Disney truly is the master of universes.
The movie-making juggernaut has been carefully constructing a universe around the Star Wars franchise it bought from Lucasfilm five years ago. It’s a strategy that was shaped, in part, by the Marvel Universe, in which Disney has woven a web of interrelated plot lines through its many superhero blockbusters, from Iron Man to The Avengers, and live-action TV series like ABC’s Agents of SHIELD and Netflix’s The Defenders, due out this year.
And Disney’s model of world building runs much deeper than that. Yesterday, it revealed its most subtle and skillful move yet. All those Pixar movies, from Toy Story to Finding Nemo to The Good Dinosaur are connected, and may exist within the same universe.
The movie studio posted a video on Facebook that maps out Easter eggs that link Finding Dory, Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, Monsters Inc., Brave, Cars, Toy Story 3, Up, Ratatouille, Wall-E, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life, and finally, the original Toy Story—Pixar’s first feature-length film.
An Easter egg is a joke or reference that’s intentionally hidden inside a movie, TV show, game, or other work of art. It’s usually a visual clue that rewards close viewing—just like in a traditional Easter egg hunt. In the first Iron Man film, before Captain America ever showed up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, his shield appeared on Tony Stark’s work bench, to tease fans. In The Departed, Martin Scorsese foreshadowed each character’s death with an X, in an homage to the 1932 Scarface film. And Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper is believed to have a hymn hidden in it.
Dogged Pixar fans, who spotted clues on their own, like the Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story in the background of A Bug’s Life or a Nemo toy in Monsters Inc., had speculated for years about whether the movies were all secretly linked. Some even pointed out additional Easter eggs they had found in the comments of the Facebook video.
Whether the minds at Pixar actually intended to set all the studio’s films in the same universe, or just nod to the works that came before theirs, is up for debate. But the ties are a testament to the intricacies of the Pixar braintrust, which advises on nearly everything that makes it into a Pixar movie. A few of those cameos, like the toy of Arlo from The Good Dinosaur in Boo’s bedroom in Monsters Inc., proceeded the movies they reference—showing the depth of Pixar’s planning.
Disney and Pixar did not say why they hid and now revealed these Easter eggs in the Facebook post, nor did they immediately reply to Quartz’s request for comment.