Anyway, I found one concerning The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot. An illustrator had left a comment like, ” It looks OK. Basically he just ripped off the minions from Despicable Me.”
Ouch! I have to admit, the alien kids do look similar. But the sad part, or good part, is I designed that book long before that movie came out. And here’s the story about that.
I started designing the aliens as soon as the contract came in. I was really excited. My first drafts had all three eyed-alien kids and that crazy multi-eyed robot. I was into lots of eyes…I tried making the characters blue, but I didn’t like it. So I defaulted to a yellow-green/acid-green coloring for them because that coloring looked great atop all the deep-space backgrounds the book featured. And they are aliens…come on. I’m not the most original colorist.
So I turned in my first designs, I got notes back and the art director asked what I thought about each of the aliens having a different number of eyes so kids can more easily tell them apart. Cool idea. I did that and was soon moving forward painting the roughs.
About halfway through the book I went to Apple Trailers one day and – nearly wet my pants when I saw the first full trailer for Despicable Me that featured the Minions. I believe that the earliest teaser trailers didn’t have the minions in them. Well, I freaked out. Looked online for anything about them and started alternative character designs. I wrote the editor and art director, who had seen the roughs, telling them I would have to change everything because my characters look similar to these other characters in a new movie.
The art director wrote back saying, don’t bother changing them. They loved my characters as they were. The characters in the book are kids, they are not minions. And there are lots of characters with similar traits in books and films.
And so that’s how I became a big, fat, plagiarist…not.