Fender Custom Shop and Illumination Launch 'Fender® x Minions: Rise of Gru' Collection, to Support Music Education

Proceeds from Masterbuilt Guitars, Bass and Ukulele to Benefit  Fender Play Foundation™ and Los Angeles Unified Elementary And Middle School Program Students

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (July 22, 2022) – ​​Fender Custom Shop™ (FCS) and The Fender Play Foundation™ (FPF) today announced the “Fender® x Minions: The Rise of Gru” Collection in collaboration with legendary animation studio Illumination and its recent release of Minions: The Rise of Gru. To continue supporting the Foundation’s efforts to equip, educate and inspire the next generation of players, all proceeds from the sales of the Minions: The Rise of Gru inspired instruments will support the FPF’s music education programs with elementary and middle school students in Los Angeles. With the otherworldly creativity of Illumination designers, Fender Custom Shop Master Builders built one-of-a-kind instruments inspired by the beloved Minions universe and the importance of music to the franchise. Each creation was thoughtfully crafted in a collaborative effort to create stunning, unique, and endearing guitars that will be loved for many years to come. The collection of bespoke, master-built guitars, bass and ukulele are available for purchase globally. Information on how to buy any model is available on fender.com or by contacting fenderplayfoundation@fender.com.


As part of the partnership, students in the Fender Play Foundation™ programs in Los Angeles receive the opportunity to see the new movie, Minions: The Rise of Gru, which tells the origin story of how the world’s greatest supervillain first met his iconic Minions. Additionally, students will be learning to play and perform the lead song on the movie’s soundtrack, “Turn Up the Sunshine” by Diana Ross, featuring Fender artist, Tame Impala.

“Since we introduced the Fender Play Foundation™, it’s been our mission to equip, inspire and educate the next generation of players, supporting their passion for music through our programs,” said Aarash Darroodi, President of the Fender Play Foundation. “Our partnership with Illumination® is a special one, as both organizations are committed to expanding the equitable access to music and arts education in after-school programs. For more than two years, the Foundation has been offering virtual music classes for Los Angeles Unified School District students, while Illumination has simultaneously been providing LAUSD students with virtual animation classes through their Animation With Illumination program. By joining forces, we have been able to create truly unique musical instruments inspired by Minions: The Rise of Gru, all proceeds of which will help expand access to music education to even more students in Los Angeles.”

“We are extremely proud to partner with the Fender Play Foundation to celebrate and support the power of music and movies to move and inspire audiences of all ages,” said Founder and CEO of Illumination Chris Meledandri. “With a unique combination of Illumination’s artistry and Fender’s craftsmanship, we are bringing our characters to life with this special collection of instruments that will help drive this mission-critical work. Together, we are harnessing the power and creativity of our movies and characters to help expand equitable access to music and arts education for all.”

Fender® x Minions: The Rise of Gru Collection includes:

StratoStuart ($48,000 USD) Masterbuilt by Kyle McMillin, the custom Minions Stratocaster® guitar is a Dakota Red guitar outfitted with unique fret markers and pearl inlays. This unique creation is made with a roasted alder body, 3A flame maple neck with a “C” back-shape and a 9.5” flat laminated rosewood fingerboard with custom Minions eyes as fret markers. Features include 21 narrow tall (6105) frets, Josefina Campos hand-wound ‘60s Strat® pickups with RW/RP middle, modern strat wiring and controls, a 3-ply white nitro pickguard, American Vintage synchronized tremolo bridge, Fender® American Pro staggered tuning machines, bone nut and wing string tree. The StratoStuart (Stratocaster®) guitar is completed with a reliced finish and unique artwork including custom carved Minion symbols etched into the body, a bite taken out of the sides by “a Minion'' and a custom black acid washed distressed denim case with Minions patches and stenciled artwork.

McMillin says of his StratoStuart build, “The most challenging parts of this build were drawing and engraving the artwork but it was so worth it in the end. Overall, this Stratocaster® [guitar] was so much fun to make and it feels great to know that this project will benefit the children as well!”

Otto’s Moon Bass ($50,000 USD) Masterbuilt by Ron Thorn, the Otto’s Moon Bass, built and piloted by astronaut Otto, features a 7-piece snap-together alder body that can be taken apart and reassembled. Drawing from his machinery design career, Thorn utilized a variety of hardware and custom machined components that allow the pieces to interlock into one another in different stages. Designed by the partners at Illumination, Thorn hand carved Otto, including his goggles, airbrushed the ship, machined and polished the clear cockpit canopy, even making his little denim overalls. The Bass comes equipped with a “C” back-shaped maple neck and 9.5” maple fingerboard decorated with custom-painted Minions graphics. Otto’s Moon Bass comes with 20 frets, a Lace alumitone pickup, single volume control, a 4-saddle ‘70s style Precision Bass® bridge, Fender® ultra light bass tuning machines, a bone nut and ultra bass string tree. Otto’s Moon Bass is delivered in a unique case designed to look like the surface of the moon and lined with galaxy print fabric.

