[WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Finding Dory]
From the moment that the inflatable ball from Toy Story began appearing in other movies, or posters, comics and billboards advertised characters and companies from previous films, fans have know that Pixar Animation is nearly unrivaled in terms of easter eggs, secret details, and hidden references. Whether they’re obvious ones meant to give seasoned fans an extra laugh, or incredibly subtle ones that were placed for only the animators’ enjoyment, fans have searched for each and every one as soon as Pixar films hit theaters.
That offers yet another reason to line up and see Finding Dory, picking up essentially right where Finding Nemo left off. But to make sure that fans can catch all the extra content without repeat viewings, we’ve broken down the background details, veiled references, and behind-the-scenes stories fueling every added touch. Whether it’s other Pixar movies being referenced, or another bombshell shared universe crossover, we’ve got you covered:
18. Boat Markings
Numbers hardly ever appear in a Pixar film without purpose or hidden meaning, and the scene pictured above (glimpsed by fans in one of the film’s first trailers) is no exception. As Dory is first scooped out of the bay by workers at the Marine Life Institute, two numbers stand out on the hull of their boat. Both are actually references to Pixar’s past and present. The ‘1200’ is a direct nod to the studio’s address (1200 Park Avenue, Emeryville, California), while the ’86’ is meant to signify 1986 – the year that Pixar first officially became its own standalone incorporated entity.
17. Seawater Supply TL59
Major Disney and Pixar movies usually wind up influencing the company’s amusement parks and attractions, but rarely does it go the other way. Yet in Finding Dory, a room behind the scenes of the marine facility shows a water pipe clearly marked as “Seawater Supply TL59.” As spotted by UltimateOrlando (image above) that same pipe and label is lifted directly from the queue area of the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage in Disneyland. It might seem like a clever way of referencing the park in the film, but the truth goes even deeper: the pipe itself was an easter egg delivered by the engineers who designed it. Since the Submarine Voyage was merely given a makeover for Finding Nemo, the team paid tribute to the attraction’s actual grand opening 1959, as part of ‘Tomorrowland’ (TL59).
16. Darla Cameo
When Hank and Dory are carrying on a conversation in the Marine Life Institute’s quarantine, there are plenty of notes, details, and barely-visible items that will likely be picked over once home video arrives. But in the meantime, some can be made out during the first viewing. Chief among them: a photo of the fish menace from Down Under – Darla. The photo is just out of focus behind Dory’s tank, but it’s impossible to miss: the photo is the exact same one seen in a frame by the dentist office fish in Finding Nemo. Why is a young, brace-faced, menacing young girl’s photo in two different spots on the Pacific Ocean? That’s a mystery we can’t yet answer, but for the moment, we’ll just assume it’s due to the animators having a tough time forgetting her. Whatever helps.
15. Lava Magnet
It isn’t just the main attraction that moviegoers enjoy when attending a screening of Finding Dory, but the traditional short film from Pixar which runs before it. For Finding Dory, that short is Piper – but it’s not the only one included in the finished film. Few who saw Inside Out could forget Lava, the short film following a volcanic island’s search for love through the power of song. So keep your eyes peeled as Hank and Dory move into the Marine Life Institute lab, and you can spot a small magnet holding up a few papers. The magnet takes the same image used for the Lava poster (of the volcano), but instead of the short’s title, the name of the singing star – ‘Uku’ – is used instead.
14. Wall-E Calendar
The tiny nods continue when Hank has Dory suspended over a massive aquarium in a plastic cup. The easter egg actually has nothing to do with the fish, but keep an eye towards the background of the scene, and you’ll see a work station lit just enough to make out some details. Squint extra hard, and you’ll notice the calendar on the wall sports the name “Wall-E” – for the Pixar film starring a trash compacting robot in a post-apocalyptic hellscape of garbage and pollution. The inclusion will add even more fuel to the theory that the Pixar films don’t just take place in the same universe, but along the same timeline. Who knows: maybe the new Wall-E units were just beginning to roll out, and someone at the Marine Life Institute was a fan?
13. Luxo Ball
With every Pixar movie comes a few easter eggs that downright must be included (and no, we’re not talking about the “Ultimate Easter Egg” released as an April Fools Joke, but taken seriously by plenty of easter egg lists out there). The most famous – or simply easiest to spot – is the infamous Luxo Ball: the yellow rubber ball with the blue stripe and red star that seems to be included in nearly every cluttered background shot. In the case of Finding Dory, the ball can be spotted in the ‘Kid Zone’ of the Marine Life Institute. You won’t have long to spot it, but as always, it’s hard to miss.
12. Sigourney Weaver
It’s one of the best gags of the film: when Dory arrives at the Marine Life Institute, she is greeted by the booming voice of actress Sigourney Weaver, claiming that… well, “I’m Sigourney Weaver.” By the end of the film, Dory considers Weaver her friend, while other sea creatures believe her to be a supreme being. It’s a joke that’s pretty mired in behind the scenes details. For starters, the joke was thought up and inserted with placeholder dialogue fully expecting to be axed not soon after. But as viewings and feedback from Pixar’s higher-ups came and went, the joke remained, meaning the time came to actually ask the actress if she would do it. Obviously, she appreciated the gag, and agreed. It’s not hard to see why the idea popped into the storytellers’ heads, either: Weaver performs a similar voice over role at the California Academy of Sciences.
11. Piper Poster
The short film Piper marks the directorial debut of Pixar’s Alan Barillaro, relying, yet again, on absolutely no spoken dialogue to tell a compelling story (something Barillaro honed his skills on with Wall-E). But once the short story of a young sandpiper growing to adulthood has ended, it’s not the last audiences may see of its star, Piper. Look to the background when Hank is removing Dory from a smaller fish tank at the Marine Life Institute with a coffee pitcher, and you’ll see a painting of Piper.
