Connected by a number of recurring items, props, visual gags and characters, the Pixar movies add up to what many consider to be a very complex and crazily connected universe (that involves robot uprisings and magic bringing toys to life if you believe ‘The Pixar Theory’). Certain easter eggs or references involve direct links between one movie and another whereas others are just a particular prop showing up numerous times. Where some are obvious, others are almost impossible to see, totalling to an brilliantly crafted web of ‘Pixar-ness’.
Being unlike any other company Pixar aren’t afraid to name one of their actors as their good luck charm, and cast him repeatedly as a different character in their movies. That man is John Ratzenberger, and he’s shown up in every single Pixar movie.
Starting off as Hamm in the first Toy Story, and returning for it’s two sequels. We next see (or hear) Ratzenberger as P.T Flea in A Bug’s Life, the Abominable Snowman in Monsters, Inc., the moonfish in Finding Nemo, the Underminer in Incredibles 1 and 2, Mack in all of the Cars movies, Mustafa the waiter in Ratatouille, ‘John’ in WALL-E, a construction worker in Up, Gordon the guard in Brave, Fritz in Inside Out, Earl the Velociraptor in The Good Dinosaur, Bill the crab in Finding Dory, and Juan Ortodoncia in Coco.
Ratzenberger also plays a character in each of the Planes movies, that were made by (the now defunct) DisneyToon Studios, but were set in the same world as Pixar’s Cars.
The reference ‘A113’ is featured in a number of tv shows and films that have nothing to do with Pixar, and actually refers to a classroom at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), where a number of Disney and Pixar staff (and huge players in the entertainment industry) attended.
Starting with Brad Bird (director of The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles 2) in an episode of Amazing Stories, Bird claims to of put it in every one of his projects including the Simpsons episodes he directed. It’s appeared in everything from Doctor Who to The Hunger Games and can be seen in in tv, movies, and video games, but featured most prominently in Disney and Pixar movies.
The first time we see it is on Andy’s mom’s minivan’s licence plate in the first Toy Story, and from there it can be seen on a cereal box in Bug City, on a pillar inside Monsters Inc., on the camera in Finding Nemo and goes on to feature in the background of a number of scenes (in a variety of different ways) across every single Pixar movie.
The Pixar Shorts:
Even though Toy Story was the first feature length CGI animated film, Pixar started out making a number of shorts, which show us the origins of the Pixar Lamp, and the infamous Luxo ball. A number of references to the shorts can be seen throughout all of the Pixar movies, starting with the books behind Woody in the first Toy Story, each of which shares a title with one of the shorts.
From there we see glimpses of the shorts on a number of tv screens, and props and characters form them showing up in the background of almost every scene.
The Luxo Ball:
If there is one thing from the Pixar shorts that definitely deserves to be acknowledged as it’s own easter egg, it’s the Luxo ball. The small yellow ball, with a blue stripe and a red star first showed up in the 1986 short Luxo, Jr. (Pixar’s first short, with ‘Luxo Jr’ being the iconic Pixar lamp), since then the ball can be seen in nearly every one of Pixar’s feature length films, and most of their shorts.
A Bug’s Toy Story:
With A Bug’s Life being Pixar’s second feature film franchise (and the only one of their first seven movies to not have any kind of sequel) there are plenty of references to it in Pixar’s other movies. Most of which are seen in Toy Story 2, which was released only one year after A Bug’s Life.
The first hint comes with Mrs. Potato Head clearly reading A Bug’s Life book to the aliens, then Andy has a Bug’s Life calendar, Buzz runs past some Bug’s Life toys in Al’s Toy Barn, and the final (and by far the biggest) is the actual appearance of Flik and Heimlich during the blooper real played in the movies end credits. Flik and Heimlich think they are in a Bug’s Life sequel (rather than a Toy Story one) and are on a leaf Buzz hits out of the way on the toy’s trip to Al’s Toy Barn.
