Easter Eggs Abound in John Lasseter Classic Animated Films

Easter eggs, as they relate to movies, are the producer’s way of telling an inside joke. For enthusiastic fans, they are a reason to watch movies, again and again, to look for the fine details that link one movie to another.

John Lasseter, who co-founded Pixar, oversaw every animation project at Disney, and is now head of Skydance Animation, is possibly Hollywood’s king of Easter eggs. Every company he has led, especially Pixar, included scores of Easter eggs in their animated movies.

Some of Lasseter’s Easter eggs are hidden in plain sight. For instance, the Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story found its way into nearly every Pixar movie Lasseter produced after 1995.

Others just require knowing that Pixar had its studios in Emeryville, California. At the beginning of Cars, for instance, the announcer informs the audience that the entire town of Emeryville will be closed for the race. Pixar studios was located in Emeryville, California. There is a map in “The Incredibles” that strongly resembles a map of Emeryville, and a lot of the streets on Mr, Incredible’s map line up exactly with streets in Emeryville.

Other Easter eggs in John Lasseter films are for industry insiders. There is a reference to A113in all Pixar films, and it isn’t just Lasseter who uses it. A113 appears in some Disney films, video games, The Simpsons, and other animated films.

When the Easter egg is A113, most likely the animator graduated from the California Institute of the Arts. A113 is the classroom where graphic design and animation are taught.

There are other Easter eggs fans can find in Lasseter’s movies:

Hidden City Cafe. A car in Monsters. Inc. sponsors the vanity license plate “Hidden City Cafe.” The cafe itself also appears in the movie. In the 3-D world, Hidden City Cafe was a favorite eatery of Lasseter and his animation crew near the old Pixar studios, where they came up with the characters and storylines for “Monsters, Inc.,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Finding Nemo,” and “Wall-E.” The real-life cafe is out of business, but it used to have a display of Pixar memorabilia.

Pixar University, aka PU. In “Finding Nemo,” the dentist had a certificate issued by Pixar University. In “Toy Story 3,” Andy has a pennant reading “P.U.” and he has an address for a college in Emeryville on his bulletin board. Pixar University is a development program for Pixar employees. It is not a real university, but it is a program many Pixar animators have attended.

The castle in “Tangled.” There doesn’t seem to be anyone architectural style for the castle in “Tangled,” but it is definitely on an island. Supervising animator Glen Keane confirms that the castle in “Tangled” is based on Mont St. Michel, on an island just off the northern coast of France.

Bar Des 7 Chanceux in “Ratatouille.” The Pixar campus used to have a secret hangout known as the “Lucky 7 Lounge.” Legend has it that Steve Jobs used to spend time there. You have to watch very closely to find the reference in the film, so why not watch it again?

The famous house on “Up.” UC Berkeley grads and other residents of Berkeley may recognize Carl’s house as a familiar residence on Sixth Street. When Carl gets his summons for the trial to force him out of his house and into a retirement home, the number “94070” appears on the paperwork. That’s the ZIP Code for San Carlos, California, where producer Brad Lewis of “Ratatouille” and “Cars 2” fame was mayor.

There is also a flash of the character Russell’s sash in “Up,” showing a hamburger cake with a candle in it. Producer Jonas Rivera explained to the SF Gate that he and the film’s director Peter Docter used to meet at a counter at the Merritt Cafe to eat cake and discuss the movie. One time they spotted a hamburger cake and thought it so comical that they included it in the movie.  Did you know you can even find easter eggs in video games?

Easter eggs, of course, are just one reason to watch John Lasseter’s movies, but they are a great reason to watch them again and again. Looking for Easter eggs will be a reason to watch Lasseter’s upcoming Skydance Animation features “Luck,” “Spellbound,” “Pookoo,” and “Ray Gunn,” too.