Disney has inspired hundreds of fan theories.
Disney’s movies are so popular and so multi-layered that it’s really no surprise fans have tried to link different movies and stories together through crazy (and some no-so-crazy) theories. The theories have proliferated online, often finding similarities or proposed genetic links between different characters.
After all, Disney and its subsidiary Pixar are known for inserting subtle jokes and images into their movies, to the entertainment of its adult viewers. We’ve assembled 14 of our favorite (and the most plausible) fan theories here!
1. Captain Hook ended the life of Ariel’s mother.
In The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning—the lesser known 2008 sequel to 1989’s much-loved The Little Mermaid—we meet Ariel’s mother, Athena, and find out an “evil pirate” is responsible for her demise.
One discerning fan noticed that a mermaid in 1953’s Peter Pan looks an awful lot like Athena—basically a teenage version of her. And the years match up: If Athena was 16 in 1953, she would have been an apt 36 when Ariel was born around 1973. And the spookiest part?
If Athena was around in Peter Pan, that means the “evil pirate” who left Ariel motherless is most likely Captain Hook himself!
2. Jane from “Tarzan” is a descendant of Belle from “Beauty and the Beast.”
As many viewers have noticed, Jane’s tea set—the one Tarzan’s gorilla friend Terk drums on—is exactly the same tea set in Beauty and the Beast. Yep, we’re talking about Mrs. Potts and Chip.
There’s a good chance it was a family heirloom handed down to Jane. But there are other similarities, too.
Belle and Jane both have eccentric fathers, wear similar yellow dresses, and, most obvious of all, are attracted to slightly wild men. Not to mention their shared interested in civilizing those men.
3. Tarzan is Princess Elsa and Anna’s brother.
Co-director Chris Buck revealed a surprising link between Tarzan and Frozen. We know from Frozen that the king and queen of Arendelle—the parents of main characters Elsa and Anna—were involved in a shipwreck and lost at sea.
However, it’s only recently that it was pointed out that they bear a resemblance to Tarzan’s parents. In fact, Buck told MTV that Anna and Elsa’s parents didn’t die in that shipwreck. “[The mother] gave birth on the boat, to a little boy,” he explained. “They get shipwrecked, and somehow they really washed way far away…and they end up in the jungle.” He went on to explain how a leopard kills them, and the boy—Tarzan—is raised by gorillas.
It should be noted, however, that Buck continued on to explain that there are surfing penguins on the other side of Tarzan’s jungle. Which is to say, Buck was messing with us. Still, the theory holds up! And Buck admits, “[W]hatever people want to believe, go for it… That’s the spirit of Disney.”
4. At the beginning of “Up,” Carl passes away.
Many Disney fans say this theory is the only way to explain the realism of the first five minutes of Up compared to the fantastic events that happen over the rest of the movie.
The theory says that after Carl is informed he must move out of his house, he dies in his sleep that night, and the rest of the movie represents his journey into the afterlife (or “up” to heaven).
That makes Russell his little guardian angel—manifested as a child because Carl and Ellie could never have children. And Paradise Falls, as obvious a name as you’ll ever get, is heaven itself.
5. In “Beauty and the Beast,” the book that Belle reads is “Aladdin.”
When Belle goes to the book shop to return a book about a beanstalk and an ogre—generally believed to be Jack and the Beanstalk—she also mentions her favorite book, which she describes as being about “far off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise.”
Of the book, Belle says “here’s where she meets Prince Charming, but she won’t discover that ’til chapter three.”
Considering Aladdin’s disguise, Genie’s magic, and the climactic sword fight, Belle’s book sounds a lot like the plot of Aladdin, doesn’t it?
6. Andy’s mother is the first owner of Jessie.
In Toy Story, Andy wears a cowboy hat that doesn’t quite match Woody’s. It isn’t until Toy Story 2 that we see Andy’s hat looks exactly like that of Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl.
We also learn that Jessie’s previous owner, Emily, whose room suggests a flashback to the 1970s, had the same hat. Except, on Andy’s version, there’s a faded mark where the white strap was on Emily’s.
What’s the natural conclusion to these coincidences? Andy’s mother must be Emily—and Jessie’s first owner! She gave Jessie away as she grew up but passed the hat on to her son, Andy, in the 90s.
7. “Aladdin” is really just a sales pitch.
In the beginning of the movie, a merchant is in a market stall trying to sell the viewer a lamp that he claims is magic. As the viewer is about to “leave,” the man begins to spin a fantastic tale in order to get them to buy the lamp.
And it goes on for 90 minutes. At the end of which, we most definitely want to buy that lamp. It’s basically the best sales pitch ever!