The Dentist’s Toy Box:
One of the best examples of some not so subtle cramming in of a few good easter eggs comes in the Dentist’s waiting room in Finding Nemo. In the waiting room we can see a very appropriately themed pirate style treasure box, filled with toys to keep the waiting children busy. The box shows off some characters from Pixar shorts, a Luxo ball, and a Buzz Lightyear action figure.
The Witch and the Wood Hut:
Near the beginning of Brave Merida comes across an old witch in a wooden hut, the hut itself is filled with a number of Pixar references (in a similar style to the Dentists’ Toy Box). There is a wood carving of Sulley from Monsters Inc (which led the Pixar theory to conclude this witch is actually a future, magical, time travelling, version of Boo), a wooden Luxo ball, a newt (referring to a cancelled Pixar movie ‘Newt’) and even a very accurate scaled wooden model of the Pizza Planet delivery truck.
Buy N’ Large:
First appearing as the company that led the world into total consumerism and mass waste, eventually forcing the humans to evacuate, Buy N’ Large makes their first big appearance in WALL-E (with WALL-E himself being a BnL product), from there they have a few more appearances throughout the Pixar universe. We see a number of references to BnL in the Cars movies, a ‘BnL Card Plus’ shows up in the short Toy Story of Terror, the BnL logo can be seen on a vending machine in the short Small Fry (that features miniature fast food meal toys of Buzz and Zurg), and the BnL logo can be seen on Buzz Lightyear’s batteries in Toy Story 3.
First seen whilst on the way to Pizza Planet in the original Toy Story, we see Andy’s mom stop at a Dinoco gas station. The Dinoco logo can then be seen on a lighter in WALL-E, and shows up a number of times in all of the Cars movies. Interestingly it’s one of the few examples of something not being turned into a car version to fit in with the Cars world, where even the animals are cars (with the Dinoco logo staying as a regular dinosaur).
Carl’s Bottle Cap:
Carl’s grape soda bottle cap plays a pretty central role in the movie Up, being given to him by Ellie when they first meet, and eventually the ‘badge’ Carl gives to Russel as ‘the Ellie Badge’. The same brand of grape soda has been a part of the Pixar universe since the very beginning, originally appearing in a Buzz Lightyear commercial in the first Toy Story movie.
Being set in the far (far) future, the world we see in WALL-E is very different form our own or that of any other Pixar movie. With consumerism and waste pushed to a new extreme, humans have abandoned the planet, leaving WALL-E to clean everything up.
In amongst the endless piles of trash, a massive amount of references to other Pixar movies can be found. From Toy Story we see Rex in a bowling ball bag, a Buzz Lightyear lunchbox, Barbie’s car from Toy Story 2, the Dinoco logo is on a lighter, we see a Pizza Planet truck and Hamm shows up to. We can also see the bug zapper (from A Bug’s Life), a Mike Wazowski toy, the trash cube Sulley thought Boo was in (both from Monsters Inc), a Frozone (from The Incredibles) bobblehead, a Lightning McQueen toy (form Cars), and Chef Skinner’s red scooter (from Ratatouille).
The Good Dinosaur Toy:
The Good Dinosaur was one of the less successful Pixar properties, (going through a number of production complications, and making the least money of any Pixar film), despite this however it it still has a place in the Pixar universe, and has a number of references across other movies.
The most noticeable of which is the appearance of Arlo, in toy form, during a scene in Monsters University. The scene shows us the practise rooms where would-be scarers are tested for their final exams when one of the rooms cleaners is sweeping aside some toys one of the most prominently placed is a toy version of Arlo.
Dug vs Remy:
Pixar movies are filled to the brim with small nods and references that are extremely easy to miss, one of the best examples being Dug (the dog from Up) having a very small appearance in Ratatouille. We see Dug when Remy leaves the sewers to head out into Paris, a dog barks and their shadow can be seen on the wall. The shape of the shadow is exactly the same as Dug, and although we can’t actually say it’s him as we never fully see the dog, it is clearly Dug.
