Chris Meledandri

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Chris Meledandri
Meledandri in 2018
Christopher Meledandri

(1959-05-15) May 15, 1959 (age 65)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materDartmouth College
OccupationFilm producer
Notable work
  • Founder and CEO, Illumination
Leslie Benzinger
(m. 2002; div. 2016)

Christopher Meledandri (/mɛləˈdɑːndri/;[1] born May 15, 1959) is an American film producer and founder and CEO of Illumination. He previously served as President of 20th Century Fox Animation, and has worked as the producer for the film series of Ice Age, Despicable Me, The Secret Life of Pets and Sing. In 2021, he joined Nintendo's board of directors after working with the video game company on The Super Mario Bros. Movie.[2]

Early life[edit]

Meledandri was born in New York City to Roland Meledandri, a men's fashion designer, and Risha Meledandri, an activist, growing up in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.[3] He is of Italian descent,[4] and attended Dartmouth College.[5]


Early career[edit]

Meledandri's first job in the film industry came when he worked as an assistant to executive producer Daniel Melnick on the set of Footloose.[3] He co-founded the production company The Meledandri/Gordon Company (with Mark Gordon) until he left in 1991. Meledandri afterwards was the producer for a series of small films, before working as a producer for the 1993 Disney film Cool Runnings, which was a financial success.[3][6] Soon after Meledandri was hired by 20th Century Fox, where executives presumed that the success of Cool Runnings showcased Meledandri's ability to produce financially successful family films.[6] After a series of collaborations with filmmaker John Hughes, Meledandri was placed in charge of 20th Century Fox Animation.[6] One of the first films released under Meledandri's tutelage was the Don Bluth-directed animated science fiction film Titan A.E. (2000), a costly box office bomb whose failure almost caused him to be fired, and which caused Fox Animation Studios to be shut down.[6]

1998–2007: Blue Sky Studios[edit]

In 1998, Meledandri led Fox's acquisition of fledgling visual effects house Blue Sky Studios, which became a commercially successful production studio. He oversaw the creative and business operations of Blue Sky, which became wholly owned by Fox.[7][8] While at the studio, Meledandri supervised and/or executive produced films including Ice Age (2002), Robots (2005), Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006) and Horton Hears a Who! (2008). He also produced two animated shorts, Gone Nutty (2002) and No Time for Nuts (2006); both were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

2007–present: Illumination[edit]

Meledandri left as President of 20th Century Fox Animation in early 2007, being replaced by Vanessa Morrison, and founded Illumination, an animation company that was co-owned by Universal Pictures, which fully financed and owned the films.[9] Fox had attempted to retain Meledandri, but it was reported by the Los Angeles Times that Universal's offer of an ownership stake in Illumination had persuaded him to switch.[7] Meledandri received a share of Illumination's box office earnings as part of his contract with Universal, and as of 2011, he also owned an undisclosed stake in the production company.[3] In 2010, Illumination released its first film, Despicable Me, which became successful. Meledandri built a good relationship with chairman of NBCUniversal Stephen Burke, who liked Meledandri's propensity for producing animated films on a relatively low budget.[3] Illumination released a film version of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, which continued the successful collaboration between Meledandri and the Dr. Seuss estate.[5] He also produced all of Despicable Me's various sequels and spin-offs.

2016–present: DreamWorks Animation and Nintendo[edit]

On April 28, 2016, NBCUniversal announced its intent to acquire competing studio DreamWorks Animation for $3.8 billion. It was announced that Meledandri would oversee both Illumination and DreamWorks following the completion of the merger.[10] However, it was later announced that Meledandri had declined to oversee DreamWorks, and will instead be a consultant at the studio. On November 6, 2018, it was announced that Meledandri will be collaborating with Universal and DreamWorks to revive the Shrek franchise.[11][12][13] Meledandri intends, however, to retain the original voice actors, as he believes they were perhaps the most memorable parts of the series. The first film in this collaboration, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, in which Meledandri served as executive producer, was released in December 2022 to universal critical acclaim and commercial success.[citation needed]

In January 2018, Nintendo announced during a fiscal meeting that Illumination would be developing an animated Mario film and that Meledandri will co-produce the film with Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto. On July 5, 2021, it was reported that Meledandri would join Nintendo's board of directors "as an independent and non-executive outside director" to advise Nintendo as the company develops more films under Nintendo Pictures.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Meledandri is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and is a member of the board of trustees at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut.

