Small, jeans-wearing yellow and unintelligible creatures made big noise at the box office this weekend as Minions scored the second-highest opening ever for an animated film in North America.
Minions, directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, earned $115.2 million, second only to Shrek the Third’s $122.5 million worldwide, with the global tally $395.7 million for the Illumination Entertainment and Universal film.
Part of the movie’s appeal is the bright, whimsical score by Heitor Pereira, who also composed the music for the prequel’s predecessors, 2010’s Despicable Me and 2013’s Despicable Me 2. As this exclusive behind-the-scenes clip shows, making the music for the movie is as fun as the movie itself.
“I love it,” says Pereira, 54, of the collaborative process in creating “big colorful music for small characters.” Pereira credits Universal with supporting “a crazy person’s request” to use a local Los Angeles orchestra, record the choir singing in the minions’ nonsensical language and throw in lesser known instruments, like the bass clarinet and slide saxophone, to come up with the imaginative musical palette.
Watch a featurette on how the music came together below.
Much of Minions takes place in the ’60s, so, when appropriate, Pereira recorded with vintage microphones from 50 years ago that were used by acts like The Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra. “It was an opportunity, in my own humble way, to pay homage to the musicians and technicians of that time, and to honor [composers] like Henry Mancini, John Barry and Lalo Schifrin,” he says. “The minions travel in time, why shouldn’t I?”
Pereira, a former member of British band Simply Red (1985’s “Holding Back the Years”), jokes that he speaks fluent minion, but the truth is finding the emotional center in an incomprehensible language comes naturally to him. Growing up in Brazil, the Grammy winner remembers hearing the Beatles’ music and while he couldn’t understand the words, as he hadn’t yet learned English, “the delivery of that group of syllables had so much emotion. It touched me,” he says. “I knew this thing was communicating to me, even though it wasn’t a language that I speak. That’s what I love about the minions; they communicate to me.”
Not surprisingly, Pereira’s favorite minion to write for is everybody’s favorite yellow pill-shaped pal, Kevin. “Kevin is someone with a mission to help and he has this bravado,” Pereira says, adding that Kevin carries the heart and soul of the movie and so musically, Pereira could be more traditionally melodic for Kevin’s themes.
Three movies into the Despicable Me/Minions franchise, Pereira is far from tired of scoring the soundtrack to the antics of the little single-cell organisms. “If we do another one, I hope they call me,” he says. “I’m in for Minions 2, 3, 10.”
The Minions soundtrack came out July 10 on Back Lot Music.