Universal Brand Development prepares for the return of Minions in summer 2022

Illumination’s Minions: The Rise of Gru, the long-awaited next installment of the most successful animated franchise in history, is set to hit cinemas across the globe in July 2022.

In anticipation, Universal Brand Development (UBD) is pulling out all the stops to support the new feature film with global toy partners Mattel and The Lego Group. The toy collection will feature fresh new looks of action figures, construction sets, electronics, plush, collectibles and playsets. Other partners include Topps, Asmodee, Ravensburger, Clementoni, Posh Paws, Danilo and Boxine.

During last year’s 2020 lockdown, Minions’ global popularity in the international grocery sector, which remained open, kept the beloved characters front-of-mind. The franchise has shown continued strength throughout Europe in FMCG, food, personal care and beauty categories and UBD is planning a broad-based programme in a number of categories with Yazoo, Brioche, Pez, Danone, Volvic, Perfetti Van Melle, Colgate, Avon, BIP and Glamglow.  Softlines will also be a focus as Minions: The Rise of Gru sparks further interest in the franchise.

With a roster of local agents around the globe, UBD is taking a tailored approach to retail activations and licensing and merchandising opportunities. It is a formula that has consistently delivered results, establishing Minions as a powerhouse brand.

Last summer, UBD developed a number of online-only events and promotions including the Free the Fun digital pop-up event in the UK that included giveaways and prizes that enlisted top-tier UK grocers including ALDI, ASDA, Sainsbury, Tesco, as well as toy stores Smyths, The Entertainer and Hamleys. Leading up to the film’s release in 2022, UBD’s promotional and marketing efforts will be doubled as the pent-up demand and anticipation for all things Minions is expected to be huge.


Line Friends partners with Universal to launch Minions x Brown & Friends collaboration

The internationally celebrated character brand, Line Friends, has partnered with Illumination and Universal Brand Development to unveil its Minions x Brown & Friends collection, a new line-up of products that will feature the Minions’ Stuart, Kevin, and Bob alongside Line Friends’ own Brown and Sally.

A collaboration long over-due, early reaction among Millennials and Gen Z has – understandably – gone viral, as the first glimpse of Brown and Sally dressed in the signature Minions’ get up of overalls and goggles ignited the imaginations of its core audience the world over.

 Launched as part of the collaboration between these two powerhouse brands, the Minions x Brown & Friends collection consists of fashion and tech accessories ranging from AirPods cases to phone grips to canvas tote bags, as well as to golf accessories and camping gear. Collection items are anticipated to hit a record-breaking sellout worldwide.

The Minions x Brown & Friends collection is available for global purchase on the official on- and offline stores of Line Friends in countries and regions including Korea, the US, Japan, and China, from July 22. Line Friends is also slated to drop big surprises of digital contents, including Line messenger stickers and Instagram AR GIFs for this collaboration, sparking viral sensation among Millennials and Generation Z.

“With our unrivalled creative capabilities, Line Friends once again captures the hearts of Millennials and Generation Z across the world with this collection jointly collaborated with long-standing partners Universal Brand Development and Illumination,” said the Line Friends team.

“We anticipate that this phenomenal collaboration between Brown & Friends, originally created for use as Line messenger stickers, and the beloved Minions will stir up fun and excitement for fans worldwide.”

Exploding Kittens launches first licensed title Exploding Minions with Illumination and Universal Brand Development

The hit tabletop games publisher, Exploding Kittens has launched its first licensed game, Exploding Minions, developed in collaboration with Illumination and Universal Brand Development.

The new game is a Minions-inspired take on its flagship Exploding Kittens card game, drawing on the appeal of one of the most successful animation franchises of all time, to bring an ‘easy to learn, quick to play’ game for kids and adults to enjoy together.

Read the full interview with Exploding Kittens’ Joeri Hoste here or in the Spring/Summer issue of ToyNews.

“We’re excited to combine one of the biggest card games with Illumination’s global pop-culture phenomenon, the Minions, to create a new family game night essential,” said Elan Lee, co-creator and CEO of Exploding Kittens. “Exploding Minions marries these two universes to create a simple yet strategic game for all to enjoy.”

Aimed at players aged seven and upwards, Exploding Minions is a family-friendly spin-off of the core Russian Roulette-style game that includes new card types and fun illustrations of Minions as imagined by The Oatmeal. Participants take turns drawing cards while trying to evade the Exploding Minions.

Players can avoid exploding by using clever strategies and favourite cards such as ‘Defuse’, ‘Nope’ and ‘See the Future’, as well as the new ‘Clone Card’. The last player who hasn’t exploded is declared the winner.

The partnership with Illumination and Universal Brand Development marks the first licensing partnership for Exploding Kittens who, until now, has seen most of its licensing activity take the form of outbound licensing, expanding its own IP into the likes of video games for the Nintendo Switch.

