Smitten with the mighty minions

They have names like Larry, Dave and Kevin.

They love apples and shout things like "Poppadom!".

They're small, yellow, cylindrical and are stealing people's hearts after featuring in the Despicable Me films.

Yes, we're talking about the Minions, the mischievous henchmen of protagonist Gru.

And it's not just kids who are taken with them - young working adults, too, have been smitten by the irrepressible little characters.

Maybe it's the fact that the word "minion" has never before been represented by something so decidedly cute and contradictory.

Project manager Kenji Poh, 32, caught Despicable Me 2 on July 5, and was immediately hooked on the Minions. He said they are the best part of the film.

He told My Paper he was taken with "the crazy things they do, like their singing and dancing, especially to that YMCA song".

He was referring to a scene in the film where the Minions sing Village People's YMCA, in a language called "minionese".

The yellow creatures are earning raves from parents who have been introduced to the Minions, thanks to their kids.

Civil servant Shirley Chow, 40, took her two children, aged one and seven, to catch the movie on its opening weekend.

Although she knew the film would be "good family entertainment", she ended up raving about how cute the Minions are.

The characters have become a lucrative business entity.

According to distributor United International Pictures, Despicable Me raked in a total of $3.9 million(S$4.9m) when it screened in Singapore in 2010, while the current box-office gross for the second instalment, which opened on July 4, was more than $4 million as of last Wednesday.

The popularity of the Minions after the first film was so overwhelming that the promotion of the sequel was angled around the animated characters, with exclusive posters and trailers featuring their antics.

It's not just in box-office figures that they are a hit. There has also been a recent slew of merchandise tie-ups.

McDonald's launched a Minion-figurine promotion last Thursday for each Happy Meal purchased, while Toys "R" Us is selling talking Minion toys at $119.90 each.

The cylinder-shaped workers will be starring in their own movie, Minions, which is a spin-off to the Despicable Me movies and will be released next year.

Musical Minions

UNDERWEAR

The Minions sing I Swear at the wedding between Gru and Lucy in Despicable Me 2. The track from 1994, originally by American country-music artist John Michael Montgomery and later covered by boyband All-4-One, was a No. 1 hit.

But, of course, the Minions put a twist on the tune. While intending to sing the line "I swear", it accidentally becomes "underwear".

TU PUE DE BA (YMCA)

The Minions really steal the show when they break out into disco group Village People's YMCA. Dressed in wacky costumes and headgear, they give their take, too, on this 1978 tune, singing "tu pue de ba" - "YMCA" in their language.

THE BANANA SONG

The tune comes from The Regents Barbara Ann (1961). The tune was made famous by the Beach Boys when they covered it in 1965. But the lyrics have always been a puzzle. The Minions make it impossibly hard to decipher by singing lines like "Banana! Ba-ba, babana. Potato!". But what's not to love?

Minion fun facts

The Minions are a rambunctious bunch of simple-minded homunculi who express themselves through actions instead of words.

Their "language" is basic, and they speak in a jabber, except for the odd English word now and then.

They also use Spanish-

sounding words, and it's possible to isolate elements of Japanese from their speech patterns. Here are some fun facts about the lil' yellow dudes:

They were originally designed to be human-sized thugs. But the studio ran out of money, so the Minions ended up being short.

Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud did the voice-over for the Minions.

The Minions love bananas and apples (or "papples" as they call them), and they get drunk on ice cream.

The vivid shade of purple that the mutated Minions take on in Despicable Me 2 stemmed from the fact that purple is the opposite of yellow on the colour spectrum.