Easter eggs are inside jokes or references in a movie. Pixar includes tons of them. This works well for them because the movies are all animated.
My high school English teacher once told me everything in a movie is there on purpose. It's either there because the director put it there or they left it there.
In animated movies, nothing is present without the animator creating it. This gives creators an unprecedented level of control. I'll show you what Pixar does with that control.
Note: I first wrote this story in March of 2020. Back when the word "unprecedented" wasn't already beaten to death. I chose not to change it in the above paragraph. But I did shudder to think that I wrote it.
There are a few traditions that span all (or almost all) Pixar movies.
Many Pixar employees attended California Institute of Technology. A113 is a classroom used by graphic design and character animation students. Notable Cal Arts alumni include:
A113 has appeared in every Pixar feature film except for Monsters, Inc. Brad puts A113 in every movie or show he creates—including the non-Pixar Iron Giant.
Here's where you can find it in the other films:
Known as Pixar's good luck charm, Ratzenberger has appeared in every Pixar movie ever made. Once you know his voice, you'll recognize it instantly.
Luxo Jr. was Pixar's first short movie. When they premiered it in 1986 at SIGGRAPH—the biggest graphics conference around—the audience was standing in applause before the two minute movie was even over. It was a massive breakthrough in animation technology.
Luxo Jr. has three characters: a big Luxo lamp, a little Luxo lamp, and a ball with a star. If you don't know what a Luxo lamp is, think of the Pixar animation where the lamp jumps on the ball. That's a Luxo lamp.
You can find the lamp itself many times throughout Pixar's film catalogue. The shape is always the same but the colors are sometimes different. Every once in a while you can even hear it's trademark squeaking sound.
Clips from Luxo Jr. often appear on TV screens in Pixar movies. The ball also appears in every Pixar movie. I'll tell you where everything else is, but the ball is yours to find.
Whenever Pixar needs a company, it's called Luxo. See the Luxo Deli in The Incredibles and Luxo Drugs in Up.
Since appearing in Toy Story, Pixar's first movie, it's appeared in every movie since. With one exception. Incredibles 2 director Brad Bird says he forgot it. I don't buy that but I haven't found it yet. And that's not for lack of trying.
Pixar reuses the same takeout box in several movies.
Pixar knows parents are going to watch with their kids. This is their gift to you.
My personal favorite is from Cars. Lightning McQueen tells the Radiator Springs crew that Doc Hudson has a Piston Cup and Mater spews out, "He did WHAT in his cup?"
Steve Jobs became the majority shareholder of Pixar in 1986 after Apple fired him. He retained his ownership in the company until selling to Disney in 2007. When each Pixar share became 2.3 shares of Disney stock, Steve Jobs' 7% stake made him Disney's largest individual shareholder. Jobs remained close friends with Disney CEO Bob Iger who made the deal until his death in 2011.
Andy uses a Macintosh computer in Toy Story 3. His little sister Molly also listens to an iPod using what are clearly Apple headphones.
Times Square has a Macintosh advertisement on one of the signs.
A magazine reads "Scare Different." This is a tribute to Apple's iconic "Think Different" ads.
The #84 car from the first movie is sponsored by Apple. In classic 2006 Apple style, the car is all white. 84 is also a nod to the year 1984, when Apple released the first Macintosh computer.
In Cars 2, agent Holley Shiftwell's cover is designing iPhone apps.
In Cars 3, Cruz's beach treadmill plays the Mac startup sound when it powers up.
When WALL-E is fully charged, he makes the Mac startup sound.
Jony Ive designed EVE. He was Apple's chief design officer and with the company for almost 30 years. Ive was the primary designer of the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and parts of iOS. He also contributed to the design of Apple's HQ and Apple stores.
One of the clans is called Clan Macintosh.
This was the first Pixar movie released after Steve Jobs died. The film is dedicated to him.
The Apple logo appears in one of Riley's memory balls. Macintosh computers can also be seen throughout the movie.
The office of family grievances uses Macintosh computers.
This is a fictional company that appears in Toy Story, WALL-E, and Cars.
The dinosaur gas station first appeared in Toy Story. It continued to appear throughout the series. Though you'll see a modern version in Toy Story 4 when Bonnie's family stops for gas, pay close attention in the antique shop. Dinoco plays a prominent role in Cars and if you look very closely in WALL-E, you'll see it on a cigarette lighter.
Disney (bought Pixar in 2007) is also majority owner of National Geographic. Woody knocks over a stack of Nat Geo magazines in the antique shop of Toy Story 4.
