We live in a world of very intense fandoms. Fights between, say, Marvel Cinematic Universe lovers and Worlds of DC fans are as intense as any comic book crossover, and video game console wars are still waging, all these decades later. Despite all those intense fandoms, though, there are none more intense than the one that exists with Disney. This is because the company is an absolute entertainment monolith. At this point, they’ve created generations upon generations of fans, and each new generation ends up raising their children to love the House of Mouse. Where does all this loyalty come from? One possibility is that Disney does better than most companies at rewarding intense fan knowledge. Places like Walt Disney World are crammed full of easter eggs that you practically have to have a PhD in Disney in order to unpack.
They don’t limit those easter eggs to the park, either. Each animated Disney classic (and many of the live-action ones) are filled with amazing cameos featuring some of the most iconic Disney characters. The only downside? Scenes go by so quick that it can be tough to catch everything. That’s where we come in! We’ve put together an awesome list of our absolutely favorite character cameos in Disney movies that range from absolutely beloved to absolutely obscure. Be warned, though: this might send you down a rabbit hole of binge-watching as much Disney as possible! If that sounds inviting instead of scary, then keep reading to discover 20 most surprising cameos in animated Disney classics!
20 GENIE'S LAMP
Moana very quickly became a runaway hit for Disney. One of the reasons for this was that it was a visual feast. There are easter eggs and cool details pretty much everywhere you look, and those with a really good eye might just spot the home of a fan-favorite Disney character!
In the famous scene with Tamatoa, it’s clear that he has amassed a lifetime of amazing treasures. This includes Maui’s magical fish hook that he will need to help Moana on her journey. Amid all these treasures is also Genie’s magical lamp from Aladdin. And while we don’t see Genie himself, it’s fun to think of what he’s been up to after all these years.
19 BUZZ LIGHTYEAR
Everyone loves a classic Disney movie. However, some of their films are more popular than others. And that means that a few really ambitious movies such as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice effectively fly under the radar. While the name may evoke memories of Fantasia, it actually features Nicholas Cage as a modern-day wizard trained in the art of Merlin.
The movie ended up with some mixed reviews, but it also had some fun Disney cameos in it. This includes seeing a Buzz Lightyear toy in the background of one scene. We can’t help but wonder: did Buzz come to life once the cameras stopped rolling?
On paper, the worlds of Tron and Hocus Pocus couldn’t be further apart -- the first is all about science and technology, while the latter is all about magic and mysticism. Nonetheless, though, there is a pretty amazing Tron cameo embedded in this classic tale of witches!
At one point in the movie, various characters are dressed in assorted Halloween costumes. There are staple costumes such as Dracula, of course. Look really closely, though, and you’ll see a man dressed exactly like someone from Tron. Seems like a cameo that's well out of place, which actually makes it the perfect choice.
Bambi is a weirdly persistent cameo franchise in various Disney films. Either Bambi or Bambi-related characters pop up all over the place in films ranging from Alice in Wonderland to Beauty and the Beast, and Bambi even pops up in the last place you’d expect in Frankenweenie.
This drab black and white film may be the last place you expect to see a colorful character like Bambi. Nonetheless, he pops up in a couple of different places. First, Bambi can clearly be seen playing at a movie theater in the background -- look closely, and you’ll even see the famous poster for this classic film.
16 JACK SKELLINGTON
You’ve probably figured out by now that some of these cameos are more explicit than others. Sometimes, characters are in a “blink and you’ll miss it” kind of cameo. Otherwise, it’s so obvious that it feels like the filmmakers are really shoving it in your face, and that’s what happened with James and the Giant Peach.
In this movie, we very prominently see a skeletal figure as, appropriately enough, the Skeleton Pirate Captain. It’s not just any skeleton, though -- he’s very clearly Jack Skellington from A Nightmare Before Christmas. Weird? Sure. But still not as weird as seeing Donald Duck’s skeleton pirate alongside him!
