Despicable Me 3 (2017)Mel the Minion
Credit: Illumination/Universal Pictures


Or unionized, at least, and it's all thanks to Mel, the new leading lackey who calls for revolution against Steve Carell's reformed supervillian, Gru, in this June's Despicable Me 3. As Gru settles into domesticity, the Minions — who live to aid and abet — aren't pleased with the new status quo of being so damn nice all the time.

"The Minions have been patiently waiting for Gru to get over this phase of being good, but when that doesn't come to fruition, Mel is the one who can't take anymore and is speaking out, and so all the other Minions get behind him to be like, 'Preach it!'" says co-director Kyle Balda, a veteran of the Universal franchise. "He's a character who personifies the voice of objection against Gru's life choices. I think of him as sort of the head of the union. Collectively, the Minions are a character themselves, and it feels stronger when we can pull out an individual personality to rise up."

Speaking of which, the introduction of Mel accompanies the news that Kevin, Stuart, and Bob — the trio who led the 2015 spinoff Minions — will not be in Despicable 3, as they're off on their own adventure, having ended the first film meeting a young Gru in the '60s. "Really, our feeling is that we haven't seen Kevin, Stuart, and Bob specifically in Despicable Me 1 or 2 anyway, and we wanted to be faithful to the timeline," says Balda. "Are they still doing their own thing? Or are they here with Gru and the other Minions? Or, like, is Bob an adult now? We didn't want to bring that out into the open too much and start to continue a storyline with characters that we hadn't seen set up earlier." (Minions 2, meanwhile, is due in theaters summer 2020.)

Mel, who's named after (and inspired by the haircut of) Illumination founder and Despicable producer Chris Meledandri, is the most impertinent and independent Minion we've seen yet. He speaks the same language as the rest — all Minionkind is voiced once again by the Shakespeare of gibberish, co-director Pierre Coffin — but what sets Mel apart is his insistence that the troupe can go criminal without supervision. As any student of Minions can attest, the adaptable little creatures are fairly dependent on the predatory leaders they opt to follow, so it's only a matter of time that their inability to govern themselves without Gru quickly lands them behind bars.

Despicable Me 3 (2017)Minion
Credit: Illumination/Universal Pictures

Balda warns against thinking of Mel as the first = Minion villain; his beef with Gru is not quite as wicked. "The main core of the relationship between Gru and the Minions has been that they love each other and need each other, but in any long-term relationship, there are quirks and frustrations," says the director. "I think of them as an old married couple. They both have their list of complaints against each other from a long life together, and they have that one argument that goes one step too far but instantly regret it."

The further exploration of the Minions as integral story characters and not just background comedy support is also a surprising result of the long legs of the Despicable Me franchise. Balda says they're key players in the narrative arc this time, and that forced a deeper development effort from the filmmakers. If Minions uncovered the mythos of the creatures' adaptive durability throughout the centuries, Despicable Me 3 offers a richer understanding of their principles.

"We learned more about the commitment that the Minions have, and what's the next level of their values," says Balda, who has been with the series since its original 2010 introduction. "The first value we learned in Minions is that they want to follow a big boss and do crimes, but the thing that's always ironic is that there's nothing inherently evil about the Minions. Their idea of being bad is slapping one another. But they just think they have it in their DNA to go and be villains. And since they've ended up destroying every boss they've had, part of what makes Gru the chosen one is that he's able to survive them, so what we're exploring now is, what does that look like years later, when all the history has built up? The Minions want to lead a life of villainy, but they've imprinted on Gru in a unique way, so what happens when that relationship changes? And you can see that on Mel…just because it's impossible to show that over 500 characters."

Despicable Me 3 arrives in theaters June 30; a new trailer for the film — which introduces Gru's twin brother, Dru — will arrive on May 24, just in time for National Brothers Day.

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