Jana Riess of Religion News Services recently interviewed Cinco Paul, one of the co-writers of Despicable Me movies and active LDS member. Below are a few standout questions and answers. You can read the full interview here.
RNS: Were you raised Mormon?
Cinco Paul: I grew up in Phoenix and my mom was a member of the [LDS] Church, and my dad was a non-practicing Catholic who did not go to church. My dad was pretty anti-Mormon in a way, so our exposure to church was limited. There was only so much he would let us do. In those days, Sunday School and sacrament meeting were separate, so we would only go to Sunday School, which was in the morning. But the rule was always that when we were sixteen we could get baptized. So I attended church through my childhood and watched while all the other boys got the priesthood and got to pass the sacrament. But by the time I turned sixteen it was not high on my list of priorities. I still attended church, but I had a lot of questions and wasn’t sure what I believed.
It wasn’t until I was about to go to Yale, all the way across the country, that I felt like it was time for me to really decide if this was what I believed and how I wanted to live. That was a time of real soul-searching and heavy praying. I think I got baptized the day before I left for college. It was small, with just my mom and sisters and a couple of missionaries. I was baptized in a swimming pool!
NS: Are there specific instances where your Mormon beliefs got written into a script or character?
CP: The first example for me is Horton. Obviously, Dr. Seuss wrote the book, but as Ken and I were writing the script, we saw a lot about faith. Hearing a voice that nobody else hears . . . It’s like Joseph Smith saying he knew he had seen a vision, even though nobody believed him. Those words of Joseph Smith actually did ring through our heads.
Another example is Despicable Me, which was in many ways the most personal thing we’d ever done. I have three kids [now 24, 20, and 16] and Ken has three kids. To me there’s a lot of the gospel in there—maybe not specific to LDS teachings, but about the power of love to change a bad person into a good person. And just how every man has to abandon his villainy when he becomes a dad.
There’s also a scene where the three girls are saying a prayer. We strongly wanted that scene in there. Religion is a very strong part of the lives of people, and it rarely gets any sort of real representation in films and TV.