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By Sibel Tinar, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO – The Brazilian premiere of the new animated movie Despicable Me was held as part of the annual animation festival Anima Mundi in Rio de Janeiro last week, attracting a large, enthusiastic crowd, foreshadowing that it is on its way to becoming another hit following the recent fully or partly animated 3D films, such as Toy Story 3 and Alice in Wonderland.

The main character of Despicable Me, Gru, is a villain whose reputation is in decline, photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures Brasil.

Despicable Me, which will play in Brazil with the name of Meu Malvado Favorito, which translates as “My Favorite Villain”, has already proved to be a big success in the United States, grossing about USD$120,000,000 within its first ten days in theaters.

With continuing advances in computer-generated imagery and the rapid popularization of the blockbusting use of 3D technologies in cinemas, animated films, which are notoriously expensive and time-consuming to produce, are currently living their golden age worldwide.

Animations not only have the narrative flexibility to allow a more effective use of new technology, but also they are specifically designed to appeal to as large an audience as possible, due to the high costs associated with their production. Thus, mainstream animated movies tend to primarily have entertaining, child-friendly plots, while possessing more adult-oriented subtexts and cultural references, along with a myriad of tiny details that would please even the pickiest film geek.

Despicable Me succeeds on all these fronts, despite having a risky premise, by not only lacking a hero, but actually having a villain as its main character. In Gru, a classical-style villain in danger of losing his notoriety to Vector, a young, up-and-coming villain who favors minimalist Apple-store aesthetics, the movie manages to create an essentially unlikeable character with whom it is nevertheless easy to identify.

Vector, the antagonist of the movie, is a young and modern villain determined to replace Gru, photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures Brasil.

The villain wars between Gru and Vector that dominate the movie’s plot involve a conspiracy to shrink and steal the moon, and the three orphaned sisters Gru plans to make use of to achieve this goal, who in return slowly help reveal the human being deep inside of him.

The film takes the audience on a roller-coaster ride of emotions as Gru moves from pathetic to sympathetic, all wonderfully scored by original music from hip-hop artist Pharrell Williams and Brazilian composer Heitor Pereira. An actual roller-coaster ride also tests the boundaries of 3D imaging to the fullest.

Speaking after the Rio screening, producer John Cohen explained that to ensure the film translated to every culture, they worked with an international team, mixing artistic elements from different parts of the world and giving priority to physicality and physical comedy.

Gru’s scarf, Cohen mentioned, emerged as the principal defining feature of the character, and the production team ended up treating it like a character in itself, even going so far as putting one artist solely in charge of its animation.

Despicable Me opens in Brazil on August 6th, after another special screening in São Paulo on July 30th; and if the success of recent 3D, animated movies is any indication, it is the newest contender to smash the box office this winter.

One can only imagine the new heights this ever growing animation-mania will reach in Brazil, when Rio, the upcoming movie by the Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha opens in 2011.

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