In an exclusive interview with Licensing.biz’ sister title, ToyNews, Exploding Kittens’ director of international sales, Joeri Hoste revealed that should the partnership prove to be successful, then further licensing options will be an avenue the firm will continue to explore for its titles.

Gaming phenomenon Exploding Kittens makes licensing move with Universal and Illumination’s Minions

The analogue games manufacturer, Exploding Kittens – recognised for setting the record with the most backed game on Kickstarter to date – is eyeing a new move into licensing with the launch its Exploding Minions game next month.

Developed in partnership with Universal Brand Development and Illumination, the new titles puts a Minions spin on the globally popular card game, bringing in elements from the hit franchise to the tabletop gaming phenomenon.

In an interview with ToyNews, Exploding Kittens international director of sales has hinted that this could be just the start of a new licensing endeavour from Exploding Kittens, who will be measuring the success of the licensed game as a marker for its future pursuits in the licensing space.

“We are trying a few new things as we focus on the UK market this year,” said Hoste. “One of them is that this year, for the first time, we are supplying an entertainment license to the Exploding Kittens franchise. We will have an Exploding Minions game launching this year, in June, as a fun way to reposition the game with a broader appeal.

“It will be exciting to see what that does, and if it is successful we will continue to pursue those kinds of changes within our portfolio.”

Exploding Kittens burst onto the scene in 2015 when it set records as the most backed game on the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter to date. Six years later, the kittens’ explosion is still expanding with ten games to the company’s portfolio, 45 countries on the roster, and new headway being made in the licensing space, both inbound and out.

The outward licensing and franchise building around Exploding Kittens’ game portfolio continues to gain traction. Further products are currently in development across both the Exploding Kittens and the Throw Throw Burrito (a card game meets dodgeball) for later this year, while the company recently made the move to digital gaming.

Exploding Kittens has become one of the latest tabletop games to make the leap to the Nintendo Switch with a digital version of the game in a move that “has the potential to grow the audience size for Exploding Kittens exponentially.”

Plans are now already in place to bring more of the company’s titles to the gaming platform in the coming months and years, tapping into a strong trend to translating popular physical game titles to the digital space.

Read the full interview with Exploding Kittens’ Joeri Hoste here or in the Spring/Summer issue of ToyNews.

Icefresh Foods launches Minions Ice Creams exclusively with Aldi stores across the UK

Icefresh Foods has embarked on a new partnership with Universal Brand Development to launch a line of Minions Ice Creams, a range taking inspiration from the hit kids’ franchise and launched exclusively with Aldi stores across the UK.

The range – marking Aldi’s first – has hit stores from today (Monday, May 17th), offering a vanilla and blue raspberry ice cream inspired by the popular Minions characters. The lollies feature distinctive yellow bodies, blue overalls, and a signature Minions eye. A box of six retails at £1.49.

Icefresh brand manager, Lucy Wright, said: “We’re so excited to be launching yummy Minions Ice Creams this summer. It’s been really important to us to be able to bring the UK some much-needed fun and we cannot wait to see the response.”

Established in 1983 Icefresh Foods works in collaborative partnership with manufacturers and brands to supply quality, award-winning ice cream and desserts to the UK retail and foodservice markets.  

Toy maker TOMY bolsters licensed portfolio with Sing 2 and Plants vs Zombies ranges

Last month witnessed the international toy maker, TOMY bolster its licensing portfolio with new toy, plush, and play-sets plans for both Illumination’s upcoming animated motion picture, Sing 2, and the popular Electronic Arts mobile game, Plants vs Zombies.

Scheduled for launch on December 22, 2021, TOMY’s Sing 2 toy line will comprise innovative products including collectable figurines, feature plush, and a role play game.

The range will be launched in partnership with Illumination and Universal Brand Development, the studios behind the popular animated feature film Sing and its upcoming sequel, Sing 2.

“Audiences everywhere have already fallen in love with the relatable characters of Sing, and we’re looking forward to bringing them to life and into playrooms,” said TOMY’s director of global toys, Morgan Weyl.

“The Sing films are about overcoming obstacles and pursuing dreams, so we created a musically-infused toy line that will help inspire the next generation to shoot for the stars – no matter what challenges they may face along the way.”

Joe Lawandus, senior vice president and general manager, global toys and hardlines, Universal Brand Development, added:  “Our filmmaking partners at Illumination continue to deliver dynamic characters and storylines that bring joy and smiles to audiences across the globe, and we’re excited for the worldwide debut of Sing 2.

“We look forward to collaborating with TOMY on an all-new toy line that will bring the franchise’s signature comedy and hit music into the hearts and homes of fans worldwide.”

In addition, the toy maker has also secured a new partnership with Electronic Arts to bring the Plants vs Zombies video game characters to life in plush form.

In a deal brokered by the licensing agent Retail Monster, TOMY’s Club Mocchi-Mocchi brand will deliver a variety of soft, squeezable plush.

