From humble beginnings, Pixar Animation is responsible for reinvigorating animated feature films, with its theatrical releases anticipated by child, parent, and every other fan of strong storytelling and humor. But as much as the fans may love Pixar’s history and characters, it’s clear that the men and women crafting their growing universe have just as much affection – delivered, as always, in the form of easter eggs.
With Inside Out diving into the imagination of a single child, the studio didn’t miss the chance to pack in multiple references to Pixar heroes and Disney as a whole, and we’ve assembled all the easter eggs, trivia, and references we could spot. Needless to say, there will be SPOILERS in our list, so read at your own risk.
Carl & Ellie
Audiences get just a small sample of the memories contained inside Riley’s long term memory, and eagle-eyed fans caught a few familiar scenes almost immediately. One memory orb looks to contain Carl and Ellie’s wedding in Up, the previous Pixar film from director Pete Docter. More viewings and a home video release will reveal even more, but this nod to Up‘s heartwarming prologue is impossible to forget.
Fans have only dark memories of Sunnyside Daycare, one of the major locations of Toy Story 3, but it was a different story for the actual children who attended. When Joy (Amy Poehler) points out a particular memory in which Riley is happily playing a play structure, it looks to be a dead ringer for Sunnyside’s structure – albeit with a different slide. Even if not a direct link between the two films, it’s a knowing nod.
For The Birds
When Riley’s family is shown arriving in San Francisco, a long line of birds can be seen perched on a cable stretching across the street. Die-hard Pixar fans will recognize the birds from the animated short For The Birds, which took home the Academy Award for animated short, released in theaters ahead of Monsters, Inc..
What makes Riley’s arrival at her new home even more disappointing is the dead mouse noted by her emotional cast of characters. The mouse later returns with a cryptic twist in Riley’s nightmare that evening, clearly designed after the look of Remy, the rodent star of Ratatouille. It’s also not the only nod to previous Pixar films that Dream Productions produces over the film, either.
Riley’s first day at school brings several potential easter eggs and references with it, but the nod to the animated short La Luna is one of the subtlest. Shown in theaters ahead of Brave, the Euro-inspired tale of a young boy learning to sweep up the stars is alluded to by a simple poster on the classroom wall, depicting a person with arms spread to gather the similarly pudgy stars above him.
The Good Dinosaurs?
When Riley remembers her family’s road trip to San Francisco, her spirits are lifted when a photo shoot in front of a model triceratops turns into a comedy of errors, with the family car rolling backwards into the back end of yet another dinosaur. The dino which halts the car looks to be a match to Arlo, the star of Pixar’s next film, The Good Dinosaur. It’s hard to be sure, but it’s not the only easter egg teasing the arrival of ancient creatures to Pixar’s universe.
A Familiar Look
You can’t include a person in a skull t-shirt in a Pixar film without immediately conjuring up images of Sid, the human villain and toy-tormenter of the Toy Story world. So although Disgust may have been eager to appear cool to the popular kids – one of whom sports an inverted version of Sid’s shirt – viewers knew that she was better to be avoided.
A skull t-shirt is iconic in Pixar terms, meaning viewers may miss the other easter egg contained in the same shots. Take a closer look at the boy in camouflage – his left sleeve in particular – and you’ll catch the shape of a green, four-legged dinosaur. Again, it may not be a direct reference to The Good Dinosaur‘s Arlo – perhaps even a nod to Toy Story‘s T. rex – but it’s too strange to be coincidence.
The first sign of just how much Riley relies on Joy for her plucky personality comes during a family meal of take-out. It may seem like a standard Chinese Food Box, but the take-out container is yet another staple of the Pixar universe, first seen in A Bug’s Life, with its red pagoda artwork a perfect match for that seen in Inside Out.
