Way before they acquired the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney was master of connecting its movies and TV shows with hidden cameos and references.
Most of these were just eEaster eggs in the background for die-hard fans to notice, but the thing about die-hard fans is that if they notice something, they will analyze it to death-- no exceptions. From this analysis comes an explosion of theorie.
Some of these theories try to connect Disney’s movies under one universe, while others are more thematic, wondering if the plots of Disney and Pixar classics are just a metaphor for something greater.
Some of these plots are far-fetched and rely on a lot of mental gymnastics in order to fit all the pieces of their puzzle together (no, Emperor Snoke from Star Wars is not Mace Windu).
However, other times, the pieces are too conclusive to ignore, and just make too much sense to write off as fans reading way to much into their childhood favorites. On rare occasions, they even enrich the experience of watching the movies, providing closure and smoothing out plot holes or inconsistencies.
Here are the 18 Disney Fan Theories That Make Too Much Sense.
18 The plot of Up is actually Carl's dream as he journeys to the afterlife
The opening minutes of Up are a dramatic mic drop from Pixar, effortlessly showcasing their ability to make grown men sob and bawl as they detail the romance, devastation, and loss that Carl and his wife Ellie experience.
It’s a wordless and brutally realistic sequence, which makes it all the weirder when the movie pivots to feature a flying house held aloft with party balloons, talking dogs in biplanes, and a zeppelin fight with a disgraced explorer.
One theory that takes care of this tonal dissonance is that Carl actually dies in his sleep the night before being taken to Shady Oaks.
The rest of the movie is a metaphorical journey into the afterlife to be reunited with his beloved Ellie.
Kevin is his guardian angel, dedicated to earning recognition (badges, or wings?) for his efforts in helping Carl.
17 Boo from Monsters, Inc. becomes the witch from Brave after going through too many doors
This one’s complicated, but stay with it. The witch from Brave is shown to have abilities of magical transformation and disappears through doorways.
She also happens to have several conspicuous woodcuttings of Sully from Monster’s Inc. throughout her house, and a wooden sculpture of a Pizza Planet truck, first seen in Toy Story. How could she possibly know about the Monster world and the future world of convenient food delivery?
The answer is that she’s Boo from Monsters Inc. Obsessed with finding Sully again, and remembering the Monster's ability to travel through doors, she somehow worked out a method to use doors to bend space, and bent time as well as a result.
She’s been trying to track down Sully for years before encountering Merida in the past.
For her, years have passed of scouring the multiverse for the furry friend she remembers from childhood.
16 Mother Gothel from Tangled is also the evil Queen from Snow White
For those who haven’t seen Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, it isn’t all animal maid service and songs about mining. It centers around a vain and madly jealous Queen who keeps her stepdaughter locked up as a maid, until the stepdaughter proves to be more beautiful then her.
The Queen orders her killed, then tries to poison her disguised as an old crone.
Tangled boasts a similar antagonist-- a vain mother figure who keeps her so-called daughter locked up. It’s not too farfetched to think that Mother Gothel is the same character as the Queen from Snow White.
When she’s aged, she even looks like the Queen’s disguise as an old woman, so maybe Tangled is the aftermath of Snow White: having lost her kingdom and her looks, the Queen found a way to keep youthful through Rapunzel’s magic hair, but kept her locked up just like her former stepdaughter.
15 Other Animals Were Also Once Human In The Emperor’s New Groove
Sometimes a throwaway gag can spiral into massive speculation, as with this theory from The Emperor’s New Groove. After Pacha temporarily abandons the llama-fied Emperor Kuzco, Kuzco goes stumbling through a dark, foreboding jungle, where he sees a fly end up in the web of an enormous spider.
The fly squeakily wails “Help me... help me!” before being gulped down by the web’s owner.
While it’s a cheeky reference to horror classic The Fly, it also raises a horrifying question. The only animals shown to communicate in English in Emperor’s New Groove are humans who’ve been turned into animals through Yzma’s potions: Kuzco, the Imperial Guards, and even Yzma herself as a cat.
