Walt Disney always had a passion for making children happy with his animation characters. This passion translated into a business that grew to be one of the biggest (if not the most massive) multinational mass media and entertainment conglomerates in the world. Though it has branched out into a multitude of genres and niches, it’s still generally in the business of entertaining children with wholesome projects. The company also owns Disneyland and all its other theme parks, which aptly carry the tagline “The happiest place on earth.”
Given Disney’s massive universe, it’s no surprise that its animators enjoy paying homage to a few of their many characters and creations in various Disney films. The company is famous for placing Easter eggs in all of its films, the most famous of which are the “hidden Mickeys,” which feature Mickey’s famous ears hidden in parts of the frame. Here are a few other Disney Easter eggs you may not have known about.
15 The Lion King’s Scar in Hercules
Everyone knows the legend of Hercules, the son of Zeus and the greatest of the Greek heroes. Disney decided to put its own spin to the Greek legend when they developed an animated version of his story and released it in 1997. The film follows Hercules from birth to his teenage years and finally to the time he reaches his peak as a man and great warrior. Throughout his adventures, he falls in love with Megara or Meg for short, a damsel whom Hercules rescues. At the end of the Zero to Hero musical number, Hercules is seen dancing with a pelt on his head. He eventually tosses it to the ground and the pelt is revealed to be none other than Scar, the villain in The Lion King. Zazu did insist that Scar would someday make a very handsome rug, so there’s that!
14 Lady, Tramp, and Jock in 101 Dalmatians
Through the years, Disney has loved creating animated series and films based on animals, which is no surprise, since Walt Disney’s first successful cartoon character creation was Mickey Mouse. But the studio has taken a liking to other animals for their films as well, especially those of the canine variety. The 1955 film Lady and the Tramp tells the story of a female American cocker spaniel named Lady and her romance with a male stray mutt named Tramp. Six years later, Disney released another animated film featuring dogs, the 1961 adventure film 101 Dalmatians, telling the story of a litter of Dalmatian puppies kidnapped by Cruella de Vil to make them into fur coats. It’s no real surprise that we saw some of our favorites in Lady and the Tramp amongst the Dalmatians. In one scene, Jock from Lady and the Tramp is shown helping the Dalmatian puppies escape. Another scene shows Lady and Tramp in the Twilight barking scene.
13 From the woods in Beauty and the Beast to California
Disney’s 1991 animated film Beauty and the Beast is arguably the most critically acclaimed film the company produced during the Disney Renaissance. It blazed the trail for animated films in awards shows, being the first animated film in history to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Disney later adapted it onto the stage in a very successful Broadway run and recently made a live-action film of the cartoon, starring Emma Watson as Belle. The live-action film drew in even more crowds and profits than the original animated version. In the cartoon, there’s one scene where Maurice and his horse Felipe are lost in the woods, when they come across a bunch of road signs. Two of the road signs say Valencia and Anaheim. These two cities have some significance to Disney, as Disneyland is in Anaheim and many Disney artists study in California Institute of Technology in Valencia.
12 Maleficent’s spinning wheel, Pinocchio, and Disney fairy tale books in Tangled
Disney’s take on the age-old fairy tale about Rapunzel, the damsel who was trapped in a tower by a witch and whose long hair was used as a ladder to get into the tower from the bottom, was the 2010 animated film Tangled. It featured the voices of Mandy Moore (as Rapunzel) and Zacahary Levi (as Flynn Rider) and has gone down as one of Disney’s most beloved classics. There are a bunch of Easter eggs in the film. The spinning wheel that put Princess Aurora in a deep sleep can be seen in Rapunzel’s tower in the background. Also, Pinocchio is seated in the rafters during the “I’ve Got a Dream” scene. And lastly, we see three classic Disney books in the scene were Rapunzel and Flynn are reading: Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast.
