Jungle Book's Beatles
In 1967, Disney released its take on the Rudyard Kipling classic The Jungle Book. With its swinging songs, it stars jazz musicians Phil Harris and Louis Prima as Baloo and King Louie, respectively. But it also almost had some rock and roll…if the filmmakers had their way, that is. As you may have noticed, the four vultures who sing "That's What Friends Are For" have familiar English accents and mop tops. That's because they were modeled after the Fab Four, the Beatles. But according to one of the movie's composers, the Beatles declined the invitation to appear in the movie. Maybe the Rolling Stones would've done it…
Genie's end…at the beginning
In 1992's Aladdin, audiences meet a short, wacky peddler who introduces the story they're about to see, and then he's never seen again. Or is he? Over the years, fans theorized that the peddler is actually the Genie, but after he's been set free by the end of the movie (uh, spoilers). The evidence? They both have four fingers on their hands, they both have the same curly beards, and they're both voiced by Robin Williams. But after years of silence on the theory, Aladdin's co-directors, Ron Clements and John Musker, confirmed in 2015 that, yes, the peddler and the Genie are one and the same. In this case, fans' wishes finally came true.
Everyone knows James Earl Jones provided the booming voice for Mufasa, Simba's father in 1994's The Lion King. Jones is also well known for his role as King Jaffe Joffer, father of Eddie Murphy's Prince Akeem in 1988's Coming to America. What most fans probably don't know, however, is that King Joffer's royal wife, Queen Aoleon, was played by actress Madge Sinclair—and Sinclair also provided the voice for Simba's mother, Sarabi. Clearly Jones and Sinclair were a perfect royal match.
Hercules' haunting muses
Disney movies are so filled with references that some of them can slip by in a flash. One such example comes in 1997's Hercules, which features a quintet of singing Muses who move the story along. During Meg's song, "I Won't Say I'm in Love," the Muses take the form of five stone busts—and they're arranged exactly like five similar stone busts, known as the Grim Grinning Ghosts, from Disney's Haunted Mansion ride.
The best way to tame a lion
Lots of Disney characters make brief, unexpected cameos in other characters' films, but usually in the form of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance in the background. But not always. In the original Greek myth, Hercules is tasked with fighting and slaying the Nemean lion, a fearsome beast that no mortal can kill. While we don't see Hercules fighting the lion in the animated movie, we definitely see that fight's loser: the villainous Scar from The Lion King. Too bad Mufasa never thought of that.
Big Hero 6's big, heroic cameo
Even though Big Hero 6 was a smash hit in 2014, a lot of Disney fans might not know that it was actually the first Disney animated film to feature Marvel Comics characters. Big Hero 6 was originally a comic book that debuted in 1998. But what's really interesting is the cameo featuring the most legendary Marvel character of them all: Stan Lee. In the movie's post-credits scene, Fred and his dad bond over their, uh…mutual love of wearing their underpants four days in a row. Y'know…as one does. True Marvel zombies can't miss the fact that Fred's dad is voiced by and modeled after Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, and countless others. Even though he's been in nearly every Marvel movie since X-Men in 2000, this is probably the one that feels the most super.
Wreck-It Ralph's graffiti artists
There's no shortage of cameos from famous video game characters throughout 2012's Wreck-It Ralph. From King Koopa to Zangief to Sonic the Hedgehog, gamers were treated to tons of appearances from heroes and villains who would otherwise probably never get to share a screen together. But more than that, the world of Wreck-It Ralph has some even deeper cuts that only the most dedicated fans can spot. When Fix-It Felix and Sgt. Calhoun prepare to enter Sugar Rush, graffiti referencing famous games and in-jokes lines the walls. There's "Aeirth Lives," referencing Final Fantasy VII. There's a nod to the infamous Leeroy Jenkins, as well as a tag saying, "Sheng Long was here," referencing Street Fighter II's most important non-character. And, of course, no gaming references would be complete without "All your base are belong to us." Seems that the street artists in the world of games love a good meme as much as we do.
The all-powerful Konami Code
Out of all of Wreck-It Ralph's many references, there's one that truly stands out among them all. When the villainous King Candy starts to enter the secret vault to hack Sugar Rush's code, he pulls out a napkin with mysterious instructions written on it: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start. If you know what that is, congratulations: you played Nintendo games in the '80s. That sequence of commands is known as the "Konami Code," and it first appeared as a way to get power-ups and extra lives in the NES games Gradius and Contra back in 1986—both made by Japanese developer Konami. The code has since taken on mythical status among fans, and it's found its way into plenty of other games…and even websites.
