Disney – Pixar Theory

My goal for this page is to add on to Jon Negroni’s Pixar Theory. He started out great but I believe that it did not just have a theory running through only the Pixar created films. I, among other Disney fans, have found a multitude of “hidden eggs” among all the disney films. So sit through the history of Walt Disney and his animators as I show you how and why this theory is completely possible.

Animation is an amazing thing to experience. To be able to see that drawings can come to life with such realism is an extraordinary feat. The process to make these movies is a long and grueling one. Most people believe that animation began with Walt Disney, though he made many great contributions, animation really began with the invention of optical toys and their us of persistence of vision. Persistence of vision is how our brain perceives images. A piece of film is composed of shots which are divided by a black strip between them. When the movie is played the audience does not see that black strip because the images are played at a certain rate to create that illusion that the images are in continuance. Typically the rate these images are shown at was 24, 25, 30 and 60 pictures per a second. Animation is exactly that, the use of persistence of vision through different processes. The goal of animation is for art to come alive and be seen in motion. There are a few different processes to create an animation film.

One of the greatest animators was Walt Disney, who was a founder of Walt Disney Studios. Disney was exceptional at creating and carving the way for animated feature films. Although the history of Disney and his company is important, what is far more interesting is that within the timeline of Disney is a progression of animation and how animators reference both previous and future films using “hidden eggs.” “Hidden eggs” could be the animator, actor or most commonly noticed are objects or signs discretely placed within shots. Lately it has come to the attention that majority of the films Disney and Pixar partnered up for had secrets that intertwined with each other. In a YouTube video made by Lee Unkrich, the director of Toy Story 3, Unkrich challenges viewers to find all the “hidden eggs” that support the Pixar timeline. What is even cooler is how Walt Disney and his first animators began using “hidden eggs” as a joke within their hand drawn animation and how it evolved over the decades into the “Pixar Theory” by the Pixar animators who use a computer generated process to create animated films.

Techniques and Process in Animation

There are many techniques to creating animated films but they are separated into three basic categories. These categories are called traditional animation, stop-motion and computer generated imagery (CGI). Within each of these are subcategories. Each process uses a different type of medium to create the illusion of movement and a flowing plot.

Hand drawn animation, also known as Classic or Cale animation, is exactly how it sounds. Each picture is hand drawn, every little movement is a new picture. This process only dominated the animation world until the computer animation had begun. Cel is the celluloid sheet, or a transparent sheet that the animators drew or painted on. Although it was effective it had some major issues including being flammable and the occasional misalignment. There are a few other types of techniques categorized under the traditional animation but they are considered short cuts on low budget films. In the 1990s Disney Studios had officially changed to animating via the computer, which also helped cut costs.

Stop motion is the process of physically manipulating an object to look like they appear to move on their own, through taking photos of each slight movement. The photos are then put together in a series to look like the objects move. It is similar to a flip book but makes a film. At 24 pictures per a second our eyes can hold the images long enough for it to appear realistic. Tim Burton is famous for misuse of stop motion in his animated films. The cut out technique produces animation by using flat characters, props and background. The silhouette process is similar to the cut out process. Essentially it is the same method but the characters will be silhouetted. There is the puppet techniques and clay animation technique where one uses puppets and the other uses clay figures.

Computer generated imagery is the most recent and most popular to date. Most, if not all the images, including slight movements, are done on the computer. The animation can be done in 2D or 3D; it is similar to the hand drawings but done on the computer. Lastly the xerography process is like photocopying. It eliminates the hard in stage by printing the drawings directly to the cels. There are two basic techniques used, which are 2D and 3D. 2D is generally created by bitmap graphics, or a similar program, that generate flatness to the work. In 3D each object is modeled and manipulated to feel like they belong in our world but on the computer. The 3D technique became popular when “Toy Story” came out in 1995. No matter which process is used, Disney follows this basic organized process to create their wonderful films.

