Pierre Coffin

French animation producer and director Pierre Coffin was a key figure in the creation of one of Universal Studios' most lucrative and popular film franchises: the "Despicable Me" films, featuring the industrious and manic Minions. Born Pierre-Louis Padang Coffin in France on March 16, 1967, he was the son of French diplomat Yves Coffin and Indonesian novelist Nurhayati Srihardini Siti Nukatin, who wrote under the pen name "Nh. Dini." His father's position required Coffin and his sister, Marie-Claire, to relocate to several Asian countries before settling into a suburb of Paris in the 1970s. There, he developed an interest in drawing and literature, though initially as a means of entertaining himself, as his father would not allow him to watch television at home. Coffin eventually pursued a degree in visual arts at the Gobelins School of the Image in Paris, which led to a job at Steven Spielberg's Amblimation studio in London and his first professional film assignment as an artist on "We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story" (1993). When the company closed in 1997, Coffin worked as a freelance animator for the French CGI studio Ex Machina, where he made his directorial debut with the 1997 short "Pings," a dark silent comedy about a penguin and three very vocal chicks. Assignments for television commercials preceded his first animated series, "Pat & Stan" (TF1, 2003-09), about a hippopotamus and his canine friend, for the visual effects company Mac Guff. When the company was purchased by American animation company Illumination Entertainment, Coffin partnered with former Blue Sky animation director Chris Renaud to co-direct the 2010 feature "Despicable Me." Initially envisioned as a much darker piece, with central villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) depicted as a more sinister figure and the Minions as ogre-like servants, Coffin and Renaud retooled the characters as broader, more comic characters. Gru echoed the absurd megalomania and obsession with doomsday gadgets of Warner Bros.' Wile E. Coyote, while the minions became tiny, yellow, oval-shaped creatures with an abiding desire to serve their villainous master. Both Coffin and Renaud provided the voices of the Minions, who spouted an indecipherable language cobbled from Spanish, Italian and Malay and liberal amounts of gibberish. A huge box office hit as well as a Golden Globe nominee for Best Animated Feature Film, "Despicable Me" was soon followed by an even bigger sequel, "Despicable Me 2" (2013), again directed by Coffin and Renaud, who earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. Two years later, Coffin teamed with Kyle Balda to direct "Minions" (2015), a standalone showcase for the tiny servants, which grossed over $761 million. This was followed by "Despicable Me 3" (2017), which returned to the series' main storyline.