So the fly had to have been someone turned into a fly, who escaped somehow... and ended up being eaten alive.
14 Bing-Bong from Inside Out was actually a monster from the Monsters, Inc. world
Monsters, Inc. ends with the titular company figuring out that the laughs of human children are much more powerful and potent than screams, solving their energy crisis and changing their whole approach.
Now, only the funniest monsters get to cross over into the human world. This figures into the theory that Bing Bong from Inside Out was not only real, but an employee of Monsters, Inc.
Riley could have concluded that Bing Bong was “imaginary” because he disappeared back into the Monster world whenever her parents showed up, or once he was finished collecting laughs of delight after playtime.
The theory continues that the Bing Bong we meet in Inside Out who fades away into oblivion is only Riley’s memory of the real Bing Bong, who is presumably still out there in Monster world.
13 Marcus Brody from the Indiana Jones series had Alzheimer's
The venerable Denholm Elliott had the pleasure of playing Marcus Brody, stalwart mentor to Indiana Jones, in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. However, some fans believe that something weird happened between Raiders and Last Crusade.
In Raiders, Marcus Brody was a serious voice of reason, who cautioned Indy not to underestimate the power of the Ark of the Covenant. He even mused that five years ago, he would have gone after the Ark himself, indicating that he used to be just as much of a quick-witted go-getter as Indy.
Cut to Last Crusade, and he’s a bumbling, absentminded, comical figure. He’s bad at reading situations and so forgetful that he got lost in his own museum.
By Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, he’s dead. It’s therefore not too far-fetched to imagine that Alzeheimer’s or some other degenerative disease was to blame.
12 DJ from The Last Jedi is actually Ezra Bridger from Star Wars: Rebels
In their frenzy to find connections between characters from the original Star Wars trilogy and the new trilogy, fans also managed to spin a theory involving Star Wars: Rebels, which recently ended its run.
It hinges on distinctive scars on the Pop Vinyl figure of the character DJ, played by Benicio Del Toro in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
DJ shares two scars on his cheek with the lead of Star Wars: Rebels, the young Jedi Padawan Ezra Bridger, who becomes a freedom fighter for the Rebel Alliance in the years leading up to the original trilogy.
Naturally, fans speculated that DJ was an older, more cynical Ezra, having become disillusioned with the Rebel cause in the intervening years. The ages fit as well, since Ezra would be around 50 years old by the time of The Last Jedi, a perfect match for the 51-year old Del Toro.
11 The wrecked ship Ariel explores in The Little Mermaid belonged to Elsa and Anna’s parents
This one makes use of some real-world geography, so get out your globes, kids: The Little Mermaid is believed to have taken place around Denmark, which is the home country of Hans Christian Andersen who wrote the story that it’s based on.
This means that Atlantica, Ariel’s home kingdom, is roughly halfway between Norway, where Frozen is set, and Germany, where Tangled is believed to be set.
It’s been said by the creators of Frozen that Elsa and Anna’s parents were traveling to a wedding when their ship sunk, and another theory believes that the wedding was Rapunzel and Flynn’s.
So the ship would have sunk right around Atlantica, and in The Little Mermaid, Ariel is shown exploring a shipwreck that looks suspiciously similar to the ship that sank with Elsa and Anna’s parents aboard.
This means that Frozen, Tangled, and The Little Mermaid take place in the same universe.
10 Captain Hook Ended The Life Of Ariel’s Mom
Everybody remembers the Lost Boys and the now-horribly-racist song “What Makes The Red Man Red” from Peter Pan, but few people remember that Neverland was also inhabited by mermaids.
They look suspiciously similar to the sea-dwelling fish people in The Little Mermaid, complete with seashell bras. In fact, one also sports red hair and looks like the spitting image of Ariel…
We know that Neverland is also plagued with pirates, and that Ariel’s mother was killed by pirates, as shown in the prequel movie The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning.
