After leaving us void of any animated sentiment in 2014, Pixar came back with a one-two punch of family-oriented, tear-jerking features in 2015. First, there was Inside Out in the summer — and I'm sure a lot of us are still trying to dry our tears after that. And just in time for the holidays, there's The Good Dinosaur, a movie that explores what would have happened if a meteor didn't hit the Earth and destroy all the dinosaurs. It is everything you would expect from a Pixar movie, but like all the ones before it, The Good Dinosaur has many easter eggs that you'll miss if you're not paying attention.
The movie focuses on the paranoid Arlo, a dinosaur who was the runt of his litter as a child. He's constantly trying to prove himself to his family, but most of all, his father. When his father dies, (I told you that this was a tearjerker), he feels the need to man up to honor his legacy. In a freak accident, Arlo falls into the river and gets separated from his family. He ends up in the middle of nowhere and develops an unlikely friendship with a cave boy, Spot. With him, he tries to find his way home — and he picks up some confidence along the way.
During his coming-of-age journey, there are plenty of Disney and Pixar references. Granted, they're not as blatant as a Pizza Planet truck driving in the background, but they are hidden in the animation — which is gorgeous by the way. Pixar definitely upped their game when it came to creating Arlo's world. The water flowing in the river looks like real water; the leaves on the trees rustle with realism; the mountain ranges look stunning; the snozzberries taste like snozzberries — OK, the last one may not be true, but Pixar set the bar for quality animation once again.
But back to the easter eggs...
The subtlety of the easter eggs gives us an opportunity to bask in the beautiful animation, but keep your eyes out for these references and connections to past Disney films, because they make The Good Dinosaur experience much more enjoyable.
Dinoco Gas Station
No, there isn't a gas station in the wilds of Arlo's world. But the gas station that appeared in Toy Story and in Cars was basically a lead up to The Good Dinosaur considering its logo resembled Arlo and/or members of his family.
Arlo in Monsters University?
A Cameo From A "Character" In Inside Out
Forrest Woodbush, the deadpan Styracosaurus who is a hoarder of creatures, might look familiar because you've probably already seen him during a memory in Inside Out.
Say "Hello" To WALL-E
In the beginning of The Good Dinosaur, there is a shot in space and I would like to imagine that if you look hard enough that you might catch a glimpse of Wall-E floating about. OK, I am totally reaching, but wouldn't it be cool if the animators includes him in the mix?
The Many Lion King Moments
There are many nods to Disney's animated juggernaut from 1994. The scenery echoes that of Simba's world. There's a moment where we see a cliff that resembles Pride Rock and when Arlo and Spot are galloping with a herd of longhorns, the sunset in the background makes you recall the "Circle of Life". There are also three gangly velociraptors that bully Arlo who are strikingly similar to the Scar's hyenas. But the biggest similarity is the storyline itself. Arlo wants to make his father proud and is trying to find his "roar," but then sees his father fall to his death into a canyon while a flood washes over him. In The Lion King, Simba wants to make his father proud and is trying to find his "roar," but then sees his father fall to his death in a ravine while a stampede of wildebeests trample him. The similarities are uncanny.
Finding Nemo Vs. Finding Arlo
The Good Dinosaur not only follows the father-son dynamic of The Lion King, but it also follows a similar journey to that of Nemo in Finding Nemo. Arlo is metaphorically trying to find his dad and then finds himself along the way. More than that, Spot is definitely a descendent of the brace-faced terror Darla in Finding Nemo — except Spot is less scary and way more adorable.
The Good Dinosaur has some quiet easter eggs here and there, but the biggest one is its homage to the Disney movies before it.