How that bizarre 'Mortal Engines' cameo came to be

Tom Butler
Senior Editor

Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Mortal Engines is in UK cinemas now, giving fans of the Philip Reeve’s books their chance to finally see his incredible world brought to life 17 years after it was first published.

The film, directed by first time filmmaker Christian Rivers, is a fairly faithful adaptation of the first instalment in the four-book saga. However, as producer and co-screenwriter Peter Jackson explains, they had to make a big change to one small detail from the book.

Warning: Minor Mortal Engines spoilers incoming…

Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) looks out at the giant mobile city of London where she seeks an audience with the man who killed her mother (Universal)

The film opens with the armoured city of London tracking down a smaller mobile city in the wastelands of the post-apocalyptic future. However, life goes on for the residents of London including apprentice historian Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) who is going about his daily business working in the city’s museum.

One of the museum’s exhibitions is titled “Deities of Lost America”, and in the film those “deities” are represented by large plastic Minions statues which Tom clumsily nearly knocks over. Fans of the book will remember that the “animal-headed gods of lost America” were actually statues of Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Pluto.

Peter Jackson tells Yahoo Movies that they had to change the statues to the Despicable Me spin-off stars for economical – and obviously corporate – reasons.

“In the book it’s Mickey Mouse,” Jackson explains in our interview above.

“And we couldn’t get… Mickey Mouse was too expensive. But Universal have the rights other characters and – as it is – I think they’re funnier [to use] than Mickey Mouse, based on the context of how they’re used in the movie.”

The joke is that the people in the far-future world of Mortal Engines believe that 21st century America worshipped the Minions as deities, and the Minions are many things, but they’re not godly.

The Minions in “Despicable Me 3.” (Photo: Illumination/ Everett Collection)

Universal Pictures, the distributor of Mortal Engines, is also the home of the Despicable Me and Minions films so not only is it a funny gag, it’s also a nice bit of cross-promotion for the animated franchise.

The Minions recently returned for ‘Yellow Is The New Black‘ a new short film which plays in front of Illumination Studios’ The Grinch. They’re set to return in Minions 2, another feature-length adventure hitting cinemas in 2020.

Mortal Engines is in cinemas now. Watch a clip of Robert Sheehan as Tom Natsworthy in the London Museum below.


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