11 Cinderella’s royals, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid is one of the many films whose story was altered by Disney to make it have the token happy ending. It’s based on the Danish fairy tale of the same name by famed children’s author Hans Christian Andersen and the ending in the original story is pretty depressing. Of course, Disney’s ending had the mermaid-turned-human Ariel living happily ever after with human Prince Eric. Whatever people’s opinion on the Disney film, it was still one of the most successful and marked the start of the Disney Renaissance. There have been many cameos in the film. In the scene where King Triton’s daughters were to hold a concert for his subjects, you can see Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and Kermit the Frog in the audience! Also, the scene on the ship of Prince Eric shows the king and grand duke from Cinderella aboard.
10 Mrs. Potts and Chip in Tarzan
It’s hard to say how many versions there are of Tarzan, based on the novel Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. There have been comic book, radio, and film adaptations featuring the famous “ape man” and it’s no surprise that Disney also dipped its toes into that universe. The 1999 film Tarzan was the last film of the Disney Renaissance era and featured the voices of Tony Goldwyn (Tarzan), Minnie Driver (Jane Porter), and Glenn Close (Kala), among others, and with all the film’s songs written by Phil Collins. In a scene in the jungle, we see two very familiar objects on a cloth-covered table: Mrs. Potts and Chip from Beauty and the Beast, still in their cursed forms of a tea pot and tea cup, are being used to serve tea!
9 Belle and Pumbaa in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre Dame is probably one of the darker classic stories that Disney turned into animation with the film’s release in 1996. The plot centers on Quasimodo, Notre Dame’s deformed bell-ringer, and his struggles as an outcast in society. It dealt with themes of infanticide, lust, genocide, and sin, though in a milder version than how these are portrayed in Victor Hugo’s novel. In true Disney fashion, some Easter eggs were placed in this film as well. Pumbaa from The Lion King makes an appearance as a gargoyle in the scene where Quasimodo is hanging off the edge of the cathedral. In the scene where Quasimodo sings “Out There,” you can see an aerial view of Paris’ streets, where Belle from Beauty and the Beast is strolling down with her nose buried in a book.
8 Tinkerbell in The Black Cauldron
Before the Disney Renaissance, there was a string of films that the company produced which were deemed critical and box office failures. This is probably due to the fact that the cartoons released pre-Renaissance contained storylines that didn’t appeal to general viewers. One such film was the 1985 animated movie The Black Cauldron, which was so poorly received and was beaten at the box office by The Care Bears Movie. But in Disney fashion, it had its share of Easter eggs. The film is set in the mythical land of Prydain during the Middle Ages and centers on the evil Horned King, who is in search of an ancient magic cauldron that will help him conquer the world. In the scene where Taran, Princess Eilonwy, and Fflewddur Fflam discover the fairies’ underground kingdom, Tinkerbell from Peter Pan makes a little cameo.
7 King Triton at Mardi Gras in The Princess and the Frog
We all know the Brothers Grimm fairy tale The Frog Prince. Disney’s adaptation of the story is the 2009 animated film The Princess and the Frog, set in 1920s New Orleans, Louisiana. The plot revolves around a hardworking waitress named Tiana, who has high hopes of owning her own restaurant someday. She kisses a frog who was once a prince and turns into a frog herself. The rest of the story is her quest to turn back into a human and eventually find love with her frog prince, Naveen. Given that the setting of the film is New Orleans, it was but expected that a portion of the movie would feature Mardi Gras, for which New Orleans is famous. During the parade, King Triton from The Little Mermaid makes an appearance as a Mardi Gras float.
6 A postcard from Up’s Carl and Ellie in Toy Story 3
Disney is known for milking its successful franchises for all they’re worth. That’s why they love doing remakes and sequels of some of their more popular films. One example is the Toy Story franchise. The premise is based on the concept that unknown to humans, all toys are secretly alive, as seen by the adventures of Sheriff Woody the cowboy, Buzz Lightyear the astronaut, and their other fellow toys. The first film was released in 1995 and there have been two others in its successful wake. In Toy Story 3, a scene shows Andy’s bulletin board in the background. On the bulletin board, you can see a postcard from Carl and Ellie, the beloved, travel-hungry couple from Up, another successful film by Pixar. In a nutshell, an elderly Carl ties thousands of balloons to his house so he can fly to South America to fulfill the promise he made to Ellie before she passed away.
