Originally written by Thomas Bacon for Screen Rant
Pixar's Onward is absolutely packed with Easter eggs - and here's every one that's been spotted to date. Starring Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as the elf brothers Ian and Barley Lightfoot, Onward is a film about grief and loss. It was inspired by director Dan Scanlan's experience of losing his father at an early age, and the film is essentially wish fulfillment for anyone who's gone through that kind of tragedy.
Onward is the first true fantasy world Pixar has ever created, which makes it somewhat unique among Pixar movies. At the same time, though, this imaginative new world is strikingly familiar; Pixar has blended classic fantasy tropes with aspects of popular culture. The animation studio has created a fascinating society where magic has been overtaken by science, and pixies have forgotten they were meant to fly.
All of this means that Onward contains a delightful number of subtle Easter eggs to classic fantasy tropes, as well as all the traditional Pixar nods. Here's our guide to every Easter egg you can spot in Onward.
Classic Fantasy References
Onward's opening scenes reveal the history of the world, detailing the ancient magic that used to flourish. Magic is illustrated using the example of a great wizard, who looks strikingly similar to Gandalf the Grey from The Lord of the Rings. Later, Barley does indeed reveal the wizards of old had formulaic names like "Wendelyn the Whimsical," a detail seen in both The Lord of the Rings and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. In those long-distant days, sorcerers were adored as the easiest solution to the world's many crises - until technological development made the impossible a part of everyday life. Why train to generate magical light when you can just flick on a light? Conceptually, this is reminiscent of subplots in The Incredibles.
The wizard of old is shown being watched by an adoring crowd, and that specific scene is filled with Easter eggs. Attentive viewers will notice the wizard is surrounded by Night Holler flowers from Zootopia, and he's being watched by an elven version of Bonnie from Toy Story 3. There are also a group of rock trolls from Frozen.
Moving forward to the "present day," the quasi-magical society still has a number of fantasy references. One store is called "Sword & The Scone," a pun on the animated classic The Sword in the Stone; this is actually a repeated gag, because this was the name of a meal on the breakfast menu in Toy Story 4. A shop called "Burger Shire" serves "Second Breakfast," two delightful nods to The Lord of the Rings. Barley named his car after Guinevere, the legendary love of King Arthur, although he seems to consider her more of a Valkyrie than a monarch.
The Dungeons & Dragons Theme
The magic of Onward is heavily inspired by Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering. Magic itself can only be wielded by a specific "class" of character, notably Ian himself. Just as in these games, spells have specific requirements that must be met in order to perform them. They are:
- Someone must harness their "heart's fire," i.e. speak with confidence when casting
- Other spells require a focus of attention, such as a growth spell
- In addition, others require absolute self-belief, with Ian using magic to create an invisible bridge
- The most complex spells require all three of the above
- Finally, advanced magic is only possible with an assist element such as the Phoenix Gem
Barley is obsessed with ancient history, and as such he collects his world's equivalent of Magic: The Gathering cards, called Quests of Lore. To his delight, he and his brother wind up on a magical quest of their own; it incorporates the classic Gelatinous Cube from Dungeons and Dragons, and ends with a confrontation with a dragon, just like one Dungeons & Dragons mission. Barley's jacket includes stitchings of the D20 dice, suggesting the game really is remarkably similar.
Traditional Pixar Easter Eggs
Of course, there are a number of more traditional Pixar Easter eggs in Onward, which reference other Disney and Pixar movies. Sometimes these are prominent, but others are brief and easy to miss. They include:
- A couple of amusing nods to Triple Dent Gum (previously seen in Inside Out and Toy Story). There's a pack in Ian's room, and an advert at the gas station trashed by the pixies. Also on the counter is a cup of pens with the chicken logo, a reference to Poultry Palace, which has frequently been seen in the Toy Story films and shorts.
- Pixar traditionally get in a Pizza Planet Easter egg, and in Onward it's switched up; the company is called Pizza Realm instead. Signs are shown in the background of several scenes, and a Pizza Realm truck joins the queue for the toll booth. A box in the back of Barley's van has a Pizza Realm sticker on it.
- The calendar in Ian's room has a picture of the woods from Brave on it.
- Barley's map refers to "Brave Wilderness" and "Lock Lake," nods to Brave and the animated short The Ballad of Nessie.
- The toll bridge features a number of Cozy Cones from Cars.
- Look closely at the Manticore's Tavern. The cook is actually Remy, the rat from Ratatouille, while other members of the staff are wearing Sorcerer Mickey hats. There's even a Pixar ball in the background, emblazoned on a shield. The prize area includes the toy frogs from Toy Story 4.
- Ian performs a fireworks spell that includes a Hidden Mickey. When he turns to a page of a book of magic detailing growth spells, the wizard pictured looks like Yensid from Fantasia.
- John Ratzenberger turns up in every Pixar movie, and this time he plays Construction Worker Felix, who tries to stop Barley climbing all over historical monuments.
- Pixar also tend to put in a reference to Room A113 at the California Institution of Arts, a key location in the history of animation. In this case, Onward ends with a police call stating there's "an A113 in progress."
Pixar has revealed there's an Easter egg for Soul, their next film coming out. This may be in the scene where the father's shirt is briefly shown; it's emblazoned with the Trinity Knot symbol, which refers to the connection between mind, body, and soul.
Onward Contains A Lot More Easter Eggs As Well
Onward contains a number of references to other aspects of popular culture. It stars Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, and there are striking similarities between their Onward characters and the heroes they play in the MCU. Like Peter Parker, Ian is a socially awkward teenager who struggles to fit in; meanwhile, Chris Pratt's Barley is notable for having a mixtape, albeit one Quest-oriented and thus different to Star-Lord's in Guardians of the Galaxy. Barley's jacket even features an Infinity Gauntlet stitched into it, and the same logo is stuck on the back of the passenger seat inside his truck. Barley wears a Hydra badge as well, which may be another MCU Easter egg.
The Phoenix Egg itself - the key to bringing the dead to life, albeit only for a day - is the same color as the Soul Stone in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. In the comics, a person's consciousness can enter the Soul Stone in order to interact with the dead, but Onward inverts the idea.
These similarities may be quite striking, but some other Easter eggs are rather more subtle riffs on popular brand names. There's the"Z90 Fit," "Cloak & Cola," "Prance Prance Revolution," "Trollios," and "Mount Doom." Barley's jacket contains stickers for the band "Muddle of Mush," a pun on Puddle of Mudd. There are also a couple of '80s jokes, with an Indiana Jones-esque journey through booby-traps, and Ian flying Barley's new van in a nod to Back to the Future. Just like Doc, Ian doesn't need roads.
Pixar's latest movie, Onward, is now playing at Regal.