Back to school
If you keep your eyes sharp, you'll notice a recurring combination of letters and numbers—A113—that keeps appearing in lots of Disney's movies. It shows up in Meet the Robinsons, The Princess and the Frog, The Brave Little Toaster, and Lilo and Stitch, just to name a few. It also happens to appear in every single Pixar movie. Why? Well, that's the classroom number for the first-year graphic design and character animation class at the California Institute of Arts, where many of the animators who've worked at Disney and Pixar started out. The code even makes appearances in non-Disney properties, like episodes of Family Guy and The Simpsons. So aspiring animators take note: if you want to get a job in showbiz, now you know exactly where to send your application.
The Jungle Book provides more cowbell
Disney won critical accolades for its thoughtful live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book, which added a new level of realism to the classic story while keeping the spirit of its animated predecessor. Christopher Walken provides the voice of King Louie, the fearsome orangutan-like creature. In one scene, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is deposited in front of all the human treasures Louie and his minions have accumulated. Mowgli is intrigued by one item in particular, and he picks it up and shakes it: a cowbell. That's a clear reference to Walken's enormously popular 2000 Saturday Night Live sketch, in which he plays a music producer in the studio making Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" who persistently demands "more cowbell!" Looks like he finally got it.
Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book shout-out
The movie is not only faithful to the book, it also gives it a nod. Mowgli has two notable scars. The one on the right of his chest forms a lower-case "r," while one his left shoulder resembles a "k." Those aren't accidents—RK are the initials of Rudyard Kipling, who in 1900 wrote the anthology of stories that inspired The Jungle Book.
101 Dalmatians' Lady and the Tramp crossover
The "Twilight Bark" is a pivotal moment in 101 Dalmatians, in which every dog in London is contacted for help in reclaiming all those puppies kidnapped by Cruella De Vil. Among the dogs who hear (and heed) the call: Lady and the Tramp from Lady and the Tramp, on a dark street, barely concealed in shadow. Also in the scene, in a separate cameo, the terrier Jock from Lady and the Tramp appears, as do Peg and Bull from the same movie.
Tarzan's familiar teapot
Upon her arrival in the jungle, Miss Porter has tea service laid out with a very nice and very well-known china set. It's the exact same pattern Mrs. Potts and Chip from Beauty and the Beast had. It only appears on screen for a split second, but it made enough of an impression to be a real-life Easter egg as well. At Tarzan's Treehouse in Disneyland, a replica of the tea service sits on a table—it's movie accurate, down to the Beauty and the Beast-inspired teapot and cups.
Big Hero 6 meets Frozen
Big Hero 6 was released in early 2014, right on the heels of Disney's wildly popular Frozen, and the Marvel-derived superhero cartoon set in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo is loaded with Frozen bits. For example, Hiro and robot Baymax take a flight over the city, and in the scene, Olaf the snowman can be spotted.
An aerial shot also shows off San Fransokyo's bay and harbor, where a ship from Arendelle is ported. And when the hero crew makes a permanent headquarters out of the wealthy Fred's stately home, the robot Baymax tries out his weaponry and blows away a statue. It's a stone rendering of the villainous Prince Hans from Frozen. Hans can also be spotted on a "most wanted" poster on a police station's bulletin board.
Frozen meets Tangled (and The Princess and the Frog)
Frozen Arrested Development fans
Perhaps most incongruously in this Disney movie for tiny kids are multiple references to the 2003-2006 cult comedy Arrested Development. The Duke of Weselton can be seen doing a chicken dance—much like one of the Bluths on Arrested Development. Further, Hans and Anna have an exchange exactly like one between Michael and Lindsay Bluth, in which they claim to "finish each other's…sandwiches." (Although Frozen's writers say that it wasn't so much an Easter egg as it was an "accidental" homage.)
Frozen and Zootopia Duke it out
Another Frozen connection is the appearance in Zootopia of Duke Weasleton, a weasel. Frozen had a character named Duke Weselton, an actual duke. Alan Tudyk voiced both characters.
Zootopia: full of funny animal business
This 2016 smash hit takes place in a world of anthropomorphic animals that looks and feels a lot like our world—just animalized—and Zootopia's writers and animators filled the movie with dozens of animal-themed puns. Look for Lucky Chomps cereal and Vanity Fur magazine, stores like Mousy's Targoat and Trader Doe's, and services such as the ride share Zuber and Furs National Bank.
