In the last act of Tangled, Flynn is getting escorted to his execution when he sees a small ceramic unicorn, signalling that Vladamir and the other thugs from the Snugly Duckling are about to rescue him. Many older sci fi fans watching saw this as a nod to Blade Runner, where Harrison Ford’s Deckard character sees the origami unicorn while escaping from the police. Now the real question is, does that mean Flynn is a replicant?
The Muppet Movie
In 2010, Jason Segal brought the Muppets back to the big screen for the first time in over a decade, and it wasn’t without its winks at older fans. During the Muppets’ fundraiser, they bring out the chickens to cluck their own rendition of Cee Lo’s pop hit “Forget You”, but “Forget You” was just the radio friendly version of Cee Lo’s much harsher dismissive lyrics. Those more familiar with song’s original version probably hear those clucks as proxies for an ‘F’ word that is definitely not ‘Forget’.
Wreck It Ralph
In the case of Wreck It Ralph, the R rated Easter Egg comes in the form of actual eggs. When Ralph is in the first person shooter game Hero’s Duty, he comes across a room full of what appear to be alien eggs. This is a clear reference to Ridley Scott’s sci fi horror film Alien, and just in case there was any doubt, when Ralph accidentally steps on one of the eggs, it hatches a Cy-Bug that goes straight for Ralph’s face, just like the face huggers in Alien. Going all the way and having the Cy-Bug implant Ralph with an Alien that would later burst out of his guts would have probably been a little too intense for the kids.
For the latest version of Disney’s The Jungle Book, director Jon Favreau took inspiration from a variety of influences, including Frances Ford Coppola’s 1979 Vietnam war epic Apocalypse Now. For the introduction of King Louie, Favreau’s staging and lighting are practically identical to the first time we see Marlon Brando as Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. It’s a classic scene instantly recognizable to older film fans, but the kids were probably just wondering why the monkey was sitting in the shadows.
While one might expect the most referenced film in Pixar movies to be a Disney classic like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves or Fantasia, it’s actually Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror masterpiece The Shining. The first case appeared in the very first Pixar feature. When Buzz and Woody are escaping Sid’s house, you may have noticed a familiar carpet pattern, which was of course taken from The Shining’s Overlook hotel. The pattern shows up again in Toy Story 3 on small box sitting on the security Monkey’s desk. Director Lee Unkrich also slipped in the haunted room number 237 wherever he could, including on the side of a camera, a garbage truck’s licence plate, and the username in the online chat room Woody uses. These are pretty subtle references but prove that Pixar’s filmmakers are into a lot more than just toys and cars.
The Lion King
Most people probably don’t realize that The Lion King actually marked the second time that James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair had played a fictional African King and Queen couple. It was only a few years prior that the two actors who voice Mufasa and Sarabi played King Jaffe Joffer and Queen Aoleon in the the R rated Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America. Whether this was a case of typecasting or the filmmakers acknowledging an affinity for a very different movie is unclear, but perhaps they got the idea from the sash Jones wears in Coming to America that happens to be made from a Lion’s head.
The Mighty Ducks
Most people remember Mighty Ducks as a fun, lighthearted sports comedy aimed at kids. It’s easy to forgot what brought Coach Bombay to the Ducks in the first place: a drinking and driving charge. For some reason coaching a kids hockey team was deemed suitable punishment for demonstrating irresponsible and reckless behaviour. Beyond this there isn’t much to imply that coach has a serious drinking problem, but did you ever noticed how Gordon Bombay is named after two popular brands of gin? Gordon’s Gin and Bombay Sapphire make a mighty stiff cocktail.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
The third Pirates of the Caribbean film contains what we believe to be a subtle reference to James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day. In the scene were Davy Jones visits an imprisoned Calypso, he gets his claw stuck in the bars before he decides to just pass his entire body through them to the other side. This is almost an exact reversal of the action performed by T-1000 when walks through prison bars and gets his hand momentarily stuck because of the gun he’s holding. It’s a minor detail, but given the popularity of Cameron’s R rated action flick, we believe this was most likely an intentional callback.
The villain in The Incredibles has several names before coming Syndrome. As the leader of Mr. Incredibles’s fan club he was Buddy, as Mr. Incredible’s attempted sidekick, he was Incrediboy, but he was never Brody, not in this movie at least. When Mr. Incredible is trying to remember his name he calls him Brody, which is a reference to a character in Kevin Smith’s raunchy comedy Mallrats. The foul mouthed, stink palming character in Mallrats was played Jason Lee, who voices Buddy in The Incredibles, so you can’t really blame Mr. Incredible for his mistake.
Disney’s animated features spend years in production so their references aren’t always the most topical. In 2013, when Zootopia was in the thick of production, the gritty, meth fuelled cultural phenomenon that was Breaking Bad seemed to be everywhere at it aired its final season. The extremely dark show was aimed at mature audiences, but that didn’t stop the makers of Zootopia from paying homage to the show’s main characters. In the night howler lab scene, the rams who deliver the coffee are named Woolter and Jesse, after the leads on Breaking Bad who bonded over cooking meth together.