10. Fluke & Rudder’s Tags
Two sea creatures added to the Finding Nemo sequel managed to steal some scenes even before the film was released, since the two sea lions showed a tendency to flip from easygoing to mindlessly barking if another creature tries to claim their rock for themselves. The sea lions, Fluke and Rudder are clearly spun out of the same idea as Nigel and the seagulls from the first film, but these animals also spotted a famous easter egg in additional marketing for the film. The easter egg comes in the form of yellow tags placed on each of the sea lions’ tails – Fluke’s reads “A1” while Rudder brings up the “13” – paying tribute to the classroom in which many of Pixar’s bosses first learned their craft while attending the California Institute of the Arts.
9. From Enemies, Friends
Another easter egg that may be completely lost on some audience members is the choice of voice actor roles for Fluke and Rudder – played by Idris Elba and Dominc West, respectively. While they may be close friends here, the pair’s most famous work is undoubtedly HBO’s The Wire, in which Elba played the crimelord Stringer Bell, and West, Detective Jimmy McNulty, the cop trying to bring him down. The duo haven’t shared the screen too many times sence, but director Andrew Stanton has admitted that he cast the two of them in the part of the sea lions because of their shared time on the crime series.
8. Idris Elba’s Big Year
Less of an easter egg, and more of a moment in history that Disney fans won’t want to miss, since Finding Dory marks the third time in just one year that Idris Elba voiced a large, imposing character in a Disney film. First, he appeared as ‘Chief Bogo,’ a no-nonsense cape buffalo and chief of police in Disney’s Zootopia. Then came a meatier (pun intended) role as the villainous Shere Khan in Jon Favreau’s remake of The Jungle Book. And finally, appearing here as Fluke, the massive sea lion sought for some local advice by Marlin and Nemo when searching for Dory.
7. Toy Story Throwback
Once Dory finally does encounter a sizable swarm of fellow Blue Tangs, the audience learns that Dory isn’t exactly unique in her, let’s say, ‘flighty’ intellect. The point is driven home for a laugh, when the group witnesses something incredible, followed soon after by an “Ooooooooooooohhhh” delivered in unison. The joke works on its own, but it’s hard for any Pixar fan to not get a serious dose of deja vu, since the group reaction is a nod right back to the company’s roots – the alien beings in the claw machine of Toy Story. Shared universe/expressions confirmed.
6. Die Hard Shared Universe
Speaking of “shared universe,” by now even casual fans of Disney and Pixar films must have heard of ‘The Pixar Theory,’ posing that each and every movie released by the studio so far is not just set in the same universe, but is telling one massive story. The story is one of global apocalypse, and humanity’s role being usurped by animals or robots. but when Mashable went a step further and postulated that the Pixar Universe is also home to the Die Hard movie series, many at Pixar took notice. The video was only mentioned as a lighthearted joke, and was taken as such. But director Andrew Stanton admitted that the team enjoyed it so much, they decided to offer some more evidence – in the form of not one, but TWO Die Hard references hidden in the film.
The manic sea lions may take care of the long-running ‘A113’ easter egg, but there’s one featured even more prominently. When the final chase sequence of the movie kicks off, audience members will have a hard time missing the license plate of one vehicle – printed CALA113 – which goes even farther than previous appearances. Not only is the classroom mentioned, but the abbreviation of Cal Arts, where most Pixar founders learned their trade in Valencia, California.
4. The Original Nemo
That closing chase sequence also packs a powerful cameo. The role of Nemo from his titular movie was played by the then-12-year-old actor Nolan Gould. But even though Finding Dory is set within just a year after the story concluded, the thirteen years that had passed in real life meant that Gould could no longer fit the part. As a result, a new actor – Hayden Rolence – was brought in to suuply Nemo’s childlike lines. But Gould wasn’t left out completely, playing a small cameo role as one of the truck drivers overheard in the same chase sequence.
3. Pizza Planet Truck
Along with the Luxo Ball and lamp, the presence of a Pizza Planet delivery truck is another necessity in any Pixar film. Finding Nemo contained one of the subtlest inclusions of the yellow pick-up truck adorned with a space shuttle, barely visible as the bagged tank gag rolled their way into the Sydney Harbor. Finding Dory follows suit, meaning fans will need to look fast, and hard to spot the Pizza Planet Truck when Hank and Dory acquire a ride to Cleveland. It’s hidden in the traffic jam, as one of the most distant vehicles ahead.
2. The Tank Gang
Those fans who sit through the movie’s full credits get to enjoy even more of Hank’s clever camouflage, but are also treated to another cameo in a post-credits scene. We’ll skip right by the question of how the Tank Gang from the first movie managed to survive the trip from Australia to California contained in sealed plastic bags, and wonder how they’re still floating under their own power. Whatever the explanation, the whole voice cast returns as well, from Willem Dafoe to Brad Garrett and Allison Janney – with one exception…
1. Passing The Torch
Sharp-eyed viewers (who seriously recall the details of the first movie) will notice that out of all the Tank Gang’s plastic bag conveyances, it’s only Jacques the Shrimp (the clean freak) who has kept any algae from affecting his living space. Sadly, the original voice of Jacques – Pixar screenwriter, animator, storyboard artist, and voice actor Joe Ranft – passed away in 2005. As a result, it’s his brother, Pixar sculptor Jerome Ranft who returns to supply the shrimp’s voice, having also succeeded his brother in voicing ‘Red’ from Cars.
Those are the easter eggs, secrets and tiny touches we spotted in Finding Dory, but be sure to let us know which ones we’ve overlooked, and we’ll keep updating the list as more and more secrets are uncovered.
Finding Dory runs 97 minutes and is Rated PG for mild thematic elements. Now playing in regular and 3D theaters.