8. Hercules and Ariel are first cousins once removed.
This one isn’t so much a fan theory as a fact of the Greek god family tree. As we all know, Hercules is the son of Zeus. What you might not know is that Zeus has a brother named Poseidon (Hercules’ uncle). Poseidon has a son, King Triton, who is Hercules’ cousin. But King Triton has another claim to fame: He’s Ariel’s father.
Voila! Ariel’s father and Hercules are cousins. That means Hercules and Ariel are first cousins once removed. Did you even realize Ariel’s grandpa and Zeus are brothers? We definitely didn’t!
9. Anna and Elsa’s parents got in a shipwreck on their way to Rapunzel’s wedding.
Frozen director Jennifer Lee has said that the king and queen of Arendelle were on their way to a wedding when they were shipwrecked. On Elsa’s coronation day, you can see a married Rapunzel and Flynn.
Also of note: The main plot of Frozen takes place three years after the parents’ shipwreck and the supposed wedding. The really freaky part? Frozen came out three years, almost to the day, after Tangled. We certainly think that’s evidence enough! The theory also extends to explain how Rapunzel and the girls in Frozen are related.
10. Ariel explored the shipwreck of the king and queen of Arendelle.
This theory builds off the previous one. The directors have said that Arendelle in Frozen is based off Norway. So if Anna and Elsa’s parents set sail from Norway, heading for Rapunzel’s Kingdom of Corona in Germany (where the fairy tale originates), they would have shipwrecked somewhere between the two.
Here’s the freaky part: The Little Mermaid takes place on the coast of Denmark, which just so happens to be located on that route.
This could very well mean that the shipwreck Ariel explores is the tragedy in which Anna and Elsa lost their parents. Morbid, Disney. You’re getting morbid.
11. Bing Bong is a monster from “Monsters, Inc.”
If you saw Inside Out, there’s a good chance you sobbed at the part where main character Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong sacrifices himself to save his friends.
But we have good news for you: There’s a good chance Bing Bong didn’t die at all. This theory suggests that Bing Bong isn’t an imaginary friend at all—he actually met Riley when he visited her for Monsters, Inc., the same way Sully visited Boo, but Riley didn’t understand.
This would mean that Bing Bong actually does exist outside Riley’s mind, and it was only the memory of him destroyed in Inside Out. Actually, we guess that’s still a bit sad.
12. Boo is the witch in “Brave.”
This theory is actually commonly pointed out as the one that connects all Disney movies. It says that the monsters in Monsters, Inc. were actually living in a post-human society, like WALL-E, and traveling back in time to collect the children’s tears (and later laughter) for fuel. But after the end of Monsters, Inc., Boo grew up and became obsessed with finding Sully again.
The theory goes that Boo eventually discovered how to time-travel through wooden doors—like the monsters were doing—but couldn’t control where or when she popped up. This means that she spends her life traveling through time, popping up in all the different Disney movies, and that’s how the Easter eggs in the movies get from one story to the next.
She winds up in the time of Brave in her old age.
Need proof? You can see an image of Sully carved into a piece of wood in her shop.
13. Aladdin lives in a post-apocalyptic universe.
The movie never specifies the time period in which Aladdin takes place, leaving a lot of room for interesting fan theories. Our favorite is that Aladdin lives in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
When we are first introduced to Genie, he’s complaining about being cramped in a lamp for tens of thousands of years. Although Genie is pretty good at modern pop culture references, it is believed that Genie knows of our world through primitive technology that survived a world-ending catastrophe wiping everything off the map except for the Middle East.
Most of the fuel behind this theory is because a stop sign can be seen in the Aladdin video game. But hey, no one said fan theories are perfect!
14. “The Incredibles” is an adaptation of “Atlas Shrugged.”
The social and political implications found in the plot of Pixar’s The Incredibles have inspired more than one intellectual to point out the movie’s undeniable similarities to Ayn Rand’s famous book and Mr. Incredible’s resemblance to Atlas, “the giant who holds the world on his shoulders,” a central metaphor of Atlas Shrugged.
In the beginning of the film, we see Mr. Incredible’s talents being underused in his boring office job and the entire family suppressing their superpowers to fit into society. The main characters even refer to everyone else as “the normals,” which sounds like something straight out of a Rand novel.
Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s literary tribute to her own me-first philosophy, objectivism, basically illustrates that rewarding the achievers is more useful to society than offering aid to “the normals” en masse. Granted, the Incredibles use their power to help the weak, whereas in Rand’s book the powerful join forces and form their own private society to get away from “the normals.”
Still, the argument that the movie is a loose adaptation of the book has plenty of supporting evidence.