Andy’s cloud filled wallpaper from the original Toy Story is one of the most instantly recognisable things in Pixar, and so it’s not hard to miss when it shows up again. The next time we see the wallpaper (not in a Toy Story movie) is in Monster’s Inc, during a scene where Randall is practising his camouflage on a number of different wall patterns.
Sid proves to be the perfect villain in the first Toy Story, as a crazy and creepy kid who enjoys blowing up defenceless toys and making terrifying toy hybrids (admittedly he has no idea they are alive, but it’s still pretty messed up).
When the toys eventually turn on him, revealing themselves to be alive, he runs away screaming, paving the way for what you’d assume is a pretty messed up life (haunted b the memories of your toys coming to life and talking to you). It does, however, look to as though Sid didn’t end up going totally crazy, and managed to get a regular job in his later years. We can see Sid clearly enjoying himself, as a garbage man in the third Toy Story movie.
The (Same) Chinese Takeout:
Taking the brand domination of Pixar’s world to a new level it appears that the same Chinese takeout chain (or at the very least the takeout box suppliers) have a total monody on the market, with the same style (shape, design, and pattern) take out box showing up in A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Ratatouille, and Inside Out.
Geri The Toy Cleaner:
It’s not often that a character from one Pixar movie or short goes on to play anything more and a background role in another, one clear exception, however, is the toy cleaner in Toy Story 2. The man that Al calls to come and repair Woody is actually the star of the Pixar short ‘Geri’s Game’ (which originally featured alongside A Bug’s Life) where we see him playing Chess in the park. As a further reference to it definitely being Geri, when he opens up one of the draws in his toy repair toolkit (in toy Story 2) it’s filled with chess pieces.
Some of the best Pixar easter eggs connect the movies in bigger and better ways than simply having a character or prop from one movie lurking the background scenes of another. One of the best examples of a wholly new item that connects Ratatouille and the Incredibles is strangely enough, Linguini’s pants.
In the scene where Linguini (a human) is trying to put Remy (a rat) down his trousers (proving Pixar can literally do anything in their movies), we get a brief glimpse of Linguini’s underwear, and he just happens to be sporting a pair of boxers covered in the Incredibles logo.
Bomb Voyage’s Drastic Career Change:
The opening scene of The Incredibles introduces us to Mr Incredible, shows the origins of the movies’ villain Syndrome, and gives the audience a look at a world in which Superheroes (or ‘Supers’) are common place. We then see that a number of lawsuits lead to the outlawing of Supers and the Superhero Relocation Program.
But before that, the sequence itself shows us Mr Incredible in his prime, inadvertently stopping the supervillain ‘Bomb Voyage’ from robbing a bank. Bomb Voyage serves as a simple nod to the often ridiculous themes and motifs superheroes and villains go with and has a very small role in the movie.
It isn’t his only appearance in the Pixar universe however, we next see him performing as an actual mime on the streets of Paris in Ratatouille. What exactly led him to such a big career change is unclear (if you need a reason other than it being an easter egg that is), but it’s yet another great example of a character showing up in multiple movies.
The Mr Incredible Comic Book:
The dentists waiting room in Finding Nemo features a number of easter eggs, but the best is the young boy reading a Mr Incredible comic book. This Incredibles easter egg in Finding Nemo is one of the more detailed ones, and goes far beyond simply having a character, prop, or object from one movie appear in the background of another, by creating a wholly unique easter egg that implies Mr Incredible exists (whether that is as a real person or a comic book character) in the world of Finding Nemo (in a similar way to Linguini’s pants doing the same thing).
A Bug-sized Lion King:
Bug City in A Bug’s Life features a number of references to both Pixar properties and the real world, from P.T Flea being a callback to the real life P.T Barnum, to a Pizza Planet cup. One of the hardest to spot, and definitely one of the best, is a small Lion King poster in the bug version of Times Square, that presumably implies a tiny bug production of the broadway musical (some scenes of which could make a great Pixar short).