15 WRECK-IT RALPH
In theory, Wreck-It Ralph is contained to the world of video games and, more recently, the internet. In practice, though, this super-popular character manages to pop up in a number of different places. So we shouldn’t have been that surprised when he managed to sneak himself into Moana.
Don’t worry, you didn’t sleep through a cool cameo scene or anything. Instead, Ralph actually pops up in the end credits of the movie. And while it’s no Marvel Cinematic Universe, we like the idea that these movies are rewarding the viewers who bother to sit through the entire credits of the film.
Okay, this is the last Moana cameo we’re going to talk about, we swear. It’s just that the movie is jam-packed with a ton of cool cameos, although many of them are on the down low, and perhaps no cameo in the movie is better hidden than Baymax.
In fact, the only real way to see this one is to pause the movie. Remember those Kakamora guys with their assortment of creepy white masks? The masks have many different styles, but they have a relatively uniform overall look. Except for one Kakamora that is rocking a Baymax mask. That’s okay, Kakamora guy -- we love to cosplay, too.
13 ANNA AND ELSA
When Frozen came out, even a blind man could see that Pixar had the magic touch when it came to making Disney movies. However, this film ended up on an entirely different level, absolutely dominating both at the movies and the musical charts due to its insanely catchy soundtrack.
It’s understandable that Pixar loves Frozen so much, which is why the squeeze cameos of those characters into unexpected films. Take Zootopia, for example. The fact that it’s about a kind of furry universe didn’t keep the animators from having two elephant children dressing as Anna and Elsa. Maybe Frozen fever hit every one of Disney’s different universes?
12 STITCH COSTUME
For fans, Lilo and Stitch is something of a bittersweet movie, and we’re not just talking about the film’s plot (which features an escaped alien convict becoming part of a broken family) either. This was also one of the last traditionally animated tentpole Disney films, from back before everything went all CGI.
Interestingly, though, those CGI movies still found ways to honor what had come before. In Big Hero 6, there is a very special outfit for the outsized cat named Mochi. Look closely, and you can see the large cat squeezed into a Stitch costume at one point, and just when you thought the cat couldn’t get cuter.
11 SLEEPING BEAUTY
Even among modern Disney cartoons, Tangled stands out for its quirky characters and interesting fairy tale story. However, the animators wanted to make sure that they paid fair homage to another blonde Disney princess that ended up changing animation forever -- Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, and they did this by sneaking in two fairly clever references.
First, those with good eyes can sneak a peek at the spinning wheel from Sleeping Beauty inside Rapunzel’s room. The next reference comes in a scene within the library. Alongside references to other classic Disney movies, we can see the ornate Sleeping Beauty storybook on full display in the window.
10 KING TRITON
As you know, some Disney characters are harder to give cameos to than others because they stand out way too much. Take King Triton from The Little Mermaid -- at a glance, he’d look out of place in anything except the Aquaman movie. Nonetheless, Disney developed a genius cameo for him in The Princess and the Frog.
That movie is set in New Orleans, a city which has a special magic of its own (even without the weird voodoo villain). Naturally, we end up seeing scenes of Mardis Gras, where you can catch a glimpse of a giant parade float shaped like King Triton. In this flamboyant party environment, a giant, ripped fish king fits right in!
9 MULAN POSTER
If we’re being honest, Disney has sometimes had problematic portrayals of women. Those early princesses were iconic, but they were also damsels in distress -- something made fun of by Frozen and the sequel to Wreck-It Ralph. With Lilo and Stitch, though, we get unapologetically strong female characters.
It’s enough to make you wonder where these women got their inspiration. As it turns out, they were inspired by a strong Disney female in Mulan. In Nani’s room, you can clearly see a movie poster for the iconic Disney film, and getting hyped to fight the Huns may just have given her enough strength to deal with Stitch’s alien antics.