Thorn commented on his Otto’s Moon Bass guitar: “The Illumination team is an incredibly talented group of artists and designers. To say I was blown-away by their initial concepts is an understatement. The fact that they’re not guitar designers seemed to liberate their creativity, resulting in instruments that a guitar-designer would never conceive. These instruments are totally unique, fresh and amazing!”

Kosmic Kevin ($71,500 USD) Masterbuilt by Gonzalo Madrigal, this custom acoustic guitar boasts unique features from its carved headstock to colorfully painted soundhole. This one-of-a-kind Kosmic Kevin showcases a laser-engraved sitka spruce top with Minions-themed artwork painted by Madison Roy on its dreadnought-shaped body. This guitar is styled with mahogany back and sides and adorned with a “C” back-shaped neck. It comes with an ebony custom Minions inlaid 12” fingerboard, 20 vintage frets, an ebony bridge and Gotoh SE700 tuners. The Kosmic Kevin guitar includes a custom guitar case with Minions artwork covering and Minions' googly eyes on the surface.

When asked about his Kosmic Kevin creation, Madrigal notes, “I’m happy knowing I get to help kids enjoy the gift of music by doing what I love to do - building guitars!”

The King Bob ($50,000 USD) Masterbuilt by Dennis Galuszka, the King Bob Minions ukulele features a custom Minions artwork finish painted by freelance artist Sarah Gallenberger, iconic musical instrument visual artist, and comes with a custom black fur gig bag lined with Minions embroidery. The ukulele has a mahogany “C” back-shape neck with a maple top, back and sides body. Additional specs include a rosewood fingerboard decorated with painted graphics, a flat fingerboard radius, 12 mandolin frets, rosewood top load with corian saddle bridge and American standard “shorts” with ebony buttons for tuners.

When building the King Bob, Galuszka said, “Ukuleles are a rare build in the [Fender] Custom Shop™ so this was a great change of pace! That being said, we have zero tooling and/or specs, so with some reverse engineering from photocopies of the artwork, mockups emerged as a fun challenge. For me, I’m personally very interested in any and all opportunities to help kids build a relationship with the arts. Music saved me as a kid and I can’t say I would have ended up in a good place in life without it.”

To support this collaboration, in the latest episode of Fender’s serialized content series, Dream Factory, Fender Custom Shop teamed up with Illumination to bring joy, music, and educational opportunities to young people in Los Angeles through the Fender Play Foundation. Esteemed master builder Dennis Galuszka kicks off as he leads the Fender Play Foundation™ program students on a Q&A tour of the Custom Shop factory. As the students met each master builder, they were simultaneously introduced to the instrument each master conceptualized, helped design and built. Students' first reactions were captured live as they watched a select group of Fender Play instructors and employees play each of the unique instruments. Watch as Momo Wang, designer of the bass from Illumination, presents the bass with Ron Thorn to the program students discussing the intricacies of each model and exploring how the creation of them are a representation of the upcoming film.

The centerpiece of the Fender Play Foundation™ is its music education partnership with Los Angeles Unified, the 2nd largest school district in the U.S., with two key programs. The virtual middle school music enrichment program provides equipment donations, a teacher-led curriculum with access to the Fender Play® app and artist experiences. The elementary school ukulele program, supported and championed by none other than Billie Eilish and her brother, FINNEAS, provides instruments and weekly in-school music instruction at 10 schools in Highland Park. Since launching music education programs in Los Angeles in June 2020, the FPF has placed instruments and Fender Play® subscriptions in the hands of more than 10,000 students.

Illumination was founded with the goal of infusing joy and discovery into every character and putting smiles on the face of every person in their audience, no matter their age or nationality. Aligned with Fender’s dedication to unlocking the power of musical expression for all players, from beginners to history-making legends, this partnership is bringing joy, music and educational opportunities to the greater Los Angeles community.

For technical specs, additional information on new Fender® products and to find a retail partner near you, visit www.fendercustomshop.com. Join the conversation on social media by following @Fender, @FenderPlay and @FenderCustomShop.

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