Disney movies are everywhere. Just look on TV screens. Also keep an eye out for 1921, the year of Disney's first animation. You might also see Mickey Mouse around from time to time.
You'll see Highlights Magazine in the dentist's office of Finding Nemo. What children's dentist office is complete without Highlights?
Of course Pixar is going to reference themselves in the movies. Pixar changed from the Graphics Group to Pixar in 1986. You'll see 1986 a lot. The antique shop in Toy Story 4 was founded in 1986 and Chick Hicks wears #86 in Cars.
Pixar's address in Emeryville, CA is 1200 Park Avenue. You'll see this around the movies along with references to Emeryville or sometimes other real Emeryville streets will be streets in the movies.
At one time, Pixar planned to release a movie called Newt in summer 2012. It never made it to the screen, but you can see a poster that says "Newt Xing" in Andy's room of Toy Story 3. Pixar loves to reference future movies (Toy Story 3 was released in 2010).
Pixar frequently puts its employee names in the movies.
A wine from Chateau-Jessup Pauillac Medoc is seen in Ratatouille and Toy Story 4. The production designer was Harley Jessup.
In Toy Story 3, pins on the map in Andy's room match up with the hometowns of the production team.
Employee names are also found on buildings. See Lozano Records and Arriaga & Co. during The Incredibles final battle. Co-founder Ed Catmull must have also founded Catmull's Cream Soda from Toy Story 4. Producer Jonas Rivera also has a fictional career in food service with Papa Rivera's Pure Pork Lard.
Lightning McQueen is named for Glenn McQueen—a Pixar employee until his death in 2002.
Lasseter was Pixar's first animator. He's one of the main reasons Pixar is a household name. Fun fact: his first desk at Pixar was in a hallway. Animation was just a side project at Pixar in the beginning. Not fun fact: Lasster left Pixar in 2018 due to a long history of sexual misconduct with colleagues.
His name appears as the author of a book on a shelf in Toy Story. At the airport in Toy Story 2, a loudspeaker can be heard saying "LassetAir flight A113..."
He voices Harry in A Bug's Life and the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots in Toy Story 2.
An advertisement for Lassetyre tires shows up in Cars 2. He also voices a car named John Lassetire.
In Toy Story 4, a soda brand called PJ's Pop shows up in the antique shop. John Lasseter has a son named PJ. PJ's Pop is John Lasseter...
Pixar isn't afraid to pay homage to their favorite movies during the creation of their own.
Andy's family listens to The Lion King soundtrack as they drive to their new house.
Hopper has a scar like Scar.
Times Square has billboards for The Lion King musical.
Mike Wazowski stares into his watery reflection like Simba.
Arlo loses his dad to a tidal wave sweeping through a valley. Simba lost his dad to a wildebeest stampede through a valley.
Rex chases the crew and is seen through the car mirror. A recreation of an iconic Jurassic Park scene.
Rex has same roar as the T Rex in Jurassic Park.
T Rex versus Velociraptor. Ring any bells?
Zurg tells Buzz, "I am your father." Like Darth Vader. Shortly after this, Buzz falls down an elevator shaft. Luke fell down an abyss in the death star.
Buzz breathes like Darth Vader in the opening sequence. When he lasers the security cameras, we hear the Star Wars laser blaster sounds. Buzz sees a floating battery at the end of the movie. It makes a lightsaber noise when he touches it.
The courtroom window is shaped like a Death Star.
Bruce is named after the animatronic shark used during the filming of Jaws.
Bruce breaks through and yells, "Here's Brucey!" Like "Here's Johnny!"
Barbie removes her helmet like the motorcycle scene in Charlie's Angels.
The pumpkin carriage is on a shelf in Sterling's office.
Pixar films seem to exist in the same universe. Many films reference others.
In this section, the movie or franchise is the bold point. All films that reference it are bulleted below. Movies/Franchises are always listed in chronological order.
Some references take place before the referenced movie is released. Pixar loves to tease its next movie. This is denoted by (NOTE: foreshadowing)
Toy Story is referenced in many movies. This is due to it being Pixar's first movie.
Bloopers show during credits. In one, Flik quotes Buzz Lightyear, "To infinity and beyond!" In another, Woody is a film crew member.
Randall changes color to match the wallpaper from Andy's room while practicing scares.
Jessie is in Boo's room at the end of the movie. She gives it to Sully. Boo also gives Sully the Luxo ball.