During Riley’s first failed attempt at playing hockey for a new team, banners in the background clearly show that the rink, and team, reside in the “Tri-County” area. Pixar veterans know that this is the same name given to the area in which Toy Story is set (it isn’t simply an accepted term for the region, but an official name plastered on municipal property and garbage trucks, for one example). It’s hard to know if this is Pixar’s way of confirming that Inside Out and Toy Story take place alongside one another, but the actual rink’s location is another hidden reference. It sits on the same spot as the Walt Disney Family Museum.
Since the film began as an attempt by director Pete Docter to understand the maturation of his own daughter, it’s fitting that his appearance in the film should come in tandem with Riley’s on-screen father. Specifically, it’s Docter who voices Anger in the father’s mind, making the decision to ‘put his foot down’ about Riley’s new attitude. It’s not the only personal touch, as Docter hails from Minnesota, now working in California – just like Riley’s father.
The Luxo Ball
The “Luxo Ball” – originating from the studio’s earliest days – is one of the go-to easter eggs for eagle-eyed fans, and Inside Out doesn’t disappoint. Although the red star can be seen on Riley’s backpack (she’s a little old to be playing with a rubber ball), it appears during a flashback of her younger days with Bing Bong.
In the opening scenes of Monsters, Inc., stars Mike and Sully come across a fellow monster: Ted, originally designed to be a Godzilla stand-in (hence the enormous feet). When Joy and Sadness infiltrate Dream Productions, the first crane shot of the studios reveals a pair of massive, green prop legs ending just below the knee – a wink to the audience of the movie magic at work even in CGI filmmaking.
The Haunted Mansion
When Riley’s strange dreams make a clear shift into nightmare territory, the music shifts along with it. Veterans of Disney parks should recognize the music instantly, being one of many trademarks of the long-running Haunted Mansion attractions. It’s not the only nod to Disney parks, either: the family’s San Francisco address (21 Royal Street) is shared by Disney’s newest private dining room.
This is less of an easter egg, and more of a detail that fans are likely to overlook completely. The range of emotions embodied in the film – Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger – aren’t just given personalities that match their overall purpose, but their shape, as well. Joy’s star-shaped, glowing form is no accident, with Sadness resembling a tear drop, Anger a fire brick, Fear a frayed nerve, and Disgust, a stalk of broccoli. Not every design makes the inspiration perfectly clear, but when Joy and Sadness are reduced down to abstract and 2-dimensional versions, their origins are explicitly revealed.
When audiences get their first look at the house of cards in Imagination Land (sporting Riley and her parents’ faces), a look in the background shows a clear reference to Finding Nemo, in the form of a board game featuring the titular fish, titled “Find Me!” It’s sitting atop another game called “Dinosaur World,” presumably also a nod to the upcoming The Good Dinosaur.”
Guarding the Subconscious
Although only appearing in a small role, veteran Muppet and movie veteran Frank Oz is unmistakable as Dave, one of the two guards keeping watch over Riley’s subconscious. He’s joined by long-time Muppets voice performer Dave Goelz, with the characters named after the actor they’re performing opposite.
“It’s Cloudtown, Jake”
When Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend, gets into some trouble pulling apart a home in the imaginary city known as Cloudtown, he solves the situation by ‘disappear-ing’ the homeowner into nothing. The gag is paid off later in the film, when the police can be seen interviewing the vanished man’s cloud wife. When she, too, is dissolved, one officer informs the other to simply forget the event, since “it’s Cloudtown.” Younger viewers may not notice the reference being made to Chinatown, when Jack Nicholson’s character (also named Jake) is told the same.
Last, but not least, it just wouldn’t be a Pixar film without John Ratzenberger, with the actor supplying the voice of Toy Story‘s Hamm, Monsters, Inc.‘s Yeti, Finding Nemo‘s Moonfish, and a construction foreman in Up, to name a few roles. His role in Inside Out is smaller, but it’s impossible to miss his signature voice being belted out by the construction worker installing the team’s updated console in the film’s closing scenes.
Those are all the tiny easter eggs and references we’ve been able to spot so far, but if you have more ten be sure to leave them in the comments!
Inside Out is now playing.