If the mermaid who looks suspiciously similar to Ariel was in fact her mother, maybe on an excursion away from Atlantica, then this theory posits that Captain Hook and his crew were the pirates who ended her life.
It would also explain why King Triton wants Ariel to stay away from the surface world no matter what.
9 The Incredibles is Brad Bird’s superpowered version of Atlas Shrugged
Part of the reason why The Incredibles is so memorable has to do with the layers of meaning and character woven throughout, giving depth beyond a mere cartoon superhero movie.
Some have argued that it’s essentially a G-rated version of Watchmen, what with the plot about superheroes being forced underground. However, it also has some weird parallels to the works of Ayn Rand, particularly her novel Atlas Shrugged.
The entire plot starts with the submission of the elite (supers) to the masses of ungrateful normal people, similar to the setting of Atlas Shrugged. The challenger to the supers, Syndrome, wants to uplift the masses but his “powers” are mere technological copies of the innate traits that make the supers superior.
In the end, it’s up to the supers to use their innate superiority to save the day and provide an example for humanity, which reeks of Objectivist themes found throughout Rand’s work.
8 Anna and Elsa’s parents were also Tarzan’s parents
There’s one more theory that explains the fate of Anna and Elsa’s parents and completes the Frozen/Tangled/The Little Mermaid universe. Tarzan shows that the titular ape-man’s parents were victims of a shipwreck but managed to survive and reach uncharted jungle.
They fashioned a treehouse from what they could salvage and had a son before dying during a leopard attack.
What if they were Anna and Elsa’s parents, carried adrift in the wreckage of their ship to the jungles of Africa?
It would be a tragic ending for the king and queen, and what’s more, it’s been confirmed by the creators of Frozen, if only jokingly.
In a Reddit AMA, the co-director Jennifer Lee said that co-director Chris Buck told her that the king and queen of Arendelle were washed up following the ship wreck, gave birth to a boy, built a treehouse, and were eaten by leopards.
7 Hercules and Ariel are cousins, because Greek mythology
Well, technically, Hercules and Ariel are first cousins once-removed. Greek mythology is weird like that, and a lot of gods and goddesses went around making babies with any woman with a pulse, whether she be divine or not. Hercules, though, traces his lineage to the main man himself: Zeus, king of Olympus.
The Little Mermaid doesn’t get into Greek mythology, but Ariel’s father is King Triton, and in the Greek myths, Triton was the son of Poseidon, lord of the seas.
Poseidon was also Zeus’ brother, and his son Triton was frequently depicted as a merman. King Triton wields a trident just like his dear old dad-- maybe it was even passed down to him.
Though they’re set in vastly disparate time periods, the Greek family tree would make Herc and Ariel first cousins once removed.
6 Neverland is the afterlife, and Peter Pan shepherds deceased children’s souls there
“To die would be an awfully big adventure...” is a line from the book version of Peter Pan. This theory has been around almost since the original book was published.
It believes that the reason why Peter and the Lost Boys never grow up in Neverland is because they’re already dead. Neverland is the afterlife, and Peter Pan is the Charon-like figure who takes the hands of dying children and guides them to heaven and their final rest.
The theory is not too far-fetched, especially when you look into the life of Peter Pan’s author, J.M. Barrie.
He left the rights to Peter Pan to a children’s hospital, where it would help fund efforts to keep terminally ill children alive.
Even before that, he wrote in a biography of his mother that she took solace in the fact that his brother David died a boy, and would therefore remain a boy forever.
5 Andy’s mom was Jessie’s owner in Toy Story 2
Jesse’s song in Toy Story 2 could squeeze tears out of a marble column-- it’s a heartbreaking ode to abandonment, and shows through flashbacks how Jesse’s owner, a little girl, left her to be donated.
She ends up with Andy, and in a weird way, might have ended up with her original owner too.
