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The Toy Story Easter Egg You Probably Missed In Luca

One thing animation fans can agree on is that Pixar Animation Studios is at a very intriguing juncture in its history. After revolutionizing animated cinema in the 1990s and 2000s and establishing a standard of quality against which all CGI animated films are measured, Pixar saw the rest of the industry catch up by adopting its model of inventive, ambitious, tightly-scripted, four-quadrant adventures with a strong emotional punch. Now, with "Pixar-style" storytelling having become the norm rather than the avant-garde proposition it once was, the most prestigious American animation studio finds itself in the curious position of having to go off-book to keep things fresh.

That is just what Enrico Casarosa and company did with "Luca," the studio's refreshingly breezy, low-stakes, and 2D-inspired 2021 offering. While some critics objected to it for not even attempting to deliver the stadium-sized emotional catharsis commonly associated with Pixar's most acclaimed efforts (per Rotten Tomatoes), "Luca" also managed to amass a huge, devoted fan following worldwide exactly because it looked and felt so different from the pack of contemporary animated blockbusters. 

It's hard to tell right now if "Luca" will lead the charge in ushering Pixar into a new, more freewheeling, experimental era. But while we wait for "Turning Red" to provide more answers, it's a good idea to take a closer look at the ways in which "Luca" converses with the Pixar legacy — such as by putting its own spin on one of the most storied Pixar traditions.

The Pizza Planet truck makes an appearance in Luca

Every Pixar movie, even the loosest and smallest in scope, builds to a stirring climax. "Luca" is no exception: A teamless Luca (Jacob Tremblay), desperate to make amends with Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), sets out to win the Portorosso Cup on his own so he can buy their Vespa and make things right. Everything seems to be going surprisingly well — until rain starts to pour on Portorosso during the closing bicycle race.

It is during this heart-pounding race that "Luca" sneaks in an Easter egg in reference to the Pixar movie that started it all: 1995's "Toy Story." As Ercole (Saverio Raimondo) and Giulia (Emma Berman) turn a tight corner, the Pizza Planet delivery truck can be seen parked in front of a yellow house.

Of course, in typical "Luca" fashion, it's not the Pizza Planet truck exactly as it was seen in "Toy Story." Instead, this is a Pizza Planet delivery vehicle that feels at home amid the alleyways and Vespas of the highly stylized seaside Italian town of Portorosso — which is to say, that in one of its many spins on classic Pixar grammar, "Luca" introduces the Pizza Planet three-wheeled pickup.

The Pizza Planet truck appears in almost every Pixar movie

Fans of Pixar will, of course, nod in familiarity when they spot a Pizza Planet vehicle in the background. The truck has appeared in some shape or form in every single Pixar feature film, with the sole exception of "The Incredibles."

In the "Toy Story" films, the truck's existence is naturally justified by Pizza Planet being a popular, oft-mentioned restaurant. In both "A Bug's Life" and "Monsters, Inc.," the truck appears parked next to the same trailer — how's that for Easter eggs on top of Easter eggs? In "Finding Nemo," the truck drives by for a split second while Gil (Willem Dafoe) lays out his escape plan.

The truck can also be seen crossing a bridge from very far away in "Ratatouille" and getting scanned by EVE (Elissa Knight) early on in "WALL-E." In "Up," it's visibly parked on a curb as Carl's (Ed Asner) house floats away. In "Monsters University," it makes for apt frat house ambiance sitting on the Jaws Theta Chi lawn during a party. You can also spot it in several of Riley's memory orbs in "Inside Out," wrecked at the bottom of the ocean in "Finding Dory," driving by as Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) looks out a window in "Coco," parked in an alley in "Incredibles 2," passing by a toll gate in "Onward," and in the Hall of Everything — where else? — during "Soul."

Luca isn't the first film to change up the truck's appearance

The particular design of the Pizza Planet vehicle in "Luca" is perfect for the movie's setting and atmosphere, so kudos to the Pixar art team for opting to change it. But it's worth mentioning that while "Luca" does add a unique spin to this classic Easter egg, it is not the first film to customize this ride, so to speak. "Incredibles 2" is another example of a film that adapted the truck's design, modifying it to a retro style reminiscent of 1950s vehicles in keeping with the film's overall midcentury modern aesthetic.

In movies where the truck's appearance wouldn't make sense narratively, meanwhile, the folks at Pixar had to get even more creative. "Brave" features the truck as a wood sculpture on the Witch's (Julie Walters) worktable, and "The Good Dinosaur" sneakily places a Pizza Planet truck-shaped rock in the asteroid belt seen in the opening shot. And that's not even getting into the "Cars" trilogy, in which the Pizza Planet truck is, of course, a character.

Interestingly, "Toy Story 4," a movie that could have easily incorporated the truck as an actual truck, instead opted to feature it as a tattoo on carnival worker Axel's (Bill Hader) left calf.

Pixar movies are filled with other traditions

The Pizza Planet truck isn't the only recurring Pixar Easter egg to make a requisite appearance in "Luca."

The Luxo ball, which made its debut being iconically deflated in the 1986 short "Luxo, Jr.," has also appeared in a lot of Pixar features and shorts, including "Toy Story," "Monsters, Inc.," "Up," "Inside Out," and "Coco." In "Luca," it can be seen on a rooftop, also during the bike race.

And then there's the number A113, which was the number of the classroom where many character animation lessons took place at the California Institute of the Arts (via Vanity Fair). The number has appeared in some capacity in every Pixar movie except "Monsters, Inc.," as well as quite a number of other films, TV shows, and video games — CalArts alumni are everywhere in the industry, as it turns out. "Luca" features A113 rather prominently as the seat number on Luca's train ticket to Genova.

This all goes to show that for how much it strayed from the typical Pixar storytelling path, "Luca" is still unmistakably a Pixar movie — which might explain why the film's simple, wistful story of young friendship and boys yearning to travel the world on a Vespa made such a huge impact on so many viewers.