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)

The number 237 makes an appearance in '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)

    There are two 'The Shining' references in this one scene from '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.

          8 Surprising Facts About James Stewart

          Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
          Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

          For a good portion of the 20th century, actor James Maitland “Jimmy” Stewart (1908-1997) was one of Hollywood’s most popular leading men. Stewart, who was often called upon to embody characters who exhibited a strong moral center, won acclaim for films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Vertigo (1958), and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). In all, he made more than 80 movies. Take a look at some things you might not know about Stewart’s personal and professional lives.

          1. Jimmy Stewart had a degree in architecture.

          Acting was not James Stewart’s only area of expertise. Growing up in Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his father owned a hardware store, Stewart had an artistic bent with an interest in music and earned his way into his father’s alma mater, Princeton University. There, he received a degree in architecture in 1932. But pursuing that career seemed tenuous, as the country was in the midst of the Great Depression. Instead, Stewart decided to follow his interest in acting, joining a theater group in Falmouth, Massachusetts after graduating and rooming with fellow aspiring actor Henry Fonda. After a brief turn on Broadway, he landed a contract with MGM for motion picture work. His film debut, as a cub reporter in The Murder Man, was released in 1935.

          2. Jimmy Stewart gorged himself on food so he could serve the country in World War II.

          Colonel James Stewart leaves Southampton on board the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth, bound for home in 1945.
          Express/Getty Images

          Stewart was already established in Hollywood when the United States began preparing to enter World War II. After the draft was introduced in 1940, Stewart received notice that he was number 310 out of a pool of 900,000 annual citizens selected for service. The problem? Stewart was six foot, three inches and a trim 138 pounds—five pounds under the minimum weight for enlistment. So he went home, ate everything he could, and came back to weigh in again. It worked, and Stewart joined the Army Air Corps, later known as the Air Force.

          3. Jimmy Stewart demanded to see combat in the war.

          Thanks to his interest in aviation, Stewart was already a pilot when he went to war; he received additional flight training but wound up being sidelined for two years stateside even though he kept insisting he be sent overseas to fight. (He filmed a recruitment short film, Winning Your Wings, in 1942, which was screened in theaters in the hopes it could drive enlistment.) Finally, in November 1943, he was dispatched to England, where he participated in more than 20 combat missions over Germany. His accomplishments earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Leaf clusters, among other honors, making him the most decorated actor to participate in the conflict. After the war ended, he returned to a welcome reception in his hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania, where his father had decorated the courthouse to recognize his son’s service. His next major film role was It’s a Wonderful Life.

          4. Jimmy Stewart kept his Oscar in a very unusual place.

          After winning an Academy Award for The Philadelphia Story in 1940, Stewart heard from his father, Alex Stewart. “I hear you won some kind of award,” he told his son. “What was it, a plaque or something?” The elder Stewart suggested he bring it back home to display in the hardware store. The actor did as suggested, and the Oscar remained there for 25 years.

          5. Jimmy Stewart starred in two television shows.

          Actor James Stewart is pictured in uniform
          Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

          After a long career in film through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, Stewart turned to television. In 1971, he played a college anthropology professor in The Jimmy Stewart Show. The series failed to find an audience, however, so was short-lived. He tried again with Hawkins in 1973, playing a defense lawyer, but that show was also canceled. (Stewart also performed in commercials, including spots for Firestone tires and Campbell’s Soup.)

          6. Jimmy Stewart hated one version of It’s a Wonderful Life.

          While Stewart had just as much affection for It’s a Wonderful Life as audiences, one alternate version of the film annoyed him. In 1987, he sent a letter to Congress protesting the practice of colorizing It's a Wonderful Life and other films on the premise that it violated what directors like Frank Capra had intended. He described the tinted version as “a bath of Easter egg dye.” Putting a character named Violet in violet-colored costumes, he wrote, was “the kind of obvious visual pun that Frank Capra never would have considered.” Stewart later lobbied against the practice in person.

          7. Jimmy Stewart published a book of poetry.

          In 1989, Stewart authored Jimmy Stewart and His Poems, a slim volume collecting several of the actor’s verses. Stewart also included anecdotes about how each one was composed. His best known might be “Beau,” about his late dog, which Stewart read to Johnny Carson during a Tonight Show appearance in 1981. By the end, both Stewart and Carson were teary-eyed.

          8. Jimmy Stewart has a statue in his hometown.

          For Stewart’s 75th birthday in 1983, his hometown of Indiana, Pennsylvania honored him with a 9-foot-tall bronze statue. Unfortunately, the statue wasn’t totally ready in time for Stewart’s visit, so they presented him with the fiberglass version instead. The bronze statue currently stands in front of the county courthouse, while the fiberglass version was moved into the nearby Jimmy Stewart Museum.

          Top 50 Best-Selling Artists of All Time

          Paul McCartney of The Beatles and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones sit opposite each other on a train at London's Euston Station.
          Paul McCartney of The Beatles and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones sit opposite each other on a train at London's Euston Station.
          Victor Blackman, Express/Getty Images

          Who are America’s all-time favorite musicians and bands? When it comes to the best-selling artists of all time, The Beatles still rule—yes, even a half-century after their breakup. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), these are the 50 best-selling artists of all time.

