Warning: Wish spoilers ahead.
Now here’s one way to celebrate your centennial.
There are more than 100 Easter eggs, allusions and nods to classic Disney films in the new animated adventure, Wish. That’s a staggering amount, even for a studio that has long embraced self-referential movie moments — and probably the most we have seen in a major release since Steven Spielberg’s pop culture extravaganza Ready Player One.
The Wish filmmakers confirm as much to Yahoo Entertainment, with Jennifer Lee, the Frozen filmmaker and current CCO of Disney Animation, initially guesstimating there were “over 70” before producer Juan Pablo Reyes Lancaster-Jones reveals that he had created a spreadsheet to track all the references, and there were at least 100 entries. Co-directors Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn put it somewhere between 100 and 150. “It’s a very long spreadsheet,” Lancaster-Jones tells us.
Written by Lee and Allison Moore, Wish was heavily inspired by — and intentionally shaped as tribute to — the 100th birthday of the Walt Disney Company, launched by brothers Walt and Roy Disney on Oct. 16, 1923. The animated feature follows a 17-year-old girl named Asha (Ariana DeBose) who leads a rebellion against the wish-suppressing ruler (Chris Pine) of their otherwise utopian Kingdom of Rojas.
“When we first wrote the story, we wrote it very straight as this original fairy tale,” Lee confirms. “And as we were rewriting and things were evolving, certain things would come in that almost felt like they were there for us. I'll just tease the concept of mirrors. … They did it organically. And then over time we also said, ‘Let’s not take ourselves too seriously. Let’s have fun.’”
The references are both general and specific, with some more difficult than others to spot. For instance, the film’s premise traffics in some classic Disney tropes, following Asha as she interviews to become apprentice to the sorcerer King Magnifico (hello, Fantasia), wishes upon a star to gain her own powers (hey, Pinocchio) — which will include talking to animals (Snow White), including a charismatic rabbit (Bambi) — and reveals Magnifico to be an scepter-wielding (Sleeping Beauty) evil royal (Snow White again). Lee also teases bits of Walt Disney is Asha and Mickey Mouse in the anthropomorphic Star.
“There are things thematically that are underneath it that are deeper,” says the filmmaker.
Look closer and you’ll discover more subtle salutes to the studio, like a Mickey-shaped mask, or poison apple hiding on Magnifico’s desk.
DeBose, the Oscar-winning West Side Story actress, has been looking closely each time she has watched the film, and she’s willing to share some (vague, relatively spoiler-free) findings.
“The hidden gems are so great,” she says. “I’ve spotted many of them. I don’t know that I’ve gotten all 100 or over 100 hidden gems or nods, however, you leverage them. But Alice in Wonderland is all over the film, which I love. There are some beautiful references to Pocahontas. … Some of this animation is inspired by Sleeping Beauty. … I’ve seen Fox and the Hound. I’ve seen Bambi. I’ve seen a lot. Atlantis. If you can find the Atlantis reference, hey yo! … I’m not going to tell you because that’s not fun for me."
Here’s a rundown of all the Disney Easter eggs, references and callbacks we’ve spotted — with the help of some other internet sleuths — in Wish.
(If there are over 100, this might only be a third of them — so feel free to comment with any you’ve found that are not included here.)
Multiple Disney films: The film’s use of a storybook to begin its tale recalls similar starts to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), Pinocchio (1940) and Sleeping Beauty (1959).
Sleeping Beauty: The animation’s water-cooler style was heavily inspired by Sleeping Beauty, but here’s where it gets really geeky, so was Wish’s 2.55:1 aspect ratio (or wider screen), which hasn’t been used since that 1959 classic.
Tangled: In “Welcome to Rojas,” Asha sings about a townsperson who wishes to have “hair touch down to your feet,” so just like Rapunzel in Tangled (2010).
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves: Asha has seven friends she works with at the castle, and each is inspired by one of Snow White’s friendly pals. The leader Dahlia (Jennifer Kumiyama) is inspired by Doc, Gabo (Harvey Guillén) by Grumpy, Hal (Niko Vargas) by Happy, Simon (Evan Peters) by Sleepy, Safi (Ramy Youssef) by Sneezy, Dario (Jon Rudnitsky) by Dopey and Bazeema (Della Saba) by Bashful.
Beauty and the Beast: There’s a chipped cup in the kitchen sink, recalling everyone’s favorite lil’ teacup Chip from Beauty and the Beast (1991).
Tarzan: There’s a sneakily planted Tarzan call, too.
Sleeping Beauty: Dahlia’s apron was inspired by those worn by Aurora’s three Fairy Godmothers.
Disney (centennial): Asha’s grandfather Sabino (Victor Garber) is 100 years old, the same as Walt Disney Studios.
Fantasia: Asha interviews to be the apprentice to King Magnifico, who is also a sorcerer — which would potentially make her the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a clear nod to the most famous sequence in 1940’s Fantasia, which also inspired a 2010 Nicolas Cage movie.
