If you saw Despicable Me 3 this weekend, and based on the box office numbers it would appear you did, you probably noticed several easter eggs and in-jokes throughout the film. However, did you notice this particular Star Wars reference? The supporting character of Doctor Nefario, voiced by Russell Brand, has appeared in all of the Despicable Me films, but while the character had a significant part in the fist two installments, his appearance here is fairly quiet. Sometime since the last movie Nefario has apparently frozen himself in carbonite, in a similar position to Han Solo at the end of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Check him out in the upper left corner of the image below.
Despicable Me 3 is full of references and the Empire Strikes Back joke is just one of the more interesting ones pointed out by YouTube channel Flicks and the City. The movie makes other references to everything from Raiders of the Lost Ark to the Marx Brothers classic Duck Soup, a film reference that many of the adults in the audience are likely to miss. You might not even notice Doctor Nefario in that shot as he's almost hiding, and while he looks to be frozen in something that looks more like standard ice, the pose is impossible to overlook.
The image of Han Solo frozen in carbonite in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back has become so iconic that it's a frequent reference for any comedy that's looking to make viewers think of Star Wars. You'll find it in a lot of cartoons and a surprising number of video games. You can even buy a refrigerator that has the image of frozen Han Solo on the front.
While the Despicable Me franchise may be cashing in by making references to massive movie series, Despicable Me has been busy becoming a fairly major franchise in its own right. The spinoff film Minions broke the billion dollar mark becoming one of the biggest movies ever in 2015, and Despicable Me 2 came up just short of that number. The new film has already grossed $200 million globally, so it's well on its way to another huge showing. As a movie with an $80 million budget the numbers are already looking good, so we can likely guess that this franchise isn't going anywhere anytime soon. It may not get to be as big as Star Wars, but that doesn't mean they won't try.
Despicable Me 3 won the box office last weekend but the film will have a hard time doing that two weeks in a row with Sony's Spider-Man: Homecoming set for release. the next chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is almost guaranteed to put up huge numbers, however, it's the international box office that has made the Despicable Me franchise what it is, so expect those numbers to keep climbing.