Walt Disney was a great boss but did not follow a rigid procedure according to Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson in their book “The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation.” They go on to explain the basic way Disney’s animated movies are created/ It begins with a stylist who comes in and draws a few things to give inspiration and ideas for plots. Their responsibility was to “create a way of visualizing the whole concept so that it would be attractive and fresh and establish integrity of design for both characters and locales” (191). Then the story man comes along, otherwise known as a writer, who has a basic script but meets with everyone to throw around ideas and concepts. He creates a basic story line using a story board. The storyboard is a visual of the basic script, no dialogue just emotion, relationship and location in sketches. These were done by the story sketch artist. Next up id the director who is more like Disney’s assistant. The responsibility of the director entails organizing the ideas of films, almost like an assistant, so that Walt Disney was in peace to think and work creatively. Sometimes the director had to make executive decisions. One of the most important tasks was to cast the voices. Although the crew new the basics of their characters and the storyline, they refused to fully develop their characters until they had the right actor and actress for the part. This could be a long process because they wanted very specific characteristics to help make the character come alive. Once they found the perfect voice they would record the lines so that the animators could get to their experimental sketches. Before the animators could hear the recording more had to be done. The assistant director, whose responsibility was to trouble shoot problems, record keep and help the cutter, and the cutter who keeps, marks and stores the sound and pictures. Together they sync the sounds with images. For a short while Disney had a “Character Model Department,” who inspired new characters, some of them even created sculptures for the animators to work off of. The department however disbanded by World War II. Story reel is the sequenced sketches on film for the director to watch. If the director does not lie it he goes back to the layout man and his animators. The layout man’s responsibility is for the appearance of the movie. “He works with the director on the staging and dramatization, building ideas of the story sketch man. He designs the backgrounds, suggests the pattern of action for the animator, indicates camera positions for the most effective shoot and cutting that will tell the story in the most entertaining way” (212). Experimental animation is when the animators create a variety of sketches to show the character’s personality based off the voice recordings and the approved story reel. All this is done by the supervising animator. The supervising animator mainly oversaw the animator’s work and will do anything to help them move the production along. The animator’s have the best and yet one of the hardest jobs. They are responsible for the spectacular story, layout, painting and styling and make it come together to captivate the audience and bring the magic to life. They finish their scenes using “the handout” which consists of the tape record, exposure sheet, and final storyboard, layout of size position and movement and scene description. As they work they use the pose test to make sure that their characters were the right size and had a fluid movement through the camera scene. When the animator’s believe they are finished with their scenes, the assistant animator looks over the work and cleans it up. Then they watch the work reel, which means the film correct sequence of scenes to show the fluidity. Once that reel is approved and makes sense without the use of sounds then the music, voices and sound effects are matched exactly to the cels of the film. This is so that when the film is played back the sounds go along with what is seen. It is harder than it sounds but that is a simple explanation of how Walt Disney Studios produced their animation films using the traditional process.

Although it may seem even easier using a computer to generate animated films, it uses a similar procedure as a traditional animation and just as much talent. They start with a storyboard to play around with ideas. Pixar Studios uses the storyboard more as a blueprint to achieve their animation goals. Their sketches for this phase is revised a number of times before it is completed. The second phases called modeling, where objects, sets and characters are made 3 dimensionally on the computer using the Pixar software “Marionette.” They also use “Marionette” to reproduce movements and behaviors for their characters. This is where it is different from the traditional hand drawn process. Animators get the main poses and actions and then the software is able to fill in the between shots so the character moves fluidly. The fourth step is shading in colors and textures using shading programs. The animators use shading carefully to make the appearances look very realistic. Next animators add lighting to the animation that simulates stage lighting using a program called “Digital Lighting.” The final step uses the “RenderMan” software to “compute every pixel of the image from the model, animation, shading and lighting information … and uses Pixar’s patented motion blur” to create and copy DVDs. It seems like it would tae no time compared to the traditional process however the “RenderMan” software can take up to 20 hours for execution.

History of Disney Animation

Two brothers, Walt and Roy Disney, decided to start their own animation studio in 1923. They called it Disney Brothers Studios. Their first animation was the “Alice Comedies” which was a mix of live-action, otherwise known as acting, and animation. In 1926, they moved their operations to Burbank and changed the company name to Walt Disney Studios. During that time Disney was contracted to create “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” but in 1928 the contract was not renewed. Therefore Disney developed Mickey Mouse, a character that was featured in the “Alice Comedies.” Mickey Mouse’s first starring role was in “Plane Crazy.” The next film Mickey was in was “Galloping Gaucho,” which led to “Steamboat Willie,” which was not only introduced Minnie Mouse but was also the first cartoon with sound. A group of short films, “Silly Symphonies,” started in 19299 and lasted a decade. Of the 75 short films, “Flowers and Trees” produced in 1932, was one of the most important because it was the first Technicolor film. At the same time, Walt Disney Studios teamed up with California Institute of the Arts, which was previously known as Chouinard Institute of the Arts.

