Illumination Entertainment is the animation company behind the popular Despicable Me and Minions movies. The company, which has an exclusive financing and distribution deal with Universal and is led by Chris Meledandri, has one of the most impressive box office records in the animation film world even as it keeps budgets relatively lean. In 2016, Illumination ventured beyond the world of jabbering yellow creatures with The Secret Life of Pets, which has grossed $876 million worldwide on a budget of $75 million. (Pixar's Finding Dory, in comparison, cost an estimated $200 million.) Later in 2016 came Sing, a film about a singing competition for animals that was based on an original idea by Meledandri; the film grossed over $100 million in its first eight days. Illumination is based in both Santa Monica, California and Paris, giving its films a distinctly global flavor.
Illumination and Meledandri are poised to become even more significant players in animation since the 2016 purchase of DreamWorks Animation by Universal's parent company Comcast. The $3.8 billion deal put DWA and Illumination under one roof (they remain distinct brands) with Meledandri serving as senior advisor. The model mimics John Lasseter's oversight of Pixar and Disney Animation, and will create more movies, theme parks, and merchandise opportunities for Meledandri, giving Disney a run for its money.