It’s a little odd that Andy just happens to have a rare and coveted Sheriff Woody doll.
Andy is also shown back in Toy Story to be wearing a cowboy hat that looks exactly like Jesse’s, just with the band worn off.
Now, it seems more likely that the cowboy hat and Woody doll, both rare toys from a '50s show, were handed down to him. It also seems like his mom may be the same young girl who Jesse has been missing for decades.
4 Aladdin takes place 10,000 years in the future
Though it looks like it takes place in the ancient sands of Persia, Aladdin may take place in the distant future, in a post-apocalyptic world that’s returned to a medieval existence. The clues come in the form of Robin Williams and his show-stealing performance as The Genie.
When he initially emerges from the lamp, he complains that “Ten thousand years will give you such a crick in the neck!” It's understandable that he’s been trapped a long time. However, then the Genie proceeds to bust out impressions like Jack Nicholson, Rodney Dangerfield, and references Casanova.
Either he can bend time or the last time he was out of his lamp was in the 20th century, and the action in Agrabah takes place sometime in the year 11,900 AD or later.
The '90s Aladdin video game seems to agree, as players can find a half-buried but modern stop sign in one level.
3 Calhoun had to end the life of a mutated version of her husband in Wreck-It Ralph
For a candy-colored kid-friendly animated romp, Wreck-It Ralph has some genuinely terrifying and heartbreaking moments in it. The flashback to Sgt. Calhoun’s wedding and the death of her husband manages to be both at once.
In her backstory, the part-machine insect enemies of her game, the Cy-Bugs, crashed her wedding the one day that she didn’t personally check the perimeter, and a massive Cy-Bug eats her husband in front of her.
The flashback ends with her pulling out a Gatling gun and firing at the Cy-Bug offscreen, but the movie shows that Cy-Bugs assimilate anything they eat and incorporate it into their biology.
At the finale, King Candy gets eaten and turns into a horrible King Candy/Cy-Bug mutant, showing that it works with living things too. Therefore it’s pretty likely that Calhoun had to murder a Cy-bug on her wedding day that was wearing the face of her newly-dead husband.
2 Jane from Tarzan is a descendant of Belle from Beauty and the Beast
Isn’t it crazy how alike Jane from Tarzan and Belle from Beauty and the Beast seem?
They’ve got similar faces, they’re both brainy, rebellious brunettes, and they’re both rocking gold/white dresses at some point.
They even both develop a romance with a beast-like love interest who turns out to be human and shredded with flowing Fabio hair. It’s no surprise that some fans believe that they’re related.
Why not? There seems to be 200 years between the settings of Beauty and the Beast and Tarzan, which provides plenty of time for Belle’s descendants to proliferate through Europe and end up with British accents.
However, the best evidence is that the china in Jane and her father’s base camp looks identical to the china from Beauty and the Beast, complete with a perfect doppëlganger for Mrs. Potts. Obviously, Jane’s father descended from Belle and the Prince, and ended up with the good china.
1 Elsa and Anna’s parents in Frozen passed away because of Rapunzel in Tangled
Disney loves to put cameos in their movies. Belle can be spotted in the background of The Hunchback of Notre Damme and The Beast is one of the figurines that the Sultan is playing with in Aladdin. However, one cameo in Frozen has heartbreaking implications.
Elsa and Anna’s parents are killed when their ship sinks in Frozen, consumed by the waves.
Years later, when Elsa is of age and is about to be crowned Queen of their kingdom, you can clearly see Flynn and Rapunzel from Tangled walking into the coronation celebrations.
It makes sense for royalty to visit other friendly neighboring kingdoms on important occasions. It could also be because of a darker reason, though. One theory suggests that the trip that killed Elsa and Anna’s parents was to attend the wedding of Flynn and Rapunzel, who are then attending Elsa’s coronation out of guilt.
Can you think of any other Disney fan theories that make a lot of sense? Sound off in the comment section!