It’s a Minion world, and we’re all just living in it. The little pill-shaped yellow critters have left an indelible imprint on the cultural mainstream, for better (footage not found) or for worse (try googling “minions memes,” I dare you). Kids and adults alike have latched onto the phenomenon with an uncommon enthusiasm, and now the numbers reflect the totality with which the Despicable Me universe has permeated modern life. In the seven brief years since Illumination Entertainment loosed the original Despicable Me on an innocent populace, the franchise has grown into the largest of its kind — the highest-grossing animated franchise of all time.

Deadline made note of the box-office milestone in a new item over the past weekend, during which the newly unveiled Despicable Me 3 raked in a respectable $21.2 million internationally. That latest haul bumps the complete franchise take (that’s a cumulative total from Despicable Mes 1-3 as well as Minions) to a staggering $3.528 billion, barely edging out the previous title holder Shrek’s $3.51 billion payday. To put matters in perspective: Despicable Me hit that number with only four installments, while Shrek took five. When the Minions sequel rears its nattering yellow head in 2020, the inevitable windfall of cash should set the bar almost depressingly high.

For what have the likes of Shrek and Minions done to earn the distinction of being by definition the most-loved in all the land? Critics (such as myself) have denounced both the Minions movie as well as the later Shrek sequels as calculated cash grabs capitalizing on unquestioning childhood brand loyalty, and this new development proves beyond all debate that that craven, lazy method works. Watch and learn, kids: populist mediocrity sells!

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