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” Disney’s first full length feature film, came out in 1937. To Disney’s surprise it was a box office hit. When Disney tried to do as well with his next set of full length films, which included “Pinocchio,” “Fantasia,” “Dumbo” and “Bambi,” but it was not as successful as he hoped. This was partly due to World War II occurring. World War II had a great effect on Disney. The foreign release market was cut by 40 %. This led to Walt Disney cutting salaries and laying people off. Even though Disney employees were treated better than any other animation studio, they lodged a strike in 1941 demanding the right to be unionized and have greater benefits. This was the time Disney began rethinking how to make money with movies. He came up with the concept of packaged films. Packaged films were propaganda for the war and a couple were Latin Animation. This packaged film phase produced 7 films which consisted of “Salads Amigos,” “Victory Through Air Power,” “The Three Caballeros,” “Make Mine Music,” Fun and Fancy Free,” “Melody Time” and “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.”

After the war, Disney started to can out his animated films. Disney bought its first television channel and first aired in 1983. They then teamed up with Pixar Studios in 1995 to create Toy Story, which was the first completely computer animated film, and also created Disney Online. In 2001, Disney bought Baby Einstein. Disney was the first to sell episodes on ITunes in 2005. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was bought back in 2006 along with Pixar now being under Disney management. Disney broadened their television channels with Disney XD (2009) and Disney Junior (2012).

The Pixar Theory

According to John Lasseter and Lee Unkrich, all the Pixar movies starting with Toy Story, released in 1991, to Planes, released in 2014, are connected. They hint that the “Pixar Theory” only involved Pixar animators; however Ollie Johnson and Frank Thomas elude that multiple movie ideas were being tossed about then they worked under Disney.

The “Pixar Theory” really begins with “Brave,” released in 2012, but set in the 14th to 15th century Scotland. In “Brave,” Merida (the princess) discovers “The-Will-Of-The-Wisps,” otherwise known as magic. She followed these wisps to an old witch who helped turned her mother into a bear. As shown in the movie, the bear version of the Queen acted like a human for a bit. The Queen did regress as a bear but was turned back into her human-self at the end. The magic from the wisps eventually created a superhero gene.

This brings us to “The Incredibles,” set in the 1950s to 1960s Chicago. “The Incredibles,” which was released in 2004, tells the tale of a family of superheroes who battle the first self-serving artificial intelligent bot called the “omnidroid.”Omnidroid was created by Buddy, a wanna-be superhero, who also created Zero Point Energy to destroy the superheroes. At some point the Zero Point Energy was absorbed by toys. This is because the energy is able to travel in unseen wavelengths.

“Toy Story,” released in 1991 and set in 1997 to 198 Ohio, is next on the timeline. “Toy Story” reveals the first signs of life in toys and shows how they have a code of rules. “Toy Story” also shows that the toys have learned that the best way to survive is on human love. What happens when the toys are separated from their owners? We find out in “Toy Story 2,” released and set in 1999, which explains how dangerous it is for them. Toys start questioning their purpose and begin hating their owners. Hate towards humans wasn’t just from toys it was also from animals. In 2003 we meet Nemo, Dory and Marlin in “Finding Nemo” which is the story of Marlin (Nemo’s father) who searches for Nemo after he was captured by a human. On his search he meets Dory, a very forgetful fish. In “Finding Nemo” we see that fish and other marine animals are just as advanced as humans and toys but we also find that the oceans are being polluted and that some fish are being used for experimentation. This would explain Dory’s behavior, between her being forgetful and yet can read. Another movie that shows the animals resentment is in “Ratatouille,” released and set in 2007, Paris, France. “Ratatouille” is about a little rat, Remy, demonstrates a multitude of human characteristics and connects to Linguini, a human. Rey controls Linguini because it is the only way Remy can cook. However Remy’s rat clan disagree with Remy’s interaction. They feel both fear and hate towards humans.

