Magazine article Variety

'Me' Team Triumphs

Magazine article Variety

'Me' Team Triumphs

Article excerpt

BILLION DOLLAR SCREENWRITERS: KEN DAURIO AND CINCO PAUL

Scribes Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul blend love for Marx Bros, with vision for Illumination mega-hits

Pixar has the "Brain Trust" to provide feedback on every new project. DreamWorks Animation relies on a rotating stable of A-list scribes. But over at Illumination Entertainment, two guys are responsible for nearly $2 billion in animated success. Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul wrote all four of the toon studio's feature releases: "Despicable Me" and its sequel, "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" and "Hop" (Brian Lynch also worked on the latter).

Daurio and Paul have been working with Illumination founder Chris Meledandri since the exec was running Fox's animation division, where their adaptation of "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!" earned $297 million. That film was the start of a career hot streak for a duo that came from humble origins.

The two cut-ups met on the set of a Mormon church musical. Cinco Paul (named after his May 5 birthdate) had written a show for which Daurio landed a key role. "After rehearsal, we would hang out and sing Beatles songs," Paul says. "We decided to form a band called the Otter Pops, and we rocked the local outdoor malls."

Paul was looking for a writing partner, and Dau- rio, who had been directing musicvideos since high school, agreed to help. It was slow going at first. Their early collaborations were hardly conventional: In "Special," a guy poses as a disabled person to get a football star's autograph, while in romantic comedy "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble," the male lead suffers from immune deficiency. The latter became "Bubble Boy" (a Disney bomb starring Jake Gyllenhaal), while a German crew made "Special" as "Wo ist Fred?" with Til Schweiger.

The duo had better success writing family films. Their script for "The Santa Clause 2" did well for Disney, and a canine musical called "Let It Rain" caught Meledandri's attention. When it came time to hire scribes for "Horton Hears a Who," Meledandri invited Daurio and Paul down to San Diego to meet Dr. Seuss' widow, Audrey Geisel, who was duly cautious after Universal's live-action "The Cat in the Hat."

They instantly hit it off. "Horton" is Daurio's all-time favorite children's book; "The Lorax" is Paul's. "We each have three kids. She saw that we're very PG, we love the books," Paul says. "T\vo Mormon guys? Come on, she knew the property was in safe hands."

So, when it came time to launch an animation studio in partnership with Universal, Meledandri brought along his two star scribes. Illumination's first feature was "Despicable Me," based on a series of sketches by Disney animator Sergio Pablos. …

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