The Egg Hunt is Coming Early This Year

Easter eggs hidden in Disney movies serve as a fun activity for both viewers and animators.

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Photo collage by Miao Ting Zhen

Easter eggs encourage viewers to appreciate the small details of every movie.

What if I told you that you could go Easter egg hunting in a movie? Many viewers today are taking deep dives into their favorite Disney movies in search for cameos that reference elements of the past and future, called “Easter eggs.”

Nowadays, Easter eggs are commonly found in movies and shows. However, the trend actually began in 1980 with an Atari 2600 video game called Adventure. At the time, Atari was going through a management change, and the new president announced that Atari would no longer include their developers’ names on Atari game boxes. Expectedly, this angered many Atari programmers such as Warren Robinett, who spent many weeks developing games such as Adventure. Robinett decided to leave Atari after completing Adventure, but before he did, he left the first ever digital Easter egg behind. 

In one of Adventure’s castles lies a gray dot that displays the message, “Created by Warren Robinett” when it is picked up by the player. This way, Robinett would get the credit he deserved, whether Atari liked it or not. Unsuspecting Atari executives were furious when they were notified of Robinett’s prank, but in the end, they took no legal action due to the popularity the Easter egg brought to the game.

Robinett set the standard for putting fun references and jokes in electronic media. Many others took notice of the popularity that Adventure attracted with its Easter egg and expanded on the idea. Even large corporations such as Disney decided to join the fun, and it has since become a regular practice.

A great example is in the Disney produced movie, Tangled. The movie is about a girl named Rapunzel who lived in a tower her entire life without ever visiting the outside world. Her life completely changes when one day, Flynn Rider, a criminal on the run after stealing the crown of the kingdom’s lost princess, climbs up her tower. 

We are first introduced to Rapunzel as a beautiful baby girl looking up at her crib mobile. Upon first glance at the crib mobile, we see a big sun, which is the kingdom’s emblem. However, hung around the sun are five ornaments: one each of a horse, blue bird, chameleon, angel, and duck. Normally, these decorative ornaments are just that, decorations. But really, each ornament foreshadows an important moment in Rapunzel’s life.

The first ornament depicted is a green chameleon, which represents Pascal. Pascal is Rapunzel’s first and only best friend during her time in the tower. He was always there to cheer Rapunzel up and to push her to follow her dreams. When Rapunzel grows hesitant about entering the outside world that she believes to be full of danger, Pascal encourages her to embark on this new journey together despite his own fears of the outside.

Another defining moment for Rapunzel is when Rider attempts to scare her back into her tower by bringing her to the Snuggly Duckling, a pub with a sign depicting a yellow duck, just like the one on Rapunzel’s crib mobile. Despite the pub’s cute name, the Snuggly Duckling is where many of the kingdom’s thugs hangout. Rapunzel narrowly avoids the dangerous situation by mentioning her lifelong dream of seeing the lanterns, which prompted the thugs to talk about their own dreams. After this bonding experience, the thugs help Rapunzel and Rider escape from the royal guards who were still chasing him.

Although Rapunzel and Rider escaped the royal guards, a stern white palace horse named Maximus, representing the horse ornament, was able to sniff Rider out. Luckily, Rapunzel once again used her sunny personality and words of affirmation to quickly befriend Maximus and convince him to postpone Rider’s arrest until after she sees the flying lanterns. He quickly became an irreplaceable member of Rapunzel’s group.

After a long journey, Rapunzel and Rider finally arrive at the Festival of Lights. After interacting with the villagers, Rapunzel realizes that she had unknowingly sketched the kingdom’s sun emblem into all the pictures in her room. This sparked a wave of memories from when she was just a baby trying on her princess crown. At this moment, she realizes that she is actually the kingdom’s long lost princess and meets with the King and Queen, who confirm her theory. 

When Rapunzel first left her tower, she spent some time experiencing elements that were completely new to her. During this time, she sees a blue bird, resembling the one on her crib mobile. Now as a segue into Rapunzel’s coronation, another blue bird flies into the scene of festivities. In both instances, the blue bird symbolizes the start of a new adventure. The first blue bird symbolized the start of Rapunzel’s adventure into the outside world and the second blue bird symbolizes the start of Rapunzel’s new journey as a princess.

In the final scenes of the movie, Shorty, a thug from the Snuggly Duckling floats up to the screen dressed as a cupid angel. This certainly seems bizarre, but it correlates perfectly with our Easter egg as the angel ornament is the only decoration we have not seen yet. Shorty represents Rapunzel and Flynn’s newfound love for each other, which would be continued in the short film sequel Tangled Ever After.

Easter eggs are often not confined to a single movie. Pixar, the world renowned animation studio that is now owned by Disney, is known for using Easter eggs to tease upcoming projects in their movies. For instance, in 2001’s Monsters, Inc., we see Boo handing Sullivan a fish toy that teased 2003’s Finding Nemo.

Most Pixar movies include at least one Easter egg. (Photo collage by Miao Ting Zhen)

In Finding Nemo, we see a boy reading a magazine at the dentist’s office. Upon closer inspection, the comic book cover is a picture of Mr. Incredible from the movie The Incredibles which released a year later in 2004. The Incredibles includes various teases to 2006’s Cars and 2007’s Ratatouille, and the trend continues to this day.

While it is fun to search for new Easter eggs, it is also nice to count on them being in every movie. In almost every Pixar movie lies a hidden Pizza Planet truck from Toy Story. But that is not it because Pixar seems to truly love its Easter eggs. In all Pixar movies, some Disney movies, The Simpsons, and other animations lie an A113 reference, which refers to a classroom number in the California Institute of Arts where many Pixar, Disney, and other studio animators went for class to discover their love for animation.

Easter eggs are not only meant for viewers but are also meant for the animators themselves. Animated movies take on average four to seven years to produce. “The animators are probably bored towards the end of their production,” said Daniel Luna ’22. In order to re-energize themselves, animators sprinkle in Easter eggs just for the fun of it. But film enthusiasts are not complaining, as the hashtag, #disneyeasteregg has more than 23.4 million views on TikTok. In fact, both in depth Easter eggs discussed earlier in the article can be found at usernames elisalley and straw_hat_goofy, respectively, on Tiktok.

Viewers love Easter eggs because “they help to form theories about the Disney universe,” Johannah Doyle ’22 explains. There is almost a never-ending movie supply available to the average consumer with a wide array of different genres from which to choose. So while we may not immediately associate Beauty and the Beast with The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Easter eggs connect them as they have done for countless other film worlds.

 All in all, there is an immense amount of Easter eggs sprinkled throughout our favorite movies. So it is time to grab the popcorn and start searching for all the little details that the animators lovingly hid for us.

“There is a lot of attention to detail that goes into these movies, so I feel that the least we can do is to search for them and to admire the films,” said Daniel Luna ’22.

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