          1. The Beatles

          American television host Ed Sullivan smiles while standing with British rock group the Beatles on the set of his television variety series, New York, February 9, 1964. Left to right: Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Sullivan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney
          Express Newspapers/Getty Images

          Albums sold: 183 million

          2. Garth Brooks

          Cooper Neill/Getty Images for dcp

          Albums sold: 148 million

          3. Elvis Presley

          Elvis Presley is seen playing the guitar in his 1966 film, 'Spinout'
          Hulton Archive/Getty Images

          Albums sold: 146.5 million

          4. Eagles

          The Eagles in concert, "History of the Eagles" tour, Grand Rapids, September 2014. Doolin-Dalton
          Rachel Kramer via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

          Albums sold: 120 million

          5. Led Zeppelin

          Hulton Archive/Getty Images

          Albums sold: 111.5 million

          6. Billy Joel

          Albums sold: 84.5 million

          7. Michael Jackson

          Getty Images

          Albums sold: 84 million

          8. Elton John

          Elton John plays a concert in 2008.
          LENNART PREISS/AFP/Getty Images

          Albums sold: 78.5 million

          9. Pink Floyd

          Albums sold: 75 million

          10. AC/DC

          Albums sold: 72 million

          11. George Strait

          Albums sold: 69 million

          12. Barbra Streisand

          Barbra Streisand
          Terry Fincher, Express/Getty Images

          Albums sold: 68.5 million

          13. The Rolling Stones

          Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones in concert
          Getty Images

          Albums sold: 66.5 million

          14. Aerosmith

          Aerosmith performs on stage during the Operation Tribute to Freedom, NFL and Pepsi sponsored “NFL Kickoff Live 2003” Concert on the Mall
          U.S. Navy, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

          Albums sold: 66.5 million

          15. Bruce Springsteen

          Bruce Springsteen performs during the closing ceremony of the Invictus Games 2017 at Air Canada Centre on September 30, 2017 in Toronto, Canada
          Chris Jackson/Getty Images for the Invictus Games Foundation

          Albums sold: 66.5 million

          16. Madonna

          Albums sold: 64.5 million

          17. Mariah Carey

          Mariah Carey performs during the 2019 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 1, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada
          Ethan Miller, Getty Images

          Albums sold: 64 million

          18. Metallica

          Albums sold: 63 million

          19. Whitney Houston

          American singer Whitney Houston performing on Good Morning America (Central Park, New York City) on September 1, 2009.

          Albums sold: 58.5 million

          20. Van Halen

          Albums sold: 56.5 million

          21. Fleetwood Mac

          Trade ad for Fleetwood Mac's album Rumours
          Warner Bros. Records - Billboard, page 86, 25 Jun 1977, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

          Albums sold: 54.5 million

          22. U2

          The Edge and Bono of the rock band U2 perform at Bridgestone Arena on May 26, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee
          Jason Kempin, Getty Images

          Albums sold: 52 million

          23. Céline Dion

          Albums sold: 50 million

          24. Neil Diamond

          American pop singer-songwriter Neil Diamond relaxes with his guitar. Diamond is shortly to make his film debut in a remake of 'The Jazz Singer'
          Keystone/Getty Images

          Albums sold: 49.5 million

          25. Journey

          Albums sold: 48 million

          26. Kenny G

          Kenny G performs onstage during the "Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives" Premiere Concert during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at Radio City Music Hall
          Noam Galai, Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

          Albums sold: 48 million

          27. Shania Twain

          Albums sold: 48 million

          28. Kenny Rogers

          Albums sold: 47.5 million

          29. Alabama

          Albums sold: 46.5 million

          30. Eminem

          Eminem performs onstage during the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Awards which broadcasted live on TBS, TNT, and truTV at The Forum on March 11, 2018 in Inglewood, California
          Kevin Winter, Getty Images for iHeartMedia

          Albums sold: 46 million

          31. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

          Photo of Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band.
          By American Talent International, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

          Albums sold: 44.5 million

          32. Guns N’ Roses

          Slash Ft. Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators At Whisky a Go Go
          Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for SiriusXM

          Albums sold: 44.5 million

          33. Alan Jackson

          Albums sold: 43.5 million

          34. Santana

          Trade ad for Santana's album Santana III
          By Columbia Records, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

          Albums sold: 43.5 million

          35. Taylor Swift

          Taylor Swift performs onstage at 2019 iHeartRadio Wango Tango presented by The JUVÉDERM® Collection of Dermal Fillers at Dignity Health Sports Park on June 01, 2019
          Rich Fury, Getty Images for iHeartMedia

          Albums sold: 43 million

          36. Reba McEntire

          Albums sold: 41 million

          37. Eric Clapton

          Albums sold: 40 million

          38. Chicago

          Albums sold: 38.5 million

          39. Simon & Garfunkel

          Pop duo Simon and Garfunkel, comprising (L-R) singer, Art Garfunkel and singer-songwriter, Paul Simon, performing on ITV's 'Ready, Steady, Go!', July 8, 1966
          Hulton Archive/Getty Images

          Albums sold: 38.5 million

          40. Foreigner

          Albums sold: 38 million

          41. Rod Stewart

          Getty Images

          Albums sold: 38 million

          42. Tim McGraw

          Albums sold: 37.5 million

          43. Backstreet Boys

          Albums sold: 37 million

          44. 2 Pac

          Albums sold: 36.5 million

          45. Bob Dylan

          Bob Dylan
          Evening Standard/Getty Images

          Albums sold: 36 million

          46. Def Leppard

          Albums sold: 35.5 million

          47. Queen

           Freddie Mercury (1946 - 1991), lead singer of 70s hard rock quartet Queen, in concert in Milton Keynes in 1982
          Hulton Archive/Getty Images

          Albums sold: 35 million

          48. Dave Matthews Band

          Albums sold: 34.5 million

          49. Britney Spears

          Britney Spears performs at the 102.7 KIIS FM's Jingle Ball 2016
          Christopher Polk, Getty Images for iHeartMedia

          Albums sold: 34.5 million

          50. Bon Jovi

          Albums sold: 34.5 million


          LIVE SMARTER