When Universal postponed the July 3 release of Illumination’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” it became the first post-production casualty of the global pandemic. Which sets it apart from delays in the release of such tentpoles as MGM’s 25th James Bond adventure, “No Time to Die,” Disney’s “Mulan” live-action remake and the “Black Widow” standalone, and Paramount’s “A Quiet Place Part II” sequel.
That’s because the Illumination Mac Guff animation studio in Paris has been unable to complete, due to disruptions to its workflow, the “Minions” sequel about 12-year-old Gru (Steve Carell) launching his life of crime. “In response to the severity of the situation in France, we are temporarily closing our Illumination Mac Guff studio in Paris,” said Illumination CEO Chris Meledandri in a statement.
“With this decision we are abiding by the French government’s guidelines and doing everything possible to slow the spread of the virus as we care for our artists and their families,” he added. “This means we will be unable to finish ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ in time for our planned global releases in late June and early July. While we all grapple with the enormity of this crisis, we must put the safety and protection of our employees above all. We look forward to finding a new release date for the return of Gru and the Minions.”
While production delays and studio shutdowns have forced the industry to develop and test remote tech on an unprecedented scale, animation studios have it easier than live-action studios with their all-CG workflows (though post-production is more problematic with editing, sound, and scoring). Yet Illumination Mac Guff found itself at a disadvantage. That’s because, according to an industry insider, the French studio is currently not equipped to work remotely at this time. That means it lacks the resources to manage efficient and secure remote access, which is essential in completing “Gru”without delay and disruption.
However, Mike Chambers, visual effects producer (Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet”) and chair of the Visual Effects Society (VES), added that all projects are being impacted by having to work remotely. “Frankly, any place where they’re doing remote, that’s undoubtedly going to affect the efficiency of working,” he said. “Because, really, there’s nothing like being able to walk among the artists and talking about the work. Once it becomes a whole conference call/video conference thing, it’s [not the same].”
It’s all part of coping with “the new normal” during this pandemic.