Easter eggs are are an incredibly common practice in Pixar films, so it's normal to see references in the studio's newest feature to previous films. However, one Pixar easter egg wasn't actually designed to call back to other Pixar movies. As it turns out, the scene in the image above, which shows lead character Miguel running by pinatas made to look like Pixar characters, was less a reference to Toy Story or Monsters Inc., and was much more a reference to current Mexican culture. According to Coco director Lee Unkrich...
When we went down to Mexico, I quickly discovered that they really loved Pixar. All around town I would see handmade, painted, images of Mike Wizowski, and Woody and Buzz. There just seemed to be a connection there. It felt like we were very welcome in Mexico and our films were very welcome in Mexico, and so, there are details having to do with that in the film. There's a scene where Miguel's running into town and one of the vendors that he runs by has a stand full of Mike Wizowski and Buzz Lightyear and Woody pinatas. They're lovingly handmade by folks so I wanted to embrace that.
Pixar fans are always on the lookout for easter eggs and so most of them probably caught this moment early in Coco. The pinatas are on screen for a few seconds and they're fairly large, making them one of easiest easter eggs to notice in all of Coco. When I saw them, I simply wrote them off as a fun reference, or possibly even an intentional reference to Toy Story 4, as Pixar likes to reference upcoming projects, and the next Toy Story film was once planned to be the studio next release following Coco. Instead, Lee Unkrich reveals in one of the extras included with Coco's Blu-Ray release, that the pinatas were actually included as a way to make the film's version of Mexico more authentic, as Pixar pinatas really were available from vendors when the filmmakers visited the country during their travels to learn about Mexico. The Blu-Ray extra even includes a look at some the real pinatas of Buzz, Woody, and even Lightning McQueen.
It's clear from all of the extras included with Coco's Blu-Ray that properly representing Mexico was of massive importance to the Pixar crew. Lee Unkrich had previously told me how he had to scrap his original pitch for Coco when he realized his view of the Day of the Dead wasn't accurate to the way the holiday is embraced in Mexico. This little easter egg is just one small way that the film gets things right, while still giving Pixar fans a cool moment to catch during the movie.
Coco is available in digital HD and comes out on Blu-Ray and DVD today.