This leads us back to “Toy Story 3,” released in 2010, where we see the toys rallying to revolt. Lots, the Huggin’ Bear, is the leader of the rebellious toys and tries to take care of his own kind. Lots is tired of being physically and emotionally abused, as are machines. However Andy, the owner of Buzz and Woody, was warned by Carl and Ellie about an uprise from the toys. They write to him saying they are planning on living in solitude.

“UP,” also released in 2010 but set in 2011 to 2016, mostly in South America, begins with Ellie and Carl’s friendship blooming into a loving marriage. Ellie dies and Carl decided to keep her promise and go to Paradise Falls. Before Carl has the courage to do so, the city is trying to force him to move because they want to expand. Finally Carl is brave enough, thanks to Russell a boy scout trying desperately to earn his badges, to move Carl and Ellie’s house to Paradise Falls. During their adventure Russell and Carl meet Dug, a talking dog, and even, a rare bird. They are faced against Charles Muntz, an explorer, and his pac of dogs who want Kevin. Years later the uprising between animals and humans occurred. The animals lost because machines teamed up with the humans, This caused more pollution so Buy N’ Large sent the humans off to space in the spaceship Axiom, which we see in later films. On Earth, though the machines are now running things, which we see in “Cars” (2006), “Cars 2” (2011), “Planes” (2013) and “Planes: Fire and Rescue” (2014). All four if these movies were set in 2100 to 2200, spread across the world to show us that no humans were left on earth. In “Cars 2” there is an energy crisis. The big company Allinol, which is owned by Buy N’ Large, uses green energy to fuel a war in order to turn cars away from the energy alternatives. This green energy actually decommissioning many vehicles. This caused a lot of pollution. In “WALL-E” we see the implications of this mass amount of pollution, which has collected over the years. Set in 2800 to 2900 Earth we see a little robot WALL-E who is the one of a few survivors thanks to his fascination with human culture an his cockroach companion. While on Axiom, the machines have developed a sense of purpose, which is when we meet the robot Eve. Eve is sent to Earth to see if it is habitable for the humans on Axiom, which is when we meet the robot Eve. Eve is sent to Earth to see if its habitable for the humans on Axiom, when she meets WALL-E. WALL-E shows Eve the last living plant and she signals for Axiom to come down to Earth to have a new beginning. In the credits of “WALL-E” we see the last plant having grown into a mighty tree. This brings us to “A Bug’s Life,” released in 1998 but set in 2898 to 3000. This movie shows how bugs now live longer. The bugs do not mention humans in this movie but do say there are “snakes, birds and bigger bugs” which is believed to be a reference to a mutated gene, which later becomes a dominant species. This species are called monsters and we are first introduced to them in “Monsters University,” released in 2013 but set in 4500 to 5000. In “Monsters University” we see that the monsters are falsely taught that humans are toxic and are from another world. They were afraid that the humans were going to erase their existence and alter history. In “Monsters Inc.,” we see that the machines and the monsters have realized their mistake when it came to humans. They discovered that they need the humans to sustain their life’s energy. With the help from machines they have created a way for the monsters to travel back in time using doors to visit the humans, which brings us Boo. Boo learned how to use the time traveling system and continued to search for her monster friend Sulley. Boo travels back and leaves clues throughout the movies.

The Hidden Eggs

Each movie has its bag of secrets. From the start, Walt Disney’s animators have contributed to the works. In the beginning, each animator created a character and some even did voiceovers. Although now the more experiences animators each has a team, they still come together to collaborate. In the movies, previous works are honored but not only that; there are subtle hints to upcoming films.

Disney and his animators had a running joke of sneaking in Mickey Mouse into all the films. It is now a tradition. That wasn’t the only hidden character or object that continually shows up throughout the movies. Another consistent symbol throughout the Disney Collection is A113. This symbol represents the California Institute of the Arts animation department. Most of the Disney animators studied there.