8 MRS. POTTS
Tarzan may be one of the last movies where you’d expect to find Disney cameos. From storytelling to actual geography, the world of Tarzan seems far removed from the rest of the Disney universe. Nonetheless, a couple of beloved characters from Beauty and the Beast ended up in the film.
As you know, the plot of Beauty and the Beast involved various human characters being transformed into different objects and forced to live in the mansion of the Beast. Two of these characters, Mrs. Potts and Chip, were turned into tea cups. Look closely, and you’ll see their tea cup forms pop up in Tarzan.
Hercules felt pretty “meta” as a Disney movie. After all, most of Disney’s characters turn into modern day mths in the eyes of fans. But with Hercules, they were taking one of the most famous mythical characters of all and offering their own unique spin on him.
However, even as they made the old myth new again, Disney was happy to pay homage to some of their classic characters from before. Our favorite example is when you see a lion skin rug on the floor. It’s not just lion, but Scar from the Lion King! Those hyenas were even crazier than we imagined.
Like we’ve said, some of these Disney cameos make more sense than others. Every now and then, the cameos manage to join together famous characters from the same area, which is how we ended up with a Beauty and the Beast cameo within The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The cameo in question comes from Beauty and the Beast, allowing Disney to put some famous French characters together. And the character is none other than Belle herself. Look closely, and you’ll see a cameo of her during the song “Out There.” She’s not alone, either, as Pumbaa and The Magic Carpet both make cameos during the same song.
For most of these movies, the cameos have to be hidden for a good reason, after all it would make no sense for the actual character to pop up in the movie... right? Well, Genie from Aladdin never got the memo, so he snuck a fun Disney cameo in among all those wacky celebrity impressions.
Genie uses his ability to do just about anything to mock Aladdin’s desire to stretch the truth. In order to do this, he makes his head look like the most famous liar of them all in Pinocchio. It’s an amazing scene that helps show why Aladdin is such a fan favorite.
4 THE WITCH
Back in the early days of Disney, not every character got a clever name. In fact, some of them are simply named after their fairy tale archetypes. That’s how Snow White’s nemesis ended up being the “Evil Queen.” And thanks to her shapeshifting, she is also referred to simply as “the Witch.”
You might think it’s tough to turn her into a cameo, however in A Nightmare Before Christmas, she pops up in her Witch form as a resident of Halloweentown and in a land of weird-looking miscreants, she actually fits right in! You just never know where she’ll pop up next.
Oswald the Rabbit has had a weird and storied history -- as a character, he actually predates Mickey Mouse. Nonetheless, he was very obscure until fans played the Epic Mickey games which prominently featured him. Oswald ended up becoming pretty popular, and pretty soon, made some unexpected cameos, with one of them being in Zootopia.
While a walking, talking rabbit like Oswald might have fit right in with such a place, his cameo was limited to some abandoned train car graffiti. This, of course, was a meta-joke, as Oswald himself was an “abandoned” character for many decades of history by the Disney powers that be.
By this point, Disney animators are veterans of sneaking in cameos and easter eggs. Sometimes, they’ll even point to themselves doing it, practically daring fans to notice and that’s exactly the case for when a very familiar face pops up in Big Hero 6.
All the action of the movie takes place in San Fransokyo, a distinct landscape with many different statues and other decorations. And one of those statues is none other than Olaf from Frozen. In our heart of hearts, we like to think he’s not actually a statue. He’s just “frozen” over and waiting to thaw a bit.
Of all the movies on this list, Treasure Planet feels the most like the black sheep of the family. It’s kind of an “in-between” movie, combining traditional animation with 3D animation. But this was before Disney joined forces with Pixar, and audiences just weren’t feeling this outer space adventure.
Which is a shame, as this is a fun, funny movie that holds up surprisingly well, and we also enjoy the cameos that popped in there. This includes a toy version of Stitch that pops up in the room of Jim Hawkins when he is young. With that kind of character as a role model, we can see how the older Jim keeps getting in trouble.