opening speculated to be in the summer of 2019, though it remains to be seen whether that’s the case.
As of now, Illumination’s upcoming film slate is filled with sequels – with the Grinch adaptation being the only outlier – and it’s unclear whether the animation studio plans to debut any original films over the next few years. Other animators, like Disney and Pixar, have announced specific plans to balance their sequel entries with original films. While it certainly makes sense for Illumination to capitalize on the success of its more beloved properties, fans will no doubt hope for more original projects.
That said, considering both of Illumination’s 2016 releases were new properties, it seems likely they’ll attempt to find some kind of balance in the coming years. Plus, Illumination now has an open spot in its release slate for July 2018 and the animation studio may place a non-sequel project in this spot. No matter how the release slate shakes out, Illumination has proven to be a powerhouse in a relatively short time, and fans of animation may look forward to many of their upcoming projects – whether a sequel or not.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 hits theaters July 3, 2019; Minions 2 on July 3, 2020; and Sing 2 on December 25, 2020.