When Nemo is trying to escape the tank, Buzz Lightyear is on the floor in front of the toy chest.
A sign reading "ANDY'S" is on the side of a building just before Bob and Lucius head for the burning building.
The Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots from Toy Story 2 are in Bob Parr's home office. This is a real toy you can still buy today.
All racecar tires are Lightyear Buzzard tires. Sounds like Buzz Lightyear doesn't it? It also sounds like Goodyear Eagle. That's the official tire for NASCAR.
Lightning McQueen wears #95 when he races. Toy Story was released in 1995.
During the credits, the Cars gang goes to the drive-in movie theatre. Toy Car Story is the movie playing. It features original Toy Story characters as cars with the original audio.
Rex is hiding in WALL-E's house at the beginning of the movie.
Orange traffic cones like the Toy Story characters use to cross streets can be seen in the garbage piles.
Lots-O'-Huggin' bear Bear can be seen as Karl's house floats past a little girl's room. The same little girl is at the daycare.
Grape soda made an appearance in a Buzz Lightyear commercial. Ellie pins a grade soda bottle cap on Carl.
Sid makes an appearance as the garbage man.
Sunnyside Daycare playground appears in one of Riley's memory balls.
One of Riley's classmates wears Sid's shirt but the colors are inverted.
Toy Story of Terror is a short film based on Toy Story. It was set entirely at the SleepWell motel. A sign for the SleepWell is in a highway scene.
Piñatas of Woody and Buzz hang in the village.
Sid plays an electric piano in the Land of the Dead talent show.
The opening scenes are set in a space environment that looks like Ant Island.
Andy has A Bug's Life themed calendar in his room.
When the toys are looking for Woody's hat, Mrs. Potato is reading A Bug's Life.
Heimlich the caterpillar is crawling up a blade of grass before Buzz Lightyear shoves it out of his way.
Characters from A Bug's Life are for sale at Al's Toy Barn.
A Bug's Life theme plays in the elevator while Al is taking Woody to Japan.
The tree during "When She Loved Me" is similar to the tree on Ant Island.
Flik and Heimlich discuss A Bug's Life 2 during the credits.
Mike and Sully banish Randall to the trailer from A Bug's Life.
The Cars gang sees A Bug's Life at the drive-in movie theatre. Like Toy Story, the characters are cars.
The bug zapper (Don't look at the light!) hangs in WALL-E's house
Flik is at the Sunnyside Daycare Center. The name Atta also appears on the wall. This refers to Princess Atta.
Mike Wazowski is on a book in the dentist's waiting room. He also swims across the credits.
The Cars crew sees Monster Trucks, Inc. at the drive-in movie theatre during the credits.
Mike Wazowski is hiding on WALL-E's rotating shelf
Monsters, Inc. logo sticker on Andy's door.
A toy Sulley lives at the Sunnyside Daycare Center
Sully is carved into a piece of wood at the witch's house.
A piñata version of Mike Wazowski hangs in the village.
Boo is in Bonnie's kindergarten class.
Nemo is painted behind the chef at Harryhausen's.
Sully tries to flush Boo's mobile down the toilet. The same mobile can be seen in the dentist's office. One of Boo's drawings is also on a cabinet.
Nemo is hanging on the wall of the room where Sully throws Randall.
Nemo is on the corner of Boo's bed when Sully returns her to her room. Boo hands it to Sully.
Crush the turtle makes an appearance in the credits. This is right after supervising technical director Nigel Hardwidge's name. Nigel is the name of the pelican in Finding Nemo.
The anglerfish explodes out of a dinosaur skeleton when Muntz smashes it with a sword.
A sticker in Andy's room reads "Just keep swimming." Next to that is a sticker with a clownfish.
Molly reads a magazine with Darla's picture.
Mr. Ray is on a shelf at the Sunnyside Daycare Center
In Imagination Land, there's a game called "Find Me" which has a clownfish of the box.
A picture of Darla is taped to the wall at the Marine Life Institute.
Nemo, Marlin, and Dory are on the table as Hector passes the sign reading, "Alebrijes".
Juan Ortodoncia's dentist's ofrenda is in Dr. Phillip Sherman's office. P Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way Sydney??
A barracuda hangs on the wall at the antique shop.
The P Sherman diving mask is also on display in the shop.
A young boy is reading an Incredibles comic book in the dentist's waiting room. In the same scene, his mom reads a newspaper. The newspaper features an ad for the dentist and what to do when your baby grows their first beard.
