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While Pixar has recently been forced to break with tradition by releasing its last three movies onto Disney+ (rather than the traditional theatrical rollout), the celebrated animation company still continues to cling to its time-honored practices. One such exercise that has withstood the tumultuously evolving entertainment landscape is Pixar's sneaky custom of hiding little Easter egg references to their future cinematic projects.
Turning Red — which arrived on Disney+ today — is no exception. Discussing the feature with Entertainment Weekly, director and co-writer Domee Shi (known for the Oscar-winning short "Bao," which played before screenings of Incredibles 2) revealed that there are "one or two shout-outs to Lightyear because we have the tradition of having an Easter egg for the next film in our movies. So Luca had a 4*Town Easter egg [the fictional boy band in Turning Red] and then you can see Lightyear somewhere in the movie."
When pressed for specifics, the filmmaker would only divulge that the references to the Toy Story spinoff film can be found "in the first third of the movie." Inspired by the titular Space Ranger action figure voiced by Tim Allen in the first four Toy Story films, Lightyear is scheduled to blast off June 17. The only question is whether the title (starring Chris Evans as the intrepid cosmic adventurer) will be released theatrically or on streaming.
"I want the movie to be seen by as many people as possible," Shi said when the discussion turned to her thoughts on Disney's streaming strategy for Pixar's latest original efforts. "When I think about how I developed my relationship with animation, how I fell in love with it was at home, was watching it on VHS, over and over again, pausing the movie, trying to trace over Aladdin's weird, beautiful face and trying to understand: Why do I feel this way? The idea that audiences, that families and kids can have access to the movie immediately, and they can start developing that relationship already with the film and the characters? I think that's everything."
Co-written with Julia Cho (Halt and Catch Fire), Turning Red is set in the early 2000s where boy band-obsessed teenager Mei Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang) turns into a giant red panda once she hits puberty. The Grammy-winning duo of Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell were tapped to write three original songs for the story's fictional boy band, the aforementioned 4*Town.
“I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be interested in working on a Pixar movie,” O’Connell states in the official production notes. [Boy band music] is really like a masterclass in simplicity and memorability. It’s a really catchy melody, harmonies, claps and choreography. It’s so infectious and appealing with these young heart-throbby teens who the kids can’t help but fall in love with.”
“We had to write songs that would be popular in 2000, which at the time, I was one year old,” added Eilish. “But boy bands have a very specific sound, and it’s music I grew up listening to and loved. It was really, really fun to just play around in that world and write in the mind of a corny boy.”
Turning Red is now streaming on Disney+ at no extra cost to subscribers. We'll leave it up to you, the viewer, to track down those little nods to Star Command. Let us know what you find!