It’s rare for one to visit social media these days without finding a reference to the little, yellow, jean-wearing pills of joy known as minions. Minions are masters of slapstick comedy, communicating via an incomprehensible yet coherent language that the audience, rather weirdly, understands. 

It’s part of the reason why Minions: The Rise of Gru has earned over $500 million at the box office, with experts predicting that the number will continue rising. Minions’ brand of comedy appeals to all ages, and their silent comedy brand attracts everyone, regardless of ethnicity. 

Minions is a work of fiction that unexpectedly took over the world

The film’s director, Pierre Coffins, told The Guardian that the minions were an accident. The creators conceived them as short and thuggish factory workers, who then became mono-eyed robots. Vanity Fair wrote in 2018:

“Eventually, the filmmakers settled on a kind of robot-human synthesis (or, if not human, at least something more or less organic), melding the innocence of the former with the ‘relatability’ of the latter.”

The non-threatening design of the minions was supposed to make Gru seem more sympathetic. The minions had a bit-part role in the first Despicable Me film; their popularity forced the creators to give them a more prominent role in Despicable Me 2. Finally, the minions got their own movie. 

The minions are fictional, but their brand of comedy is authentic. Coffin has mentioned that the minions are influenced by silent comedians like Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin. 

Several silent era gags feature in Minions films. For instance, in Minions, a minion named Bob gives an unfathomable speech to a crowd after accepting the British crown. 

In The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin, portraying a Hitler-like leader, gives a similar speech before a large crowd. 

Minions have no connection to the atrocities of the Holocaust

An infamous theory that never seems to go away despite the efforts of fact-checkers claims the minions were inspired by Jewish children during the Holocaust. 

Supporting this fabrication is a photo showing people clad in helmets resembling the minions. The photo feature the following caption:

“The minions from ‘Despicable Me’ are based off of these Jewish children tortured by Nazis during the Holocaust, their high pitched voice in the movie are meant to represent the high pitched screams of the children during the cruel experiments.”

The photo was taken years before the Holocaust and showed submarine crew members wearing Hall-Rees escape suites. “This equipment was, in fact, an early attempt to save lives,” Matthew Sheldon, executive director of museum operations at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, told PolitiFact

Early submarines were unreliable and often sank, trapping crews. The Hall-Rees suit was designed to help crews escape sinking submarines. It had innovative features to keep crew members safe, but the Navy halted production as the suit was too bulky. A passage quoted by Snopes reads:

“The equipment was very bulky and doubts existed about the wearer’s ability to exit through the upper hatch of a submarine when wearing it. Despite its workable design, the Hall-Rees apparatus was phased out – one for each crew member simply took up too much room in a cramped submarine.”

The museum concedes that the suits and minions look remarkably similar. However, the creators haven’t cited the Hall-Rees suit as the inspiration for the minions.