Judy's punny Zootopia playlist
Similarly, during Judy Hopps' first foray into Zootopia, she briefly scrolls through the music on her digital device. She's apparently into artists such as the Beagles, Mick Jaguar, Hyena Gomez, Kanine West, Fleetwood Yak, and Destiny's Cub. She settles on Gazelle (voiced by real-life pop star Shakira), whose album includes parody titles of Disney songs like "Let it Goat" and "Part of Your Wool."
Zootopia's slow-building sloth gag
Kristen Bell played the very-fast-talking character of Anna in Frozen. She returns to the Disney fold in Zootopia, voicing a completely opposite kind of character: the incredibly slow-moving (and slow-talking) Priscilla the sloth, who works at the DMV. That character was given to Bell due to her well-known and obsessive love of sloths. A video of Bell being surprised with one at home and then talking about it on Ellen was a huge viral hit in 2012.
Zootopia alludes to a dark Disney moment
Early in the film, fox Nick Wilde sells popsicles to a group of lemmings exiting a bank—once one lemming gets one, they all want one. The bank's name is Lemming Brothers, a play on "Lehman Brothers," but the lemmings and their behavior refer to a very dark moment in Disney history. In 1958, a crew making the Disney nature documentary White Wilderness staged a scene in which a line of lemmings all jumped off of a cliff to their deaths—once one leapt, they all did. Lemmings aren't really that obedient and zombielike, but White Wilderness created that misconception, which Zootopia references and skewers.
The Hunchback says bonjour to Belle
As the Hunchback sings "Out There," he looks down at a street scene, where people go about their business. Just barely visible is Belle from Beauty and the Beast—walking and reading a book, of course.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame features a familiar gargoyle
Elsewhere in the movie, the Hunchback spends a lot of time atop the buildings of Paris. And in the 15th century, that means he passes by lots of gargoyles. Most of them are your typical gargoyles, except for one: a rendering in stone of Pumbaa, the flatulent warthog from The Lion King.
The Little Mermaid's countless cameos
In the crowd scene at the beginning of the movie, King Triton makes his big entrance on a chariot pulled by dolphins. Lots of well-wishers have amassed to show their respects. Among them are the classic Disney characters of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy, all in a cluster. At the royal wedding at the end of the movie, some very special guests are invited, including the King and Grand Duke from Cinderella, and Kermit the Frog.
Mr. Limpet, still under the sea
It isn't just Disney-controlled characters getting cameos in The Little Mermaid: a fish that looks exactly like Don Knotts from the bizarro '60s animated movie The Incredible Mr. Limpet sings and dances with other sea creatures at the end of the big "Under the Sea" number. (He's the one wearing fish-size glasses—and looking like Don Knotts.) The moment was later re-created in the Little Mermaid ride at Disney's California Adventure park.
Toy Story's Sid, all grown up
Toy Story 3 is a sequel, so naturally some characters from the previous movies are bound to show up. But it's not always who you're expecting…or even notice. The villain of the first movie was Sid, the kid next door who destroyed toys for kicks. Two Story movies later, he makes an appearance. He's all grown up and working as a garbage collector—and he's still rocking a T-shirt with the same skull design.
Toy Story 3 goes Up
Also showing up are characters from Disney/Pixar's Up. As Andy is packing up his room for college, a shot of his bulletin board shows a postcard from Carl and Ellie, the old married couple from Up. (Looks like Ellie got to go somewhere, it would seem.)
Inside Out and shadow free
This is a recurring detail that's right in plain sight, but very easy to miss. Apparently the character of Joy is so bright and sunny that she doesn't have a shadow—she's literally a source of light.
Pixar loves Pizza Planet
In the first full-length Pixar movie, Toy Story, Woody and Buzz hitch a ride on a Pizza Planet delivery truck and wind up at the insane pizza arcade. Ever since, the beat-up yellow truck has appeared in every single subsequent Pixar movie (except The Incredibles).
In A Bug's Life, it's parked in a field, next to a trailer, "above" Bug City. (When Randall is banished from the monsterworld in Monsters, Inc., the exact same shot recurs in Monsters, Inc., but the trailer and truck are in much better shape.) In Cars, the Pizza Planet truck is a living, breathing creature with eyes who attends the big Piston Cup race.
They've got Pizza Planet in Paris! In Ratatouille, it can be seen in the background of a city scene, driving over a bridge. It's also a broken-down relic of earth's excesses, showing up in a pile of junk and debris in WALL-E.
Brave's animators had to get a bit more tricky, since the movie takes place in medieval Scotland. It appears as a wooden carving on the Witch's table. Finally, it's also inside one of the hundreds of happy memory orbs in Inside Out.