Meledandri was married to Leslie Benziger from 2002 to 2016.[14] He has two sons, born in 1990 and 1998.[15]



Year Title Notes
1986 Quicksilver Associate producer
1989 Brothers in Arms Producer
1990 Opportunity Knocks
1993 Fly by Night Executive producer
Swing Kids
Cool Runnings
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit Co-executive producer
1994 Trial by Jury Producer
2002 Ice Age Executive producer
Gone Nutty
2005 Robots
2006 Ice Age: The Meltdown
No Time for Nuts
2008 Horton Hears a Who![7]
2010 Despicable Me Producer
2011 Hop
2012 The Lorax
2013 Despicable Me 2
2015 Minions[16]
2016 The Secret Life of Pets[17]
2017 Despicable Me 3[18]
2018 The Grinch[19]
2019 The Secret Life of Pets 2[20]
2021 Sing 2
2022 Minions: The Rise of Gru
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Executive producer[21]
2023 The Super Mario Bros. Movie[22] Producer
2024 Despicable Me 4


  1. ^ Shigeru Miyamoto Explains Why This 'Super Mario Bros.' Movie Lives Up to Fan Expectations. YouTube. Variety. April 4, 2023. Event occurs at 0:05. Retrieved April 6, 2023.
  2. ^ a b Q&A Summary Archived July 5, 2021, at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b c d e Barnes, Brooks (April 3, 2011). "For Illumination Entertainment, Animation Meets Economic Reality". The New York Times. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
  4. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (June 20, 2022). "Illumination's Chris Meledandri Talks 'Minions', Streaming Vs Theatrical, Chris Pratt For 'Super Mario' & Facing Fear Of Failure: CineEurope". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 21, 2023. I'm not sure this is the smartest defense, but as a person who has Italian-American heritage, I feel I can make that decision without worrying about offending Italians or Italian-Americans
  5. ^ a b Archibald, Sophia (May 10, 2011). "In nod to other famous alum., Meledandri produces 'Lorax'". The Dartmouth. Archived from the original on May 16, 2012. Retrieved June 26, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d Garrahan, Matthew (January 6, 2014). "Chris Meledandri, the man who has made millions from Minions". Financial Times. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c Munoz, Lorenza; Verrier, Richard (January 19, 2007). "Head of Fox animation division signs with rival Universal Studios". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  8. ^ Baisley, Sarah (January 18, 2007). "Universal Pictures Lures Chris Meledandri From 20th Century Fox Animation". Animation World Network. Retrieved April 21, 2022.
  9. ^ Kilday, Gregg (December 9, 2016). "Illumination's Chris Meledandri Talks Success Secrets, Rumors He'll Head DreamWorks". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on December 1, 2017. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  10. ^ "Comcast's NBCUniversal buys DreamWorks Animation in $3.8-billion deal". Los Angeles Times. April 28, 2016. Archived from the original on November 29, 2019. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  11. ^ Lang, Brett (November 6, 2018). "'Shrek,' 'Puss in Boots' Getting Rebooted (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Archived from the original on November 6, 2018. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  12. ^ Lang, Brent (November 6, 2018). "How Chris Meledandri Became the Most Powerful Man in Animation". Variety. Archived from the original on November 8, 2018. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  13. ^ Palmeri, Christopher; Sakoui, Anousha (September 12, 2017). "In Dismal Summer, 'Despicable Me 3' Producer Delivers $1 Billion". Bloomberg Businessweek. Archived from the original on September 29, 2017. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
  15. ^ S. Cohen, David (October 26, 2013). "Chris Meledandri: Event Films Are Cannibalizing Each Other". Variety. Archived from the original on October 28, 2013. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
  16. ^ Mike Fleming (July 23, 2012). "Illumination And Universal Hatch 'Despicable Me' Spinoff About The Minions". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on August 24, 2012. Retrieved July 23, 2012.
  17. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (January 24, 2014). "Chris Meledandri's Illumination Sets Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet And Kevin Hart For 3D Animated 'Pets' Pic At Universal". Deadline. Archived from the original on January 27, 2014. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
  18. ^ Bond, Paul (September 11, 2013). "Steve Burke: NBC's Ratings Woes Hurting Revenues". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 14, 2013. Retrieved September 12, 2013. A third film is in the works, as is a Christmastime spinoff about the Minions.
  19. ^ Kroll, Justin (October 8, 2013). "Universal, Illumination to reboot 'The Grinch'". Variety. Archived from the original on February 10, 2013. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  20. ^ Mandell, Andrea (August 2, 2016). "Get Ready for 'Secret Life of Pets 2'". USA Today. Archived from the original on August 6, 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  21. ^ Milligan, Mercedes (March 15, 2022). "'Puss in Boots: The Last Wish' Trailer Recounts the Nine Lives of the Leche Whisperer". Animation Magazine. Retrieved March 19, 2022.
  22. ^ Nintendo of America [@NintendoAmerica] (February 1, 2018). "Nintendo and Illumination are partnering on a movie starring Mario, co-produced by Shigeru Miyamoto and Chris Meledandri!" (Tweet). Archived from the original on February 25, 2018. Retrieved April 2, 2020 – via Twitter.

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