Universal Orlando’s Despicable Me Minion Mayhem – A Parent’s Tale

Article and Photos by JL Knopp

Universal Studios Florida recently held its grand opening for their Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction.  We previously posted JL Knopp’s review of the new ride, but she was also on hand for the star-studded red (actually yellow) carpet event.  Universal Orlando allowed JL to cover the opening along with her three children, and the story that follows below is one that will certainly resonate with any parent.  Continue reading for one parent’s tale of the grand opening of Universal’s Despicable Me Minion Mayhem.

The mother and son relationship could be described as bliss.  The mother dotes on her son.   The son believes the mother can do no wrong.  To him, no model is more beautiful.  Her t-shirt and jeans are the height of fashion.  Her corny jokes could book the Apollo, and her hugs and kisses bring about world peace.

Then the son turns ten years old, and there is a change in the relationship equivalent to the Continental Drift.  Suddenly the mom is a bore.  Sometimes she is an embarrassment.  And you can forget world peace.  Try showing that kid affection while in public, and you may trigger World War III.

Minions Test 3-D Goggles. © 2012 Universal Orlando Resort. All rights reserved.

 

This is my life as the mom of a boy . . . a son of ten years to be exact.  And I currently find myself struggling to remain relevant in his life of Lego and video games.  My irrelevance is creating a chasm between us, and the evidence manifests in his cranky demeanor.  I’ve hoped for an answer to my dilemma, but the answer hasn’t presented itself . . . yet!

I am a theme park rat as well as a social media mommy; therefore, my kids have grown up going to theme parks.  But I’ve noticed a bit of a change in my son, Miller, in recent years.  He seems to have lost a bit of his enthusiasm.  It’s not infrequent for me to deal with something like this:

Me: OK. We just got to Epcot, kids. What does everyone want to do today?

Margeaux: I want to ride Spaceship Earth!

Elle: Can we go to Club Cool?

Miller: These rock things in the front that you have to walk around are dumb.  They have all these walls with peoples’ faces on them, and NO ONE CARES!

This is a troubling scenario for a mom.  It signifies a disconnect.  It exemplifies a poor attitude.  It demands to be addressed.  I needed a new approach.

Not long ago I was invited to Universal Studios’ opening of their Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem attraction.  I was told I could bring my children along.  I was ecstatic.  It seemed like just the opportunity I had been waiting for, so I packed up my kiddos and headed to the designated event.

My kids had never been to Universal before, and I thought maybe Miller could get into a “bring your little guy to work” type of day.  Big plans were in store for the official opening of “Despicable Me.”  Of utmost significance, Miranda Cosgrove of “iCarly” fame, was to be in attendance since she was the voice of a main character in the movie.

My kids had seen “Despicable Me” as well as watched more “iCarly” shows than I care to admit.  It seemed like this might be just what I needed to make me a “cool mom” once again.  This was my hope, at least, while I trucked my little gaggle of children up to the media registration table.

As we checked in and received our credentials as bonafide VIPs, I could already tell a difference in Miller’s usual stoic expression.  With his Media Guest lanyard around his neck, I detected the faintest smirk on his face.  I could tell he was fighting an urge to smile.  This was a good sign I felt.  I was on my way.

We were herded through crowds and stationed along a carpeted runway, waiting for the festivities to begin.  I kept looking at Miller to gauge his attitude.  Would we emerge from this day closer as a family?  I certainly had doubts plague me as we baked in the sun.  This part required patience, and the fact that I was technically there “working” meant that there was no room for my children to voice complaints.  It was a delicate situation.  Should any of them act out I would be forced to flip the “no-nonsense mom” switch to bring everything under immediate control, but in doing that my hopes of “cool mom” would go out the window.  Luckily, cheerful Universal representatives kept giving my children free bottles of water and juice, so there was not a single grunt from my little guy.  In fact, he seemed to be quite enjoying himself.

Finally, it all began.  Important people began to walk the carpet . . . executives and creative directors, costumed characters and dancers.  With each one I explained their significance to my brood.  Miller seemed impressed.  He wasn’t even fighting it anymore.  Real smiles spread across his face. I knew I had this in the bag.

But then it happened. The actors that voiced the characters slowly made their way down the aisle.  We could see them stopping to speak with the various media as they moved closer to our position on the path, and I watched Miller’s smile disappear.  What was going on?  I didn’t understand.  This was supposed to be the pinnacle of the event.  Why the change?

Elsie Kate Fisher (the voice of Agnes in the movie) was the first one to reach us.  As a girl of about nine years old, Elsie was someone my seven year old daughter latched onto right away.  As soon as she was given the opportunity, Elle attempted to bond. “Your name is Elsie, and my name is Ellie.  That’s basically the same.  We are almost twins.”  Elsie was very sweet.  She smiled, whispered a few words and posed for a picture.  Miller stepped back from the rope that barricaded the carpet.  He wanted no part in this.  I was troubled.  My hopes of becoming Mom of the Year were dissipating.

