Lena Khan’s Flora & Ulysses comes at a particularly good time, because many of us are already tuning into Disney+ to see the first Marvel Cinematic Universe TV show WandaVision. The family comedy revolves around a 10-year-old girl (Matilda Lawler) who befriends a squirrel with super powers. Because her dad (played by Sonic the Hedgehog’s Ben Schwartz) is a comic book writer, it has influenced the surroundings of their home and Flora’s own interests, leaving a ton of room for some fun easter eggs throughout the movie. How many did you catch?
The movie comes at an apt time, because the Disney movie not only pulled from the MCU, but aspects of Marvel Comics that are expected to be part of the Disney franchise in the near future, such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four. When CinemaBlend spoke to the director and cast of Flora & Ulysses, we talked about how all those little details made it into the movie.
How Marvel Made Its Way Into Flora & Ulysses
If you’re familiar with Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses children’s book, you will know that Marvel was not originally part of the story itself. It’s something that was added to the narrative thanks to Disney’s riches of properties at play. Director Lena Khan explained how the decision to scatter it with easter eggs came about:
When I was pitching to Disney for my take on the movie, I said a few things. The number one thing is I want to make it a movie that adults will watch and so to do that I’m seeing it as a live-action Pixar movie. That’s the vibe. Right? Because I’ve seen the Pixar movies but I don’t generally watch kids movies. Pixar movies generally have a lot of homages in them. So I was like, let’s litter it with homages and that’s always fun. So it was fun to just think of everything from E.T. references, to Star Wars to Mission: Impossible to a lot of the Marvel stuff.
So the addition of these elements was intentionally done by the director to catch the eye of adults along with the kids watching the film. Over the years, Pixar has been known to feature a number of pop culture references that either piques the interest of older audiences or offers more of an interactive viewing experience. Flora & Ulysses does this not only with Marvel but through a Titanic statue Flora’s mother (played by Alyson Hannigan) keeps by her desk.
What Marvel Easter Eggs You Should Look Out For
There’s a ton of easter eggs to look for throughout the movie. Listen for the “Imperial March” doorbell noise to Flora’s house. This is perfect considering Ben Schwartz created the voice for Star Wars’ BB-8! Flora’s friend, William, also looks eerily like Daredevil with his red circular glasses (is it a Disney+ hint for the future of Matt Murdock?) It’s likely all in good fun. When I talked to Schwartz he also pointed out a few more. In his words:
The doorbell for their house was Captain America’s shield. In the comic book store there’s like a billion. There’s even a reference to Buffy. Behind Alyson is a Buffy comic book, so all these little things. And it’s heaven, you’re right. Disney owns so much stuff now, you can use all these different things, so it was heaven for us.
Apparently, Alyson Hannigan’s past in pop culture also gets a shoutout too, with a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic book behind her. Of course, Hannigan played Willow in the series way back when. Fans of the Ducktales reboot may also notice that four cast members from the series had a live-action reunion in Flora & Ulysses. Ben Schwartz (Flora’s dad) played Luey, the movie’s villain Danny Pudi was Huey, the comic shop owner Stanlee, Bobby Moynihan was Dewey and the waitress Rita, played by Kate Micucci was Webby. Moynihan’s name is another Marvel reference to Stan Lee and, during his first appearance, he is holding up a Ducktales comic book before saying Donald Duck’s iconic line, “oh boy.”
The Marvel References That Didn’t Make It Into Flora & Ulysses
When CinemaBlend spoke to director Lena Khan, she told us more about the process of getting the easter eggs into the movie itself. When asked about any conversations with Marvel, she said:
We didn’t talk to Marvel. Maybe that would have made things a little easier… When it became time for clearances, we could have a fair amount of them because Disney pushed for us, because they were very excited about the movie by that time, but some of them just couldn’t go through. So there are some I have only in my special cut and they couldn’t make it through and some we just had to trade out for other things.
Khan expanded on some of the specific ideas she had for Flora & Ulysses that Marvel did not give her permission to add in. They were actually awesome:
There’s one where Ulysses is doing a thing like Wolverine and he’s got these things on his paws and he’s kind of like doing the stance and he just looks very cool, it’s just for a moment. And then on the main titles, there was one where he had the Infinity Gauntlet, but instead of the Infinity Stones it’s just M&Ms and it was our ending image. And I was like, he just looks so badass right now. But they were like, that’s too much, we can’t do that.
Maybe they were a bit too on the nose? Either way, these references made for a fun aspect of the Disney+ movie. It's even inspired young Matilda Lawler to dive into that section of pop culture. As the young actress told us:
Before filming, I wasn’t really into that stuff that much. I mean I had seen the Spider-Man movies and such every once in a while and been exposed to some comic books at school and stuff, but Flora & Ulysses kind of opened my eyes to more of that stuff and I’ve been getting into that a bit more.
There's certainly a ton more of fun tidbits to look out for! Flora & Ulysses is streaming now over on Disney+ now.