How To Build A Better Animated Family Movie – Part 5: Characters and Situations Are Relatable to the Family Audience

Despicable Me - Gru and Girls on Rollercoaster

(c) Universal Studios

5. CHARACTERS & SITUATIONS ARE RELATABLE TO THE FAMILY AUDIENCE

The characters & situations invite the audience to recognize themselves. Like most parents, Gru’s former life has been overturned by having to cater to the needs and wants of children. Gru’s sudden experience of parenthood is not unlike what many a new parent feels: the immediate burden of taking care of creatures that can’t yet care for themselves.

The audience — and even Gru himself — sometimes forgets that he’s a super-villain, and sees him as just another parent. Though Gru’s job may be different from that of other kids’ parents, he faces the same juggling act many working parents do. How many of us have had to deal with that plaintive cry, “Will you play with us?” when we have work to do? He washes his clothes with theirs and his clothes come out pink; what parent hasn’t experienced a similar laundry incident? Like us, when Gru’s around kids, he becomes a bit of a kid himself: he won’t quit a game at the amusement park until he’s won a prize, and later shows up at home with his face painted like a kitten, clutching cotton candy.

Gru is relatable to any parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, and recognizable to any kid. The parent-child dynamic between himself and the girls is true to life. Here are examples:

  • The girls beg Gru to take them to the amusement park and promise to never ask for anything else again (how many parents have heard that one?).
  • As soon as they arrive home from the amusement park, the girls ask him to order pizza. They’re hungry again even though, as he points out, they just ate.
  • At breakfast, Gru finds himself making pancakes in funny shapes to amuse them.
  • The girls make him “pinkie-promise” he’ll attend their ballet recital.

Again and again, throughout the movie, Gru and the girls’ family life mirrors that of the people who make up the bulk of this movie’s audience. The laughs of recognition that come from the moments described above are a big part of the movie’s appeal.

Up next, 6. THERE IS CONSISTENT, EFFECTIVE COMEDY FOR BOTH KIDS AND ADULTS

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