A truck sleeping at the truck stop has Mr. Incredible's first logo on the side.
Linguine wears boxers that sport The Incredibles logo.
A Mr. Incredible poster appears during the scooter chase scene.
Bomb Voyage acts as a mime on a bridge.
A bobblehead of Frozone shows up in WALL-E's house.
A version of the omnidroid appears on a poster in Andy's room.
The Radiator Springs drive-in movie theatre sign read "The Incredimobiles"
Before pursuing superheroism full time, Bob Parr worked for Insuricare. There is an Insuricare billboard at Thunder Hollow Speedway.
A poster in The Land of the Dead shows skeleton versions of The Incredibles. Coco premiered the year before Incredibles 2.
Elastigirl's bike is at the antique shop.
The villain Al's car looks a whole lot like Flo.
Luigi drives past the dentist's office just after "The End"
Doc Hudson is parked nearby while the Incredibles fight the Omnidroid.
A Leak Less bottle is among the trash piles. Leak Less is the sponsor for one of the Piston Cup racers in the original Cars.
The attack planes flown by Charles Muntz's dogs are the same that sky write "Piston Cup" at the final race in Cars.
Andy has a Peerless GT Poster. Finn McMissile is based on a 1958 Peerless GT.
A tractor is on the floor at the Sunnyside Daycare Center. A wooden Lightning McQueen also appears.
Lighting McQueen's stylized #95 appears on a child's shirt at the daycare center.
Lightning McQueen appeared on a bandage one year before the release of Cars 3.
Thomasville Speedway is written on the top of the cashier's calendar at the antique shop.
WALL-E's bug friend is in Linguine's apartment.
The scooter Chef Skinner uses to chase Linguine lies in a pile of trash.
Carl and Charles Muntz eat a scallop meal like one served in Ratatouille.
Shotgun lady is on a bag of cookies in a vending machine.
A car version called Gastow's replaces Gusteau's Paris restaurant.
Chef Colette graces a magazine cover. Riley also sees a dead rat that looks a lot like Remy when she enters her new house. Sad.
Remy is seen cooking in a tavern scene.
The antique shop displays a ring and box like one WALL-E found. WALL-E and EVE are also etched onto some glass cups.
Dug's shadow barks at Remy when he first reaches Paris.
Some people claim Carl's walker is in WALL-E's trailer. I've rewatched the scene a dozen times. I think it's a rolling chair. But the foreshadowing does make sense.
One of the postcards in Andy's room is from Carl and Ellie Fredericksen.
Carl Fredericksen's walker is for sale in the antique shop.
A painting of Charles Muntz and his dogs playing poker is also for sale at the shop.
Princess Merida and family show up on a tapestry as cars.
The Merida crest is on a plate in the antique shop.
The Brave wilderness appears on a map.
Woods that Merida explores also appear on a calendar in Ian's room.
Toy versions of the dinosaurs are on the floor of the scare simulator.
Riley's family takes a picture next to Arlo's tail.
A boy in Riley's class also wears a shirt showing a dinosaur.
A board game called "Dinosaur World" shows up in Imagination land.
An Arlo figurine is for sale at the antique shop.
Riley is in the aquarium field trip crowd.
One of the Piston Cup cars is sponsored by TripleDent Gum
Vintage advertisements for TripleDent Gum are for sale at the antique shop.
TripleDent gum shows up in Ian's room and the gas station while the pixies trash it.
Hank the octopus is in the water when Arlo learns how to swim.
Hector's guitar is on stage behind the Sweet Tea band.
Hector's home is also home to a homesick race car.
Hector's guitar is one of the prizes at the carnival.
A record of Ernesto de la Cruz music is on display at the antique shop.
The horse found on Barley's van can be seen on a bounce house at the end of movie—when you see the carousel.
When Barley is cleaning up his knocked over board game, you can see a Dorothea Williams album. Williams is the leader of the band that asks Joe Gardner to play piano with them.
Pixar doesn't just reference their feature films. Characters from shorts pop up from time to time.
Geri is the man who fixes Woody's arm in Toy Story 2. He's got chess pieces in his toolbox.
There is a picture of Geri behind the counter at the antique shop in Toy Story 4.
The unicycle is in WALL-E's house.
Scenes from the short are seen in Toy Story.
The birds appear on power lines in Cars and Inside Out.
A Pixar fan named Jon Negroni wrote a crazy blog post about how all Pixar movies take place in the same universe. It's absolutely wild and highly entertaining if you're a nerd. I'm a nerd. Here's a link.