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Easter Eggs You Missed In The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special

Marvel Studios and Disney+ have teamed up (which we now know means more than just a dinner) to give MCU fans their second special presentation in as many months. Like Halloween's "Werewolf by Night," "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" is modest in its size and scope. It's shorter than "Werewolf by Night" at only 41 minutes. But what it lacks in runtime compared to the rest of the "Guardians" installments it more than makes up for in James Gunn-style off-beat humor and sensory overload. And besides having fun with holiday special tropes like schmaltzy music and low-quality 2D animation, this latest special presentation is as full as Santa's bag when it comes to winking nods to Marvel lore and real-world pop culture.

When the rest of the Guardians learn that Yondu once ruined Peter's attempt to celebrate the Earth holiday of Christmas, his friends decide the only way to set things right is to throw their own party and give Star-Lord the best present ever — his personal hero, Kevin Bacon. The plot itself is an Easter egg on its own, as Star-Lord was inspired to save the world by dancing in "Vol. 1" because of the Kevin Bacon film "Footloose." Mantis and Drax's plans get as tangled up as last year's Christmas lights before the holiday spirit sets everything right. These are the other callbacks, references, and inside jokes you might have missed along the way.

The opening credits

Marvel Studios has gotten more creative with its opening credits sequences as of late, especially with music cues (or lack thereof). "Eternals" replaced the typical Marvel theme with something reminiscent of a vintage Western. "Thor: Love and Thunder" put a power ballad spin on it. And "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" used its opening credits as an opportunity to honor the late Chadwick Boseman with a montage of stills and clips of the actor that played against respectful and moving radio silence. But Marvel Studios' first ever special presentation, its Halloween special "Werewolf by Night," made the most significant changes to the status quo with its new title graphic, its black and white claw slashes, and its screams and howls. 

"The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" continues this emerging tradition with its Christmas themed opener. As The Pogues' Christmas song "Fairytale of New York" plays, the usual comic graphics of Marvel superheroes are interspersed with images of Christmas trees, garlands, kids ice staking, and, of course, the big guy himself: Santa Claus. While the "Werewolf by Night" opener ends on some black and white flashes of lightning, the intro of "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" ends with the words Marvel Studios lit up in red and green Christmas lights. These cheeky alterations aren't just a nod to the season: Santa is actually part of Marvel Comics canon.

Old '97s get an out-of-this-world makeover

On the subject of music choices, "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" features two live performances by professional musicians. Alternative country band Old '97s aren't just decked out in holiday attire, they've been transformed into four different alien species, all of whom are playing their Earth instruments for the first time as they try to write a new song and "historical document" about human Christmas. That new song — "I Don't Know What Christmas Is (But Christmastime Is Here)" — is full of hilarious misinterpretations of Christmas stories and symbols. For example, the alien band thinks that if children misbehave, Santa puts dung in their socks (as opposed to coal in their stockings), which a frustrated Peter Quill insists isn't "part of the lore" at all.

Later, Kevin Bacon joins Old '97s to perform one of the group's pre-existing holiday numbers, "Here It Is Christmas Time." Fans might remember that Bacon isn't just a movie star and the subject of the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, he's also a member of the band The Bacon Brothers alongside his sibling Michael. The Bacon Brothers play a similar style of country folk rock music to Old '97s, so when this fictionalized version of the actor chooses to stay of his own volition to celebrate the holidays on Knowhere, he picks up a guitar and fits right in with the alien entertainment. The holiday special's soundtrack includes some other fun auditory Easter eggs, too, like The Strokes' Julian Casablancas rendition of the "Saturday Night Live" Christmas song "I Wish It Was Christmas Today."

Two important revelations heading into Vol. 3

Writer and director James Gunn has said that "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" will fill in some important narrative gaps and prepare fans of the MCU sub-franchise for "Vol. 3," which is scheduled to premiere in May of 2023. Those appear to be these two new facts: The Guardians are the proud new owners of Knowhere, and Mantis is Peter Quill's half-sister.

Let's start with Knowhere. Viewers might not realize that this is where they are when the special begins, but Nebula tosses off a line in which she explains that they've purchased the world that was once a Celestial's skull from the Collector. We also see Knowhere in the background as Mantis and Drax fly away. This confirms that Taneleer Tivan is still alive (we only saw a projection of him created by Thanos with the reality stone in "Avengers: Endgame") and strongly implies that Knowhere will be at least the partial setting of "Vol. 3." By the looks of it, the Guardians have done a commendable job of rehabilitating the one-time mining colony and outpost into a tight knit community that's beginning to thrive again.

