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Minion Man March: The Surprising Inspiration Behind ‘Despicable Me’s Lovable Little … Things

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Jawas, minions, and Oompa Loompas -- Oh my! Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures and Everett Collections.

With "Despicable Me 2" poised to take over the box office this weekend, be prepared for a million Minion march.

Indeed, those little lovable yellow … things that help super villain Gru (Steve Carell) take over the world are omnipresent these days, front and center on the "DM2" marketing materials, which are front and center everywhere.

But while Minions have become the poster children (literally) of the "Despicable Me" franchise, the tiny troublemakers weren't part of the original plan at all. Minions, as we know them today, weren't even in the first draft of the screenplay.

[Related: Find Local Showtimes and Purchase Tickets for 'Despicable Me 2']

Co-screenwriter Cinco Paul credits the film's directors, Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, for giving unintelligible voice and Tic Tac-shaped body to the Minions. "Because in the script, we just said, 'Gru’s minions do this or do that' in the initial draft. And then, they came up with the characters’ design and the philosophical concept of the Minions," Paul recently told Collider.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Coffin and Renaud wanted to beef up Gru's henchman to help draw out the comedy inherent in the mastermind's unlikely plan to steal the moon. So the directors looked for inspiration from some of the silver screen's most notable toadies, particularly the Oompa Loompas from "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" (1971) and the Jawas from "Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope" (1977).

While Coffin and Renaud may have had more vertically challenged henchmen in mind upon initial brainstorming, Carell now looks at the Minions as something else entirely. "People love them. They're never not fun. They are as close to a modern day version of the Marx Brothers as I've seen," Carell recently told Yahoo! Movies during the film's press junket.

Feeling the Minion love, for the sequel, the filmmakers decided to make the Minions more central to the story. According to Paul, he and fellow screenwriter Ken Daurio "just wrote as many scenes as we could with the Minions. Now we have Minions falling in love in this new movie and there’s the fire scene in Gru’s office."

[Related: Steve Carell & the 'Despicable Me 2' Cast Tell Us the Difference Between Jelly & Jam]

And judging from the marketing materials for "Despicable Me 2, " you might assume Universal Pictures doesn't even realize there are bankable stars – including Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, and Benjamin Bratt – to market, aside from Minions. Indeed, Minion marketing has reached new highs – there's even a minion blimp.

The film is easily outpacing "The Lone Ranger" for holiday box office supremacy, which apparently is just what the filmmakers expected, considering a stand alone Minion movie has been on the official books since last July. Currently titled "Minions" and slated for release December 19, 2014, the spin-off already has Sandra Bullock and Jon Hamm attached. Perhaps "Minion Mad Men" would be a better title?

While we know that Minions are widely loved, we still don't really know what they are exactly. To get further insight, in the video above we asked the cast what precisely a Minion is. No one could say for sure, but the answers are definitely entertaining. And by all means, if you know what a Minion is, please let us know in the comments below.

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