9 The Shining References Buried in Pixar Films

Photo Illustration by Mental Floss. Woody Image: iStock. Background: IFC Midnight
Photo Illustration by Mental Floss. Woody Image: iStock. Background: IFC Midnight

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining: Not the most kid-friendly movie! But, as circumstance would have it, it’s a favorite film of Pixar regular Lee Unkrich, who has directed or co-directed five Pixar features—including Toy Story 2 and 3; Monsters, Inc.; Finding Nemo; and Coco—in addition to doing editing work on several others. As such, it’s no surprise (or maybe it is) that several references to The Shining, from the obvious to the obscure, have snuck into Pixar’s lineup over the years. Here are nine of them.


One of the most iconic images from Stanley Kubrick’s filmography is of Danny (Danny Lloyd) cycling through the halls of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel. That same iconic carpet can be found in Toy Story, where it adorns the home of the toy-torturer Sid. Unkrich, who was one of the editors on the film, credits that particular Easter Egg to production designer Ralph Eggleston.

2. THE NUMBER 237 // TOY STORY 3 (2010)


Unkrich worked several references to the number 237—the room in the Overlook Hotel where some particularly trippy things go down for Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson)—into Toy Story 3, which he directed. The license plate on a garbage truck in one scene reads RM237; Woody instant messages a toy whose code name is Velocistar237; and the model number of a security camera in Sunnyside Daycare is Overlook R237.


Speaking of Sunnyside Daycare’s security system: It features an intercom that’s an exact (albeit animated) duplicate of the one used by Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) in The Shining. Several feet away from the intercom is a tissue box, the pattern of which resembles that aforementioned carpet pattern in the Overlook Hotel.


For both Toy Story 3 and Finding Nemo, Unkrich asked his composers—Randy Newman and Thomas Newman, respectively—to utilize the “kalinga” technique at particular moments where the audience was meant to feel unsettled. Favored by Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki, whose music was featured in The Shining, the “kalinga,” per Unkrich, “is when the violin players tap their bows against the strings rather than strumming. It's almost a plucky sound. If everybody does that throughout the orchestra you get a crazy, almost insecty sound, it's so unsettling.”


This one’s easy: In Finding Nemo, Bruce the shark echoes Jack Nicholson’s most famous line from The Shining when he snarls “Heeeere’s Brucey!”


    Early in Coco, there’s a scene where Dante the dog abruptly wakes up from a nap. In the background, we see a normal-looking axe stuck into a tree trunk. An axe could just be an axe ... were Unkrich not sitting in the director's chair. Earlier this year, in an interview with Cinema Blend, he confirmed that the axe is in fact modeled after “one of the axes from The Shining.”

    7. REDRUM // COCO (2017)


      In that same shot, right behind the axe, is a red metal storage drum, a reference to REDRUM, Danny Torrance’s favorite phrase and (er, spoilers for The Shining?) “murder” spelled backwards.

      8. THE GRADY TWINS // COCO (2017)

        As Coco’s Miguel runs through Frida Kahlo’s underworld art studio, he passes a painting of two girls who, per Unkrich, represent a “Día de los Muertos-inspired version of the twin girls from The Shining.”

        9. APOLLO 11 // TOY STORY (1995)

          Stick with us for a moment on this one, as it's not as straightforward as the other ones: Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear was named after Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, who was the second man to set foot on the moon. Apollo 11 looms large as part of the mythology of The Shining, as there are famously some conspiracy theorists who believe that Kubrick faked the moon landing and used The Shining as a quasi-confession. (At one point Danny Torrance wears an Apollo 11 sweater, which Lee Unkrich now owns.) This is very likely a coincidence, not an outright nod to The Shining, but given the level of The Shining appreciation in the halls of Pixar, it’s not a stretch to believe that someone at least got a chuckle out of it.

          Amazon's Best Black Friday Deals: Tech, Video Games, Kitchen Appliances, Clothing, and More


          This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

          Black Friday is finally here, and Amazon is offering great deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.


          Instant Pot/Amazon

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          The World’s Favorite Christmas Movies, Mapped

          Will Ferrell in Elf (2003).
          Will Ferrell in Elf (2003).
          Warner Bros.

          The start of the holiday season means it’s time to recommence the annual debate over which Christmas movies are the best. If you’re discussing the matter with a friend from France or Brazil, they might be arguing hard for Gremlins, the 1984 cult classic that may or may not actually be a Christmas movie. India, on the other hand, is home to many fans of 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

          Those trends come from a new study by broadband experts at UK-based online comparison site money.co.uk. Basically, they analyzed Google search data for 30 Christmas movies across 18 countries to see how holiday viewership differs from nation to nation. All the films included in the study are relatively mainstream, so you won’t find Rankin/Bass’s Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977) anywhere on the map.

          What you will find is Elf, the 2003 comedy starring Will Ferrell as an overlarge Santa’s helper navigating Manhattan. Considering that the film is the apparent favorite of viewers in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, and South Africa, it seems that Ferrell’s absurdist humor isn’t just funny to U.S. residents. Love Actually (2003) also ranked first in five countries, including England, Spain, and Norway. But neither Love Actually nor Elf clinched the top spot in the U.S. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) did, with an average monthly search volume of nearly 3.7 million.

          The search data used in the study is from October through December of last year, which might explain why Last Christmas landed in first place in Germany. The romantic comedy, starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, premiered in 2019 to generally poor reviews, so it’s possible that Germans won’t be Googling it quite so often this year.

          See the map below, and learn more about the survey here.