Chris Meledandri
Meledandri in 2018
Christopher Meledandri

(1959-05-15) May 15, 1959 (age 62)
Alma materDartmouth College
OccupationFilm producer
Notable work
Ice Age
Despicable Me
The Secret Life of Pets
  • Founder and CEO, Illumination
Leslie Benzinger
(m. 2002; div. 2016)

Christopher Meledandri (/mɛlɛdɑːndr/;[stress?] born May 15, 1959) is an American film producer, and founder and CEO of Illumination. He is best known as the producer of the Despicable Me franchise.

Early and personal life

Meledandri was born in New York City. He is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He attended Dartmouth College[1] and is a member of the board of trustees at The Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut. He has two sons, born c. 1990 and 1998.[2] He was married to Leslie Benziger, his longtime relationship and the mother of his two sons, from 2002 until their divorce in 2016. They started dating in 1989.[citation needed]


1998–2006: 20th Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios

In 1998, Meledandri led Fox's acquisition of fledgling visual effects/commercial house Blue Sky Studios, which he built into a successful producer of animated features. He oversaw the creative and business operations of Blue Sky, now Fox's wholly owned CGI studio. While at the studio, Meledandri supervised and/or executive produced films including Ice Age (2002), Robots (2005), Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006), and Dr. Seuss Horton Hears a Who! (2008)[3] 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

Meledandri left as President of 20th Century Fox Animation in early 2007 and founded Illumination, an all-audience film production company, co-owned by Universal Pictures, which fully finances and owns the films.[4] In 2010, Illumination released its first film, Despicable Me, (which became successful and was followed by Despicable Me 2 (2013) and Despicable Me 3 (2017)), and in 2011, Hop. Illumination released a film version of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, which continued the successful collaboration between Meledandri and Theodor (Dr. Seuss) Geisel's widow, Audrey.[1] He also produced the franchise spin-off prequel, Minions (2015).

2016–present: DreamWorks Animation and Nintendo

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.[5] 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 helping Universal and DreamWorks to revive the Shrek franchise.[6] Meledandri intends, however, to retain the original voice actors, as he pointed out they were perhaps the most memorable parts of the series.[7]

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 Melendandri would join Nintendo's board of directors "as an independent and non-executive outside director", in order to help Nintendo through their filmmaking experience as the company moves towards developing films after Illumination's Super Mario Bros. film.[8]



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
Aunt Fanny's Tour of Booty
2006 Ice Age: The Meltdown
No Time for Nuts
2008 Horton Hears a Who!
2010 Despicable Me Producer
2011 Hop
2012 The Lorax
2013 Despicable Me 2
2015 Minions[9]
2016 The Secret Life of Pets[10]
2017 Despicable Me 3[11]
2018 The Grinch[12]
2019 The Secret Life of Pets 2[13]
2021 Sing 2
2022 Minions: The Rise of Gru
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Story
Untitled Mario film[14] Producer


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Christopher Meledandri". Archived from the original on February 11, 2018. Retrieved June 29, 2018.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "How Chris Meledandri Became the Most Powerful Man in Animation". November 6, 2018.
  8. ^ Q&A Summary
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ Kroll, Justin (October 8, 2013). "Universal, Illumination to reboot 'The Grinch'". Variety. Archived from the original on February 10, 2013. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Nintendo of America [@NintendoAmerica] (January 31, 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.