5 Dumbo in The Great Mouse Detective
Disney’s 26th animated feature film was the 1986 animated mystery comedy film The Great Mouse Detective. It may not join the ranks of Beauty and the Beast or Snow White in terms of Disney’s most popular, but it was entertaining nonetheless and set the stage for the Disney Renaissance Period, beginning in the late 1980s. With its main characters as mice and rats living in Victorian London, it was based on the children’s book series Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus. It pays homage to Sherlock Holmes with a heroic mouse named Basil, whom Titus named after actor Basil Rathbone, who played Sherlock Holmes in film. In terms of Easter eggs, our favorite flying elephant Dumbo makes a cameo as a bubble toy sometime during the film, with bubbles popping out of his trunk.
4 Guests at Elsa’s coronation and Mike Wazowski/Mickey Mouse in Frozen
It’s considered the highest-grossing animated film of all time, raking in over $1 billion worldwide when it was released. Based on the fairy tale The Snow Queen, the plot of Frozen went through several treatments before we saw the final product onscreen. It centers around orphaned sisters Elsa, who has magic and her optimist younger sister Anna and the notion that true love doesn’t always equate to romantic love. Almost everyone already knows that Rapunzel and Flynn Rider were seen as guests in Elsa’s coronation, but, did you know that Tiana and Naveen from The Princess and the Frog were spotted as well? Also, in the scene that features Oaken, the owner of Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna, you see a small figure of Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc. on the desk of Oaken. Lastly, there’s a little Mickey Mouse doll that’s seen in the sisters’ castle.
3 Disney’s PSA in Frozen about eating boogers
The main story of Frozen may be how to accept who you really are (Elsa and her magic) and true love is not just romantic (Elsa and Anna share true love), but there are several side plots in the film as well. One was the love triangle Anna found herself in. At the beginning of the film, she is smitten with Prince Hans of the Southern Isles, but as the story progresses we see her relationship developing with Kristoff, the iceman. Like many famous love stories, they start off hating each other and trading insults and barbs back and forth. At one point, Kristoff tells Anna that all men eat their own boogers, even princes such as Hans. At the end of the film, Disney put a public service announcement (PSA) in its closing credits, saying what Kristoff said about boogers was not necessarily a reflection of the views or opinions of The Walt Disney Company.
2 The peddler and the genie in Aladdin were supposed to be one.
Aladdin was one of the films that was developed and released during Disney’s Renaissance, which was the period that saw a string of critically and commercially successful films created by the animation giant. Based on the Arabian folktale Aladdin and the Magic Lamp from One Thousand and One Nights, Disney’s version made the film more light-hearted for its young viewers. It featured catchy songs such as “Friend Like Me,” “Prince Ali,” and the award-winning “A Whole New World.” The film’s most famous cast member was the late great Robin Williams, who voiced the beloved genie and sang two songs on the soundtrack as well. But not many know that Williams also voiced the peddler at the beginning of the movie. The reason for this was because said peddler was supposed to be later revealed as the genie himself. Plans changed, but producers retained Williams’ voice for the peddler.
1 Real-life celebrities were the inspiration for some favorite characters.
It’s not too far-fetched to believe that Disney based many of its animated films’ characters on real-life people. After all, every creative idea is drawn from a muse. Sometimes the inspiration for a character is a regular person on the street or perhaps a loved one of one of the project’s writers or producers. Other times, characters are based on actual celebrities. For example, many may not know that Ariel from The Little Mermaid was based off actress Alyssa Milano, obviously not for her red hair, but more for her mannerisms, facial expressions, and speaking voice. And did you know Aladdin was based on Tom Cruise? They share the same smile. Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid, on the other hand, was inspired by popular ‘70s drag singer Divine. BONUS: the vultures in The Jungle Book are based on The Beatles.