Sleeping Beauty: As Magnifico is peering into some of the wishes he’s suppressed, one character spotted is sewing a dress that looks just like Aurora’s blue get-up.
Multiple Disney films: Later, when he starts literally crushing dreams, they’re inspired by The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan and Mary Poppins. He even slyly notes he’s “poppin’” the wish bubble.
Snow White: King Magnifico could also be called the Evil King, a gender-flip of Snow White’s main adversary, the Evil Queen.
Snow White: Speaking of the Evil Queen, eagle-eyed viewers will spot a poison apple resting on Magnifico’s desk in his library.
Snow White: An obvious hat tip to the Evil Queen? When Magnifico utters the words, “Mirrors, mirrors on my wall.”
Snow White: Less obvious? The steps to his lairs very closely resemble the Evil Queen’s.
Sleeping Beauty: Magnifico isn’t just paying homage to the Evil Queen, he recognizes other GOATs who came before him, like Sleeping Beauty’s Big Bad Maleficent. Just look at how similar their names are.
Sleeping Beauty: Magnifico also wields a scepter he could’ve inherited from Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent, casting a similar green mist and green vines across the kingdom.
Pinocchio and The Princess and the Frog: Asha literally wishes upon a star, channeling the famed song from Pinocchio, “Wish Upon a Star.” (More on this song below.) And as Geppetto did before her in Pinocchio, so did Tiana in The Princess and the Frog (2009). Only in Wish, the star comes alive.
Multiple Disney films: Star’s magic gives the forest animals near Asha’s home the ability to talk, channeling renowned animal whisperer Snow White. But there have been many a Dolittle in Disney movies, from Mowgli in The Jungle Book (1967) to Ariel in The Little Mermaid (1989) to Giselle in Enchanted (2007) to Antonio Madigral in Encanto (2021).
Bambi: Of those talking animals, one is a charismatic rabbit who thumps his foot just like, well, Thumper from Bambi.
Robin Hood: The bear, meanwhile, is named John the Bear, a la Little John from Robin Hood (1973).
Bambi: We’re not sure if the deer is actually named Bambi — that’d be a bit on the nose, even for a movie with 100-plus references — but that’s what John (jokingly?) calls him.
Pocahontas: There are sentient trees, too, just in like in Pocahontas (1995).
Alice in Wonderland: The singing psychedelic flowers, meanwhile, feel right out of Alice in Wonderland.
Mickey Mouse: Star’s heart-shaped face mask is a nod to longtime Disney mascot Mickey Mouse, character designer Bill Schwab confirmed to Variety.
Mickey Mouse: When Asha breaks into the king’s lair, Star’s magic hits a quill on his desk, coming alive to start drawing Mickey’s unmistakable ears.
(More) Mickey Mouse: There are hidden Mickeys in the macaroon tower in the kitchen.
Peter Pan: The pixie dust that follows Star around is an homage to the golden glitter heavily featured in Peter Pan (1953) and its various Tinkerbell spinoffs.
Frozen: “We love crazy,” the talking mushrooms Asha and friends encounter declare. That’s lifted from one of the opening lines (“I love crazy!”) to the Frozen (2013) ballad, “Love Is an Open Door.”
Cinderella: Asha’s original dress is embroidered with pumpkin seeds, a callback to the Fairy Godmother’s magic in Cinderella.
Cinderella: Later, she wears a periwinkle-blue cloak with a purple bow on it, the very same get-up donned by the Fairy Godmother. She eventually uses her wand to give a cart legs, completing her arc from wannabe Sorcerer’s Apprentice to full-stop Fairy Godmother.
Cinderella: Queen Elinor receives a vital message from a helpful mouse toward the end, referencing Cinderella’s key allies.
Peter Pan: In one of the most obvious nods, one of the townsfolk wishes to fly, and by the end of the story is introduced by a green-clad fellow with a pointed cap who’s working on a flying machine. It’s clearly Peter Pan, which would make her Wendy?
Zootopia: Asha’s goat friend Valentino’s wish, meanwhile, is that there will someday be a safe haven for talking animals who wear clothes — likely a gag nodding at Zootopia (2016).
Disney (general): Fireworks arc over the top of the Rojas castle at one point, emulating Disney’s logo.
Disney (general): During the end credits, character portraits from every single Disney Animation — in chronological order, beginning with Snow White and ending with Splat from Strange World (2022) — appear through the stars.
Disney (general): Sabino’s long-forgotten wish is that he can inspire the youth; in the post-credits, he’s seen fiddling away at his mandolin, formulating the first few notes of a familiar melody: “When You Wish Upon a Star,” the track made famous in Pinocchio that then became the studio’s signature theme, playing over its production logo at the beginning of every film since the 1980s.
Wish is now playing.
A version of this story was originally published Nov. 15, 2024. It has been updated with a list of Easter eggs.