A carnival game operator explains the rules to her Minion-themed dart-throwing challenge. Minions are small creatures spawned from the “Despicable Me” movie franchise. A spinoff movie released this summer, “Minions,” propelled the yellow beings into pop-culture icons and can be seen throughout the Missouri State Fair.
The takeover was steady and unwavering. Sporting overalls and goggles, tiny yellow creatures called “Minions” invaded movie theaters, television sets and now, the Missouri State Fair midway. Carnival game operators agree: their most popular prizes are plush Minions.
“It’s the Minions, man,” one operator said. “Everyone likes them. Families, kids, dads.”
“We’ve got to keep them in stock,” another said.
Wade Shows Inc., the amusement park service for the Missouri State Fair, orders hundreds of cases of plush toys as game prizes each year. Todd Eich, Wade Shows Inc. Midway Manager, confirmed that Minions are the trendy prize for all demographics. Eich has worked with the carnival for 20 years.
“(Minions) are pretty bright and colorful,” Eich said. “They make them lovable. I think everyone likes them. I’ve seen the last (movie) with my daughter. It was good. A lot of ’60s music, a lot of ’70s music, stuff the adults like.
“I think they were smart making them unisex, making one item that everyone wants.”
It wasn’t always this way. Minions came to be as characters in the 2010 animated movie “Despicable Me.” Their popularity grew with the release of “Despicable Me 2” in 2013 and “Minions,” a spinoff released this July.
Eich said the popularity of Minions mirrored other trends in carnival prizes.
“A lot of the things we do are based upon movies and, you know, media exposure,” Eich said. “We’ll try new items, or when a new movie comes out we’ll buy that item. Really it’s the people who tell us what’s good.”
At the Missouri State Fair, yellow has always looked good hanging from a carnival booth’s purple and turquoise vinyl cover. Eich said Minions’ popularity follows the same trending arc as Tweety Bird or Pikachu once did.
“After Tweety plateaued, they found ways to dress it up,” Eich said. “Scooby (Doo) was good for a while, but there’s only so many ways you can dress up a Scooby.”
Minion prizes can be diverse. Some don pirate hats and eye patches, while others wear different mischievous facial expressions.
Eich said Wade Shows Inc. tries to look toward the future — their motto is “Progress. One smile at a time.” — but one thing about the carnival remains constant.
“I think it’s just giving the people what they want,” Eich said. “Putting teddy bears on the midway and making people happy. If they’re not winning prizes they’re not going to play the games. And what are they going to go home with? What memories are you going to take home with you? That’s the idea of coming to the fair, no?”
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000 or @abagueros2.