'Monsters University': Pixar reveals Easter eggs and in-jokes
When watching a Pixar film, it’s good to keep an eye open for hidden jokes.
Or two eyes, if you have them.
After Monsters University‘s debut last weekend, Pixar is now offering up a guide for fans who may have missed some of the hidden background gags.
Animators are also notorious for slipping in references to as-yet-unseen Pixar flicks. Remember in the original Monsters, Inc., when Boo handed Sulley a Jesse the yodeling cowgirl doll, a Luxo Jr. ball and then this familar clownfish, about two years before Finding Nemo came out?
Unfortunately, Pixar isn’t confirming if there are teases of characters from its May 2014 film The Good Dinosaur, although online sleuths claim to have spotted likely culprits among the scattered toys in one Monsters University scene. (UPDATE: The Good Dinosaur director Bob Peterson confirms his characters are in there with this tweet: “Attention you MU cine-paleontologists – follow the toys!“)
Here are the references the animation company is revealing publicly now, along with official images of where they appear in the film:
In 1961, Walt Disney founded CalArts, the California Institute of the Arts, as a way of developing new filmmaking talent. The school now counts some of the most iconic names in animation among its former students.
Among them are Toy Story creator and Pixar chief John Lasseter, The Incredibles and Ratatouille filmmaker Brad Bird, Frankenweenie director and The Nightmare Before Christmas producer Tim Burton, Wreck-It Ralph director Rich Moore, Monsters, Inc. and Up director Pete Docter, and Finding Nemo‘s Andrew Stanton.
And just about every one has affection for classroom A113, the place where animation and design students first started practicing their craft. (Here’s an image of Docter, Stanton, and Lasseter on a return trip to their old stomping grounds.)
A reference to room A113 has been embedded in every Pixar film. It’s on a license plate in Toy Story, a cereal box in A Bug’s Life, and its the model of underwater camera used by the diver in Finding Nemo. In Brave, it’s above the witch’s door, written in Roman numerals: ACXIII.
In Monsters University, the old classroom number gets to adorn a classroom once again. As you can see above, it’s the number of Mike and Sulley’s lecture hall.
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The Pizza Planet truck
Pixar creations apparently love their pizza.
As homage to Toy Story, Pixar’s first feature, most of the subsequent films from the studio have included at least a background reference to the battered yellow truck that ferried Buzz and Woody back to their owner Andy in the 1995 movie.
Turning up in Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3 was easy enough, but finding a place for the truck in, say, the middle-ages of Brave presented a bit of a challenge. (The truck appeared as a carved wooden toy in the shop of the witch, whose magical abilities apparently include automotive design.)
Even though Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University are set in an alternate dimension, the Pizza Planet corporation must have excellent franchise representatives. You can see the truck parked off to the side during the JOX fraternity house party, when Mike is riding the purloined scare-pig around the frat houses on Greek Row.
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The Luxo Jr. ball
While Toy Story was Pixar’s first feature, their first animated short came nearly a decade before that with 1986’s Luxo Jr.
Directed by John Lasseter, it featured two white desk lamps — one large, one small — playing with a red, yellow, and blue ball adorned with a star. The short ran only two minutes, but was a groundbreaking piece of digital animation, going on to be the first such film to earn an Academy Award nomination.
The small lamp is now part of Pixar’s logo, bouncing on the “i” until it collapses. But the ball turns up in most of the studio’s movies, too.
Again, in films like Toy Story and its sequels, slipping it into the background is easy. In fact, anywhere play might be happening is a good place to look for the Luxo ball: it’s in the dentist’s waiting room in Finding Nemo, Boo’s bedroom in Monsters, Inc., and is one of the family playthings in The Incredibles.
In Monsters University, director Dan Scanlon chose not to hide it in the usual place. This time, you can find it as graffiti on the wall behind the announcers for the school’s annual Scare Games.
See any more references in the film? Feel free to let us know in the comments …
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