What Is A Minion?
Questions concerning the origins of the minions have been plaguing fans of the Despicable Me movies (and now the new Minions movie) ever since the first one came out back in 2010. In the mini-movie Orientation Day, from the bonus features of the first movie DVD/Blu-Ray, we learn that the minions are "engineered from the same strand of mutated DNA". That statement implies that they were artifically created in a laboratory. In the Minions movie, however, we come to learn that the minions have been around since ancient prehistory, having crawled out of the ocean seemingly during the Jurassic or Cretaceous era after gradual mutation from single-celled yellow organisms.
What is curious about the new storyline in Minions is that the minions seem to be very long-lived. Kevin, Stuart and Bob, at least, seem to have been around since before Gru was born; given Gru's birth date (September 28, 1960 according to movie canon), and the fact that, among those three minions, Kevin is an adult, this would conceivably make Kevin quite old--and yet still in the prime of his life. It's entirely possible, given the new storyline, that the minions may very well be immortal (not supernatural of course, but extremely long-lived). They also speak their own language.
Minions seem genetically predisposed to having an overpowering need to serve a powerful villain (or "master"), which gives them purpose and motivation. Without a villain to serve, they become lost, forelorn and listless. However, they are not truly evil themselves. It can be said that they possess a mischievous and naughty nature, but they can also be sweet, innocent and fun-loving, and quite social...on rare occasions, even heroic. Unfortunately, they are not terribly bright...and are also easily distracted. There are also occasional minor disputes between individuals and small groups, but these usually are resolved quickly.
As to their physicality, the minions seem to individually have one of several body types. Four of those are regularly seen among the standard minions, and there is also a fifth (discussed below). It also seems apparent that they only have one gender: male. Or, alternatively, they might be hermaphrodites with masculine traits (as it is clear they only ever take male names). Beyond what is described in Orientation Day and in Minions, there is no discussion or implication whatsoever about their mating and reproductive practices, so it may well be that they simply do not reproduce in the usual manner (though, as seen in Minions, Stuart definitely tries to put the moves on some yellow fire hydrants; on the other hand, as also seen in Minions, Kevin takes a blow between the legs but shows no ill effects from it). Whether any romantic activity by any existing minions is simply them mimicking human behavior and activities, which they seem to enjoy doing, or whether there are female minions out there in the crowd which we haven't been introduced to so far, has yet to be officially answered. It is possible (and more likely), though, that the current population of minions, under the service of Gru, is indeed occasionally bolstered by new additions engineered by Dr. Nefario in the laboratory of Gru's secret underground lair. Which means both explanations, from both movies, are not only accurate, but canon as well.
Let's take a look at each type of minion...
Below are the four common body types of minion, and then a fifth which seems to be extremely rare and was only ever seen on film in Despicable Me 2 as transformed evil minions. It was never seen on film (yet) as a yellow minion, and only exists in that form as a graphic.
The "types" and numbers I assigned to each are not official designations, but rather those I gave to them as identifiers for the purposes of this feature alone. Except for the tall or rare shorter minions (like Bob, who's even shorter than his general type of minion), each averages about 3.5 feet in height (105 centimeters). They all wear the same type of metal-rimmed goggles with a double black rubber-coated band. They also wear the exact same type of clothing (befitting a unified workforce): jean overalls, with a pocket in the center bearing the "Gru Laboratories" logo; on their hands, they wear close-fitting black leather gloves; on their feet they wear standard black work shoes.
Most often, you can identify one minion from another, when they are of the same body type, by the way they wear their hair (or lack thereof, in some cases). Furthermore, each of the named minions linked below we know of as being canon because either they are listed in the credits of one or more of the movies (and/or the mini-movies), the Minion Rush video game, or they were actually spoken to, by name, in one or more of the movies or mini-movies. Any other minions whom you see represented by name as "official", on other internet sources, are not...unless clarified by Universal Pictures or Illumination Entertainment.
TYPE 1: Short two-eyed
As represented, in the three movies (and six mini-movies) to date by such characters as Dave, Jerry, Mark, Mike, and Tom.
There are a great many of these working for Gru and, apart from the next type (below), they appear to be the most numerous type represented.
TYPE 2: short one-eyed
The next most frequently-represented type of minion, these fellows have only one eye (and, thus, probably have some difficulty with depth perception). As with the type above, there are a great many of these working for Gru...perhaps as much as the previous type.
This type is represented in the three movies (and the six mini-movies) to date, most notably, by such characters as Carl, John, Kevin (from Despicable Me), Lance, Phil, and Stuart.
TYPE 3: short/heavy two-eyed
This next type of minion is not as numerically-abundant within their community as the previous types. Whether their heavy, barrel-shaped body is the result of weight management issues or simply a genetic variation is anyone's guess. And though there are several seen in the three movies (and a few in some of the six mini-movies), they are specifically represented by young Bob, who is even a bit shorter than the minion average (Bob appears to top out at 3 feet in height...or 91.44 centimeters), and Jerry. Bob, of course, is also unique--so far--among his fellow minions in that he has a genetic condition called "complete heterochromia iridum" (the iris of each eye is a different color; his right eye is green, and his left is brown).
TYPE 4: tall two-eyed
Another type of minion which is not quite as numerically-abundant within the community. This type of minion is a little taller than the other types, averaging just under four feet in height (or 120 centimeters). Their height does not appear to be a hindrance, nor do most of them seem to use it to bully the other minions (though there might be one or two exceptions, as noted in the opening menu and closing credits animations for the Despicable Me movies, and in the mini-movie Banana).
This type is represented in the three movies (and the six mini-movies) to date, most notably, by such characters as Ken, Kevin (Despicable Me 2 and Minions), and Tim.
TYPE 5: tall one-eyed
This type is not seen at all, in any of the movies or the mini-movies (or the Minion Rush video game), as a yellow minion. There only exists what appears to be official graphic representation of the type. However, as seen in the screen shots below, there are clear indications that this type does exist, though certainly with extreme rarity, amongst the minions. Why they are not represented in the movies in their original yellow form is quite unknown. Thus, pending some official word from either Universal Pictures or Illumination Entertainment to the contrary, we will allow this one to remain represented as an official minion type.
Note the screen shots below, and you will see examples of this type mixed in with the evil minions (who are actually yellow minions transformed by the PX-41 mutagenic serum). In the first screen shot, below, the minion in question is on the extreme left of the picture. In the second, you can clearly see two of them, and the obvious height difference over the shorter minions. Finally, in the third, you can see that there are short one-eyed minions as well as tall ones...which makes a strong case for the tall one-eyed yellow minion being official, if perhaps so rare that they simply haven't been seen, yet, in their normal yellow form on-screen!