As for Mantis, she's afraid to tell Peter the truth about their relationships because she suspects it might remind him of his awful father, Ego, and his mother's death at Ego's hand. Of course, Peter is thrilled to have someone he can call family, but it remains to be seen how their kinship will impact the Guardians going forward.

Cosmo has a new voice

News broke that Maria Bakalova had been cast in "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3" shortly after her star-making performance in "Borat 2," though nobody knew in what capacity. While she's expected to play a much larger role in that feature length film, she has a fun cameo-sized role in two scenes of the holiday special as the new voice of Cosmo the Spacedog. Cosmo has appeared in the MCU before in "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 1" where the dog is behind glass as part of the Collector's collection. Cosmo also appears in the end credits of "Vol. 2" and "What If... T'Challa Became a Star-Lord?"

The character originated in the comics, where he's male and part of the Russian space program. The dog was based on a real canine astronaut, who also happened to be female. With Bulgarian comedian and actor Bakalova's casting, Cosmo has been gender swapped, retroactively rendering her female in her previous MCU appearances. But, presumably, she retains the same backstory (we see her use her telekinesis with Rocket). The already species-diverse "Guardians of the Galaxy" can only get more delightfully absurd with the addition of the uproariously funny Bakalova as Cosmo the Spacedog.

Counterfeit Avengers

Sending Mantis and Drax to Hollywood created a perfect opportunity for James Gunn and company to have fun at their own industry's expense. The two most socially inept Guardians walk confidently down Hollywood Boulevard in their search for the hero Kevin Bacon, but they pause in front of the famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre (currently called TLC Chinese Theatre). Fun fact: The actual actors who play the Avengers have put their real handprints and signatures in the concrete just to the right of where Mantis and Drax are standing during their photo session, if you're ever in the neighborhood. This is also the theater where many MCU movies have their Los Angeles premieres.

Instead of Chris Evans or Scarlett Johansson in their Captain America or Black Widow suits, we see people in Spirit Halloween-quality Avengers costumes posing for pictures with tourists. Besides Cap and Natasha, there's an Ant-Man, a Captain Marvel, a Thor, and a Jack Sparrow for good measure. Mantis and Drax mistake the counterfeit Captain America for the real Steve Rogers, which leads to an embarrassing moment. But soon, they realize these selfie-happy MCU fans are a money making opportunity, and they gladly snap some group pics before continuing their quest for the best Christmas present ever.

Now Showing: Kingo

It seems that even fake MCU movies have their premieres at the Chinese Theatre. If you look closely at the banners that hang around Hollywood Boulevard, they advertise Kingo's latest project. In our world, we might all be watching "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," but in the world of the MCU, the public is getting a Kingo Christmas. A larger vertical billboard marketing the actor-slash-Eternal's own special can be seen on the side of a building before Mantis and Drax enter the bar.

Kingo, played by Kumail Nanjiani, is a practically immortal being, but in "Eternals," he's biding his time on Earth as a Bollywood star who keeps reinventing himself as his own son or grandson, so as not to arouse suspicion about his eternal youth. The MCU's version of Kingo really enjoys being a celebrity. He also fits Mantis, Drax, and Nebula's impression of actors as self-absorbed fame chasers who aren't really heroes, since Kingo doesn't show up to help the rest of the Eternals in the climax of that film. That makes this Kingo Easter egg doubly meaningful. Not only would Kingo absolutely want to star in a Christmas special, if he's crossed paths with the Guardians before, he could be part of the reason they hate actors.

A map of the stars

Another Easter egg that works as a multilayered joke with multiple meanings is the inclusion of celebrity star maps. When a drunk Mantis and Drax come to a dead end in their hunt for Kevin Bacon, the owner of a souvenir shop overhears their conversation and offers the alien duo a map of the stars. These maps are big business in Hollywood, though they're not always reliable, so the idea that Mantis and Drax could use one to find Kevin Bacon's house is a joke in and of itself.

Since she lost her money, Mantis deploys her powers to steal the map and the rest of the cash in the woman's fanny pack. A graphic appears on screen that purports to show the locations of the residences of a handful of celebrities. There's Queen Latifah, John Cena, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a floating head photo of a young Mark-Paul Gosselaar from his "Saved by the Bell" days. Once Mantis and Drax get to Kevin Bacon's house, the house number — 1988 — is a reference to the year Peter Quill was taken into space by Yondu. Star Maps is also a sort of double entendre, since the Guardians of the Galaxy exist in space and frequently travel between planets using maps of various star systems.