Next we were greeted by Dana Gaier (the voice of Edith in the film).  Being thirteen, Dana was almost the age of my budding tween daughter.  Dana very professionally answered every question she was given and posed for pictures as well.  My daughter, Margeaux, seemed to be in awe as she stared at the girl who was her age.  Miller, on the other hand, physically turned his back to the actress’ presence.  I became concerned.  The cranky-spirited grump had officially returned.

Finally, Miranda Cosgrove (the voice of Margo in the film), approached my flock.  This was my moment of truth . . . the instant in which my “coolness” as a mom hung in the balance.  If something like meeting Miranda Cosgrove couldn’t secure this for me, I was certain nothing would.

“Hi guys,” Miranda said.  Margeaux and Elle responded immediately.  Miller stayed put.  He had literally displaced himself from the action at this point, standing at least six feet behind us.  “Miller,” I mumbled sternly, “get up there and say hi to iCarly.”  Miller shot me an angry look like he would rather die.  What was this about?  Why did he have to always be so difficult?  Was it really too much to ask for a pleasant family memory?

I overheard Elle say to Miranda, “Yeah. My name is Elle.  This is my sister, Margeaux.  We always watch your show.  Our brother watches it too, but he isn’t being friendly right now.”  Horrified, I realized that Elle had innocently spotlighted the fact that we had a disagreeable sourpuss amongst us.  “Is this your brother?”  Miranda asked as she pointed to Miller in the background.  I could tell by her gesture that she was doing her best to involve him in the gathering.  “Yeah. That’s him,” Elle sighed.

Bewilderment overcame me as Miller (who was obviously snubbing Miranda) ignored the attempts towards his inclusion.  At this point something had to be done, so I physically moved him from his position in the back to one that was among his sisters and near the TV star.  “What’s your name?” Miranda asked him.  Miller stared at the asphalt beneath his feet and refused to speak.  Elle dove for the save by answering for him, “His name is Miller.”

I was mortified, completely mortified.  How did a child that emerged from my very own womb come to display such horrible manners?  It was like a nightmare where you try desperately to repair something, but everything is in slow motion and beyond your control.  We only had a maximum of two minutes to make this magic happen, and we were headed straight for FAIL!

Miranda made a couple more attempts to catch Miller’s gaze, Elle continued to rescue the situation by speaking on Miller’s behalf, Margeaux smiled pleasantly and I stared at Miller in disbelief.  But this was really happening!  At the last second, I asked Miranda if she would take a picture with my children.  She gracefully obliged.  “Everyone smile!” I called with a tone that communicated to Miller that if he did not comply, we would have a situation on our hands.  The smile came forth.  The picture was snapped.  The moment was over.  Miranda moved on.

I gently pulled Miller aside. “Son, why did you not speak to “iCarly” when she was talking to you?  You see her on the TV all the time, and you like her show.  She was right here in front of you.  Why did you ignore her?”  Miller shuffled his feet while he continued to gaze at the ground. Finally he looked up and met my eyes.  With a tortured look on his face he said in a meek voice, “She is a celebrity, mom. I CAN’T talk to her.”

In that moment I realized that this was not a case of bad manners or even parental irritation.  He was dealing with bashfulness and a sense of inferiority.  He was also trying to navigate the uncharted territory of talking to girls… REAL girls (because sisters aren’t actually girls).

I initially was going to pull out my lecture on respect and appropriate social behavior, but instantly I saw this was not that situation.  The topic of girls–CELEBRITY GIRLS no less–was a completely different animal.  In fact, it was an animal that I figured I’d address at another time and in another place.  “I see,” I conceded to my son as I pinched his nose, and we resumed our spots to watch the rest of the event unfold.

The music was played, the dancing was done, the confetti was thrown and the cheers were heard.  “Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem” opened and welcomed its first guests officially.  As media, my family was ushered to the front of the line to be among one of the first groups allowed to experience the ride that day.  We waited in anticipation for our turn.

I looked at my small chorus of cherubs.  Each one was beaming.  Elle was the first to speak, “Thanks, Mom. I am having such a great day!”  Margeaux echoed, “Yeah, Mom.  Thanks.  This is a lot of fun.”  I looked at Miller whose smile was so large that his dimples became very marked on his face.  He was the one with whom I was hoping to score big.  His expression seemed telling, but I still wondered if our celebrity faux pax had kept me from hitting pay dirt.  But as my question loomed, Miller threw his arms around me.  “Mom,” he said, “You are the coolest mom ever!”

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Bio: JL Knopp is an Orlando, Florida resident, theme park expert, mom, and creator of The Disney Driven Life (DDL).  DDL is a blog commandeered by JL for fans who want to learn and find solidarity with others who incorporate Disney into their lifestyle.  Disclosure – JL Knopp and her family received complimentary admission from Universal Orlando Resort to cover this media event for Adventures by Daddy, but all opinions expressed are her own.

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