With a number of Pixar’s easter eggs relating to specific items and characters, it’s rare an actual location shows up more than once, with each movie taking place in a very different part of the world. That said, one of the more subtle easter eggs, that does bring back a location we’ve already seen connects A Bug’s Life and Monsters Inc.
The trailer we see next to Bug City isn’t a huge part of A Bug’s Life, but is home to quite a few easter eggs of its own, we see a bug zapper that later shows up in WALL-E and a Pizza Planet truck parked outside. The trailer itself then becomes an easter egg when it makes a second appearance in Monsters Inc, being the place we see Randall sent to (and beaten up) towards the end of the movie.
This easter egg is a strange one, and (for me at least) went from a neat connection between Up and Toy Story to a very confusing search for if it really exists. The postcard is, of course, one of the better-known easter eggs that claims either Carl and Ellie sent Andy a postcard, or he somehow got a hold of the postcard we see in Carl and Ellie’s house.
In reality however, it basically comes down to two versions of the same scene, one being in an early trailer and one being in the final movie. From there the internet got very carried away with the scene claiming it to be a huge easter egg, seemingly forgetting the reverse side of the postcard (that names Ellie and Carl) isn’t anywhere to be seen in Toy Story 3 (and only appears in a trailer).
You can read the whole article explaining what happened – and my twenty-four hours of confusion working it all out Here. Depending on how far you want to ‘believe’ in the easter egg can change your perception of it, but as it stands the actual postcard we see in Toy Story 3 can’t be proven to have any real connection to the one in Up, other than it is likely from the same place, and so is nothing more than a visual easter egg rather than one that specifically links the characters.
Bob Catching Bruce
In the first Incredibles movie, Bob’s office is a treasure trove of information and even has a few easter eggs, with most of them detailing the past of Bob’s life as a Super. In various shots, we can see the rock em’ sock em’ robots from Al’s Toy Barn in Toy Story 2, and in others, we can see more on Bob’s past, as well as other Supers.
The best easter egg however is a blink and you’ll miss it reference to Finding Nemo, that shows a photo of Bob (who has super strength) having caught a shark on a fishing trip, it could be just any shark of course, but Disney themselves later confirmed that it is in fact supposed to be Bruce from Finding Nemo.
The Pizza Planet Trucks:
Pizza Planet played a huge part in the first Toy Story movie, serving as the introduction for the green aliens and is even the reason for Sid getting his hands on Woody and Buzz. Since that first appearance, we’ve seen some sort of reference to the restaurant chain in pretty much every Pixar movie. Pizza Planet plays it’s biggest role in the Toy Story movies, with Buzz, Slinky, Rex, Mr. Potato Head, and Hamm stealing one of the delivery trucks to follow Al to the airport, and Lotso, Big Baby and Chuckles riding to Sunnyside one after they are abandoned in Toy Story 3.
A Pizza Planet cup can be seen as a part of Bug City in A Bug’s Life, and a delivery truck is next to the trailer Randall is sent to at the end of Monster’s Inc. Pizza Planet delivery trucks can be seen in the background of Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Up, Monsters University, Inside Out, Finding Dory and Coco. The truck is also a wooden carving in Brave, searched for signs of life by EVE in WALL-E, an asteroid is shaped like the truck in The Good Dinosaur, and Pizza Planet shows up numerous times in all of the Cars movies.
In fact, the only film without a reference to Pizza Planet at all is The Incredibles, but Incredibles 2, remedies this by having a more stylised (and era-appropriate) Pizza Planet truck. And so (not counting The Incredibles) the Pizza Planet restaurant chain (but mainly the truck) is a staple of the Pixar-verse, and is almost as iconic and recognisable as a number of actual Pixar characters.