All aboard the Bowie

Since "The Guardians of the Galaxy" movies largely take place in space, the scenes within those movies largely take place aboard spaceships. That means there are a more than average (even for the MCU) amount of vehicles in "Guardians" properties, and most of them have pretty innovative and recognizable designs, as well as Easter egg-y names. Peter Quill started out with the Milano, named after 80s and 90s TV star Alyssa Milano, which appeared in "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 1" and "Vol. 2." He upgraded to the Benatar, named for singer Pat Benatar, which can be seen in "Avengers: Infinity War," "Avengers: Endgame," and "Thor: Love and Thunder."

"The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" introduces the Guardians' newest ship, the Bowie, named after — you guessed it — rock icon David Bowie. Star-Lord commands his crew to get Kevin Bacon aboard the Bowie, which is to fly him safely back to Earth so that they're not on the hook for human trafficking anymore. But once in the driver and passenger seats of the spacecraft, Kraglin and Kevin Bacon have a heart to heart, and he decides to stay a little longer to teach everyone on Knowhere the meaning of Christmas. The Bowie first appeared in the comics in 2019, so the holiday special is simply making the ship officially part of the MCU's canon.

Nebula gives Rocket a thoughtful present

Once everyone starts exchanging gifts, the Easter eggs in "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" get even wittier and more self-referential. Nebula — who isn't exactly known for being warm and fuzzy — gives Rocket a sizable rectangular box. He opens it to discover a metal appendage. "Bucky's arm?" he asks. "Merry Christmas," she says begrudgingly. She doesn't want to acknowledge it, but this is an incredibly thoughtful gift... not to mention an expensive one. Bucky's most recent arm was made out of Vibranium.

In "Avengers: Infinity War," Bucky and Rocket fight side by side. At one point, the former lifts the latter into the air and they take out their surrounding enemies with a circular barrage of gunfire. Afterwards, Rocket asks if he can have Bucky's gun. Bucky says no. Rocket then asks how much for the arm. Bucky again declines. This callback to "Infinity War" also calls back to the first "Guardians" movie, during which Rocket instructs the newly banded Guardians to steal a prosthetic leg in their attempt to break out of prison. When it comes time to put their plan into action, he reveals that he didn't really need the leg, he just thought it would be funny. Apparently this talking raccoon (but don't call him a talking raccoon) has a thing for collecting robotic limbs.

Groot's gift to Kraglin keeps on giving

An older teenage (and absolutely jacked) Groot carves little wooden dioramas for all of his friends in the "Guardians" holiday special. He hands out the wrapped boxes and each member of the Guardians opens theirs. Mantis' diorama depicts the beginning of the live-action part of the special, when the Guardians were standing on a balcony talking about how Yondu ruined Christmas. Peter Quill gets a carving of Mantis and Drax chasing a terrified Kevin Bacon down the street. Drax receives a miniature version of himself flipping over a police car. Nebula's scene recreates the moment everyone gave Kevin Bacon — still under Mantis' control — to Peter Quill as a gift. In other words, the presents Groot has given his friends tell the story of the holiday special.

That leaves Kraglin, who opens his box last. For him, Groot has carved a small Kraglin opening an even smaller Kraglin opening an even smaller Kraglin. This Easter egg doesn't reference anything in the MCU's past or future, it's just a clever joke about its present... pun intended.

Something special for Taserface

The "Guardians of the Galaxy" films have given the MCU some of its weirdest supporting and featured characters, the wackiest of whom might be Taserface. This numbskulled and aggressive space pirate has been in the comics since 1990, but he made his MCU debut in "Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2" when he tried to stage a mutiny and came into conflict with Rocket Raccoon. Rocket repeatedly mocks his name, to which Taserface infamously replies with a full-bodied shout, "It's metaphorical!"

Taserface didn't make it out of that film alive, but he popped up in "What If...?" where, in an alternate reality, he and Kraglin pick up T'Challa instead of Peter Quill. We don't see an animated Taserface in "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," but the character still gets a shout out. As Yondu goes through the garbage can of presents and decorations that he destroyed and threw away in a fit of anti-Christmas rage, we can see that one package has been designated for Taserface. The sloppy handwriting is likely a clue that young Peter remembered Taserface and got the angry Ravager something special.