Making an animated film is a long and sometimes tedious process. So it's no wonder that the artists who make these movies slip little in-jokes into their work to amuse themselves and sharp-eyed viewers. Here are ten of the best Disney cameos, references and other in-jokes. (None of them are filthy. You'll have to look elsewhere for those.)
'Lady and the Tramp' Gang in '101 Dalmatians'
Earlier Disney films didn't include quite as many in-jokes as more modern ones, but characters did show up in other movies from time to time. These appearances weren't necessarily meant as cameos. Most of the time, character designs or pieces of animation were reused just to cut down on the amount of work needed to produce a new film.
The Twilight Bark scene in '101 Dalmatians' required a lot of dogs, so several characters from Lady and the Tramp made appearances. Keep an eye out for Lady, Peg, Jock the scottie and Bull, the ever-so-creatively- named bulldog.
Mickey and Pals in 'The Little Mermaid'
This is a tough-to-spot cameo towards the beginning of the film. When King Triton arrives for his daughters' concert, Mickey, Donald and Goofy are seated in the audience. All three characters are very small, so your best bet is going frame by frame on a large TV.
California Signs in 'Beauty and the Beast'
Before Belle's father Maurice ends up at the Beast's castle, he comes across a roadsign in the woods. The sign is badly weathered, so it's difficult to read. But if you look carefully, or take a screenshot and do a little Photoshop work, you can make out the writing. Anaheim is home to Disneyland, while Valencia is the site of Six Flags Magic Mountain, a rival theme park.
In the film, the path labelled “Anaheim” is well lit and pleasant-looking while the “Valencia” path is shadowy and frightening. The other signs point to other southern California cities, possibly the animators' hometowns.
Itty Bitty Beast in 'Aladdin'
The shapeshifting, cultural reference spewing Genie makes 'Aladdin' a treasure trove of cameos, including several nods to Disney films past. Pinocchio and Sebastian are obvious, but there's a much subtler Disney cameo that doesn't even involve the Genie. In the scene where the Sultan is playing with the animal stacking toys, look on the left side of the animal pyramid towards the top and you'll see a figure of Beast. Even ancient Agrabah isn't immune to Disney merchandising.
Belle's Cameo in 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'
This is a pretty obvious cameo. Since 'Hunchback' is set in France, you'd almost expect Belle to make an appearance. She can be seen walking down the street reading a book while Quasimodo sings his “I want” song, “Out There.” Look closely and you'll also spot the Rug from 'Aladdin' and Pumbaa (hanging from a stick) from 'The Lion King.' (See the clip below.)
Scar in 'Hercules'
The Greco-Roman hero Hercules is traditionally depicted wearing the invulnerable hide of the Nemean lion, a beast Hercules slew as his first labor. Though he doesn't wear it all the time, Disney's Hercules is seen wearing a lion skin belonging to a very particular lion. Andreas Deja was the lead animator on both Hercules and the villainous Scar, so this odd cameo is a nod to the connection between the characters.
Mrs. Potts and the Puppy in 'Tarzan'
You don't need a quick eye or an encyclopedic knowledge of Disney movies to spot Mrs. Potts and her family (sans facial features) during the 'Trashin' the Camp' musical number. But another character cameo is a bit more of a challenge.
When Tarzan introduces his new human friends to his ape family, watch carefully during the scene where the gorillas turn Professor Porter upside down. Among the items that fall out of his pockets is a mini plush of Little Brother, the cute little puppy from 'Mulan.'
Dumbo in 'Lilo and Stitch'
While a flying baby elephant wouldn't be out of place among the aliens of 'Lilo and Stitch,' the pint-sized pachyderm only appears in toy form. Dumbo can be seen on an easel in Lilo's room in a couple of shots. The backgrounds in 'Lilo and Stitch' were painted in watercolor, a technique that hearkens back to the look of older Disney films like 'Dumbo.' So the little elephant's cameo is in recognition of the earlier film's influence on 'Lilo and Stitch.'
Stitch in 'Treasure Planet'
Although he's a relative newcomer, Stitch has also enjoyed a cameo in another movie. In the beginning scenes of 'Treasure Planet,' he appears as a toy on a shelf in young Jim Hawkins' bedroom.
Disney Animator Jazz Group in 'The Princess and the Frog '
If you really want to impress someone with your Disney knowledge, roll out this bit of trivia at the end of 'The Princess and the Frog.' Louis the alligator gets his happy ending playing lead trumpet for a band called “The Firefly Five Plus Lou.” Obviously the name is in honor of Louis' firefly friend Ray, but it's also a play on The Firehouse Five Plus Two, a Dixieland jazz group from the '50s and '60s made up of Disney studio employees.