According to Lee Unkrich, another one of the Pixar’s animators, there are “hidden easter eggs” throughout their films. Some examples are as follows: In “Toy Story,” on Andy’s shelves are boos that correspond to Pixar’s shorts, as is when Hamm the piggy banks flipping through channels to find the commercial of Al’s Toy Barn. Mr Potato head makes a reference to Picasso and at one point when the toys are in the toy box Mike Wazowski from “Monsters Inc.” is seen. Another great reference to future movies was when Andy’s mom stopped at the Dinaco gas station. Dina later appears in “Cars” and “Cars 2.” In “Cars,” when Mac the truck was driving on the highway there is a clip from the short “For the Birds” and when he passes a rest top, on one of the truce was the “Incredibles” logo. “Tangled” animators give a big homage to the classic Disney movies. Princess Aurora’s spindles, Cinderella’s dress form and her glass slipper, the Beast’s rose among other things have been spotted in Rapunzel’s tower. Another great but very subtle hint was Mother Goth’s reference to Snow White. She is typically seen wearing a red renaissance dress but when she is arriving back at the tower she is wearing a black coat and carrying a basket of red apples. Mother Gothel also happens to loo very similar to the evil Queen, who both obsessed with beauty and carried the same dagger. This is important because it directly compares the traditional hand drawn animation process to the computer generated imagery process using the same character.

Remember how Mike Wazoski had showed up in “Toy Story,” well he and his buddy Sulley also appear in “Cars 2,” “Brave,” “Finding Nemo” and “Frozen.” They weren’t the only two characters who found their way into other films. Jessie and Nemo were spotted in “Monsters Inc,” Buzz Lightyear can be seen in “Finding Nemo,” and Lotso appears in “Toy Story 2,” “UP!,” and “Cars 2.”

The movies I have talked about were all mentioned in the “Pixar Theory,” with the exception of “Tangled.” However with some research, the classic Disney films also have these subtle references to other movies. For example in “Pinocchio,” Jiminy Cricket was created as Pinocchio’s conscious but Jiminy is also in “Fun and Fancy Free.” In “Dumbo” the forr birds making fun of him are “The Salads Amigos.” In “Snow White,” Bambi and thumper are among the animals she befriends but also the same sequence where Snow dances with the dwarves was also used for the dance in “Robin Hood” with Maid Marian’s dance. Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip’s dance in “Sleeping Beauty” was also used when Belle and Beast are dancing in the end of “Beauty and the Beast.”

That is only the beginning. Help me in spotting the “hidden eggs” in the disney movies as I review and connect them all.

Disney Movies

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs




Saludos Amigos

Victory Through Air Power

The Three Caballeros

Make Mine Music

Song of the South

Fun and Fancy Free

Melody Time

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad


Alice in Wonderland

Peter Pan

Lady and the Tramp

Sleeping Beauty

101 Dalmations

The Sword in the Stone

The Jungle Book

The Aristocats

Robin Hood

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

The Rescuers

The Fox and the Hound

The Black Couldron

The Great Mouse Detective

Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Oliver & Company

The Little Mermaid

DuckTales the Movie

The Rescuers Down Under

Beauty and the Beast


The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Lion King

A Goofy Movie


Toy Story

James and the Giant Peach

The Hunchback if Notre Dame



A Bug’s Life

Doug’s 1st Movie


Toy Story 2

Fantasia 200

The Tigger Movie


The Emperor’s New Groove

Recess: School’s Out

Atlantis: The Lost Empire

Monsters Inc.

Return to Never Land

Lilo & Stitch

Spirited Away

Treasure Planet

The Jungle Book 2

Piglet’s Big Movie

Finding Nemo

Brother Bear

Teacher’s Pet

Home on the Range

The Incredibles

Pooh’s Heffalump Movie

Howl’s Moving Castle


Chicken Little

Bambi II

The Wild


Meet the Robinson



Tiner Bell

Roadside Romeo




TinkeBell and the Lost Treasure

A Christmass Carol

The Princess and the Frog

Toy Story 3

Tales from Earths


Gnome and Juliet

Mars needs Moms

Cars 2

Winnie the Pooh

The Secret World of Arrietty

Arjun: The Warrior Prince


Secret of the Wings


Wreck – It Ralph

Monsters University



The Pirate Fairy

The Wind Rises

Planes: Fire & Rescue

Big Hero 6

Strange Magic

Inside Out

The Good Dinosaur


Finding Dory


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