Plants vs. Zombies is a tower defense classic in which players pit their loyal plant squad against the zombie peril, fending off boss invasions and banding together with friends to help save their small town. With over 1.2 billion installs to date, the popular franchise is looking at granting its fans new adventures with future content releases.

“Plants vs. Zombies is a wildly popular video game franchise and we’re thrilled to be the licensed partner that gets to bring its characters to life in plush,” said TOMY’s Weyl. “Many of Club Mocchi- Mocchi-‘s most popular plush toys are characters and accessories from beloved video games, so we’re excited to bring a little piece of Plants vs. Zombies into gamers’ homes around the world.”

Retail Monster’s founder and CEO, Michael Connolly, added: “TOMY’s Club Mocchi- Mocchi- brand is renowned for its bespoke plush format, and we’re thrilled to delight Plants vs. Zombies fans with what will surely be an in-demand range of iconic plush characters.”

Reebok and Universal Brand Development launch Minions: The Rise of Gru footwear collection

Reebok has partnered with Universal Brand Development, Illumination and the world renowned Minions franchise to grandly unveil its Minions: The Rise of Gru collection, a new footwear range celebrating the upcoming blockbuster release slated for July 2021.

Available globally from Reebok.com and select retailers beginning October 1, the exclusive full-family footwear collection ‘unfolds a real-life creative alliance of epic proportions revealing a master plan years in the making.’

Recognized globally as the world’s most successful animated film franchise of all time, Illumination’s iconic Despicable Me continues to capture the imagination of audiences worldwide. The Minions x Reebok collection injects inspiration directly from the forthcoming film that chronicles the untold story of one 12-year-old’s dream to become the world’s greatest supervillain.

The collection feature the Minions x Reebok Question Mid Gru’s Lab, an imaginative modification of Reebok’s Question Mid inspired by Gru and his laboratory. It uses different “metals” from around Gru’s lab to form a mostly unpolished silver upper, while a more-finished glossy chrome leather panel at the heel pops above his signature “G” logo stamped in place of the traditional Iverson “3”.

Looking inside, wearers will find asymmetric double-sided ‘trap door’ sock liners – a first-of-its kind sneaker innovation – that each hide top-secret elements from Gru’s lab on the underside.

Next up is the Minions x Reebok Instapump Fury Vicious 6, a take on the Vicious 6 that Gru must first defeat to become the world’s greatest super villain. Taking inspiration from the infamous group, this asymmetric fashion-forward take on Reebok’s historic ‘laceless’ Instapump Fury mixes a plethora of contrasting prints, colors, materials and textures, while the silhouette goes big like the villains themselves.

The Minions x Reebok Club C Vicious 6 meanwhile, nods to the film’s ’70s vibe and textures as well as retro colours, featuring corduroy, premium leather and nubuck panels and the Vicious 6 logo on the tongue.


The Minions x Reebok Instapum Fury Minions pays homage to the Minions iconic yellow and blue colour palette, as a vibrant take on the Instapump Fury imagined through the eyes of the Minions themselves. It feature particular nods to the film franchise, including a Minions party insole, Minion eyes on either pump button, a banana peel graphic on the left outsole, and more.

Completing the line up is the Minions x Reebok Club C Otto, a subtle yet bright take on the classic Club C which celebrates the franchise’s newest Minion, Otto. The silhouette, a second creation inspired by the Minions horde, is filled with yellow paint, Minions party insoles, pops of lime green and a splash of mud on either outsole – the meaning behind which will be revealed in the forthcoming film.


The partnership is completed with an apparel capsule collection that feature Minions x Reebok graphic acropss a range of short sleeved and long sleeved cropped and regular t-shirts. Each Reebok creation arrives in Gru’s Lab sneaker packaging, featuring hand-drawn orthographic views of Gru’s childhood bedroom and top secret lair, complete with Easter egss from the upcoming film.

Minions: The Rise of Gru movie release date put on hold as France enters lockdown

Illumination and Universal’s Minions: The Rise of Gru has been moved from its global release slot of late June and early July owing to the deepening COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown in many countries across the globe.

The move was spurred by the current lockdown in France that incorporates Illumination’s Mac Guff studio in Paris.

Illumination founder and CEO, Chris Meledandri, said: “In response to the severity of the situation in France, we are temporarily closing our Illumination Mac Guff studio in Paris. With this decision we are abiding by the French Government’s guidelines and doing everything possible to slow the spread of the virus as we care for our artists and their families.

“This means we will be unable to finish Minions: The Rise of Gru in time for our planned global releases in late June and early July. While we all grapple with the enormity of this crisis, we must put the safety and proetection of our employees above all.

“We look forward to finding a new release date for the return of Gru and the Minions.”

In 2017, the Despicable Me franchise became the top grossing animated series worldwide. Efforts will be put in locking in a new release date for the film once global restrictions have been lifted.