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Universal acquires French animation studio for Illumination unit

November 14, 2011 |  4:38 pm

DespicableMe
Santa Monica-based Illumination Entertainment is looking more and more like a traditional animation studio.

The company's owner, Universal Pictures, has acquired French animation house Mac Guff Ligne, which made Illumination's 2009 hit "Despicable Me" and is working on its next two pictures: March's "The Lorax" and 2013's "Despicable Me 2."

Illumination is the family entertainment unit of Universal founded and run by former Fox Animation president Chris Meledandri. Along with "Despicable Me," Universal released Illumination's so-so performer "Hop," a live-action animation hybrid, in April.

In the past, Meledandri has said that Illumination would outsource all of its animation work rather than employ artists as competitors like Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks do. Apparently that approach has changed somewhat based on the significant amount of work that Mac Guff Ligne is doing for Illumination.

Unlike those other animation studios, Mac Guff employs fewer than 50 people on a permanent basis. It expands to as many as 350 people, however, at the peak of production on movies.

Universal is looking to Illumination to eventually provide it with two movies per year.

Mac Guff, which is based in Paris and will now be called Illumination Mac Guff, will continue to be led by its president, Jacques Bled. He will now report to Meledandri.

— Ben Fritz

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Photo: A scene from "Despicable Me." Credit: Universal Pictures.

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