For Gen Z, ‘Despicable Me’ Is Bigger Than Marvel
Gen Zers are no longer a mere fascination: They now wield serious purchasing power and cultural capital as they put their imprints on the global economy. Morning Consult surveyed Americans between the ages of 13 and 25 about their media tastes and habits, relationships with brands and interest in sports in order to better understand where, exactly, the youngest adult generation is now taking us.
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The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest-grossing film franchise of all time, raking in nearly $30 billion in ticket sales over the course of its 14 years atop the global box office. It’s spawned countless media extensions in the form of TV series, books, video games, podcasts and amusement park rides. For much of the world, it is the pinnacle of entertainment.
But for Gen Z, it’s still not as big as the Minions.
In a recent survey of Americans between the ages of 13 and 25, Morning Consult found that “Despicable Me” counts the most Gen Z fans out of dozens of popular film and TV properties. Nearly 3 in 4 Gen Zers (73%) consider themselves to be a fan of Universal Pictures’ animated franchise, which has released three films under the main “Despicable Me” banner (with a fourth planned for 2024) and two “Minions” prequel spinoffs.
“Jumanji” — the film franchise based on the eponymous 1995 adventure film that Sony Pictures resurrected for a series of movies starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — also topped the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which finished third in the rankings.
Gen Z’s Favorite Entertainment Franchises
- “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” the latest installment of the “Despicable Me” franchise, has grossed over $369 million at the domestic box office since its release in July. Morning Consult data found that a third of Gen Zers saw the film in theaters — while more than half (51%) heard about the #GentleMinions trend on TikTok, which played a significant role in getting the demographic into theaters to see the film.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe ranked third, with 61% of Gen Zers saying they’re an avid or casual fan. Though the MCU is still extremely popular (its "avid" fan base is largest among the franchises included in the survey), its ranking aligns with the notion that superhero movie fatigue is real, especially among the youngest generations. The DC Universe ranked 10th, with a narrow majority of Gen Zers (54%) calling themselves a fan of the franchise that counts Batman and Superman among its heroes.
- “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Jurassic Park” ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. Actress Margot Robbie recently revealed that the female-led spinoff of “Pirates of the Caribbean” she was set to executive produce is no longer moving forward at Walt Disney Co., though the franchise is clearly still relevant among young fans. Universal Pictures’ “Jurassic World Dominion,” which premiered in theaters in June, has made more than $376 million domestically.
- “Stranger Things,” which ranked sixth, was the most popular TV show on the list. The Netflix Inc. sci-fi adventure series has consistently been one of the top streaming shows in the world since its 2016 premiere.
- Two franchises considered to be Hollywood classics — “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings” — ranked lower for Gen Z, but were more popular with older generations, according to a separate Morning Consult survey also conducted in early November.
Gen Z to Hollywood: Give us more Minions
The #GentleMinions trend on TikTok was a huge part of the film’s success — and perhaps helped the franchise take the lead as Gen Z’s favorite. Universal Pictures leaned into the trend, encouraging moviegoers to dress up in suits to see the film, not at all unlike fans donning a Spider-Man mask to see “Avengers.”
Casting hugely popular actors like Johnson, who stars in the “Jumanji” films, helps a lot, too. Morning Consult data found that the majority (73%) of Gen Zers have a favorable opinion of the wrestler-turned-actor.
Meanwhile, previous Morning Consult data shows that franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Universe, though still very popular, do not enjoy as much support from Gen Z as they do from millennials — arguably a disconcerting omen for the superhero brand. Maybe there’s a Marvel-Minions crossover in the future.
The Nov. 2-8, 2022, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 1,000 U.S. Gen Zers between the ages of 13 and 25, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.