5 Common-Universe Theories For Movies

What if two of your favorite movies were actually taking place in the same world? Every book, movie, or television show with a devoted fanbase has probably garnered a “same universe” theory (as the Fan Theories subreddit can attest), and a few actually hold water. Prepare to watch your favorite cinematic worlds collide.

1. All the Pixar Movies.

Jon Negroni is responsible for what is probably the most talked about same universe theory. While he didn’t come up with the initial idea, Negroni spent a year mapping a timeline and tracking all the Easter eggs to bring the conjecture to life.

The theory starts with Brave, which establishes the rules for human-like animals and the magic that brings inanimate objects to life. We see the logical progression of a world in which humans and animals could communicate with Remy in Ratatouille and then in Up with the collar technology that works as a translator. From there we see the further advancement of animal and artificial intelligence in Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, leading us to the flagship Pixar enterprise, Toy Story. The Incredibles established a story of a fight against superhumans, and the story of Woody and Buzz furthers perhaps the central conflict of this long and winding story: robots vs. humans. Okay, maybe not robots exactly, but the sentient, non-human world. Toys, Cars, and later on, an actual robot who goes by the name of Wall-E.

In brief, the world eventually becomes uninhabitable, so humans abandon the planet to save the species. Then, at the end of Wall-E, we see a tiny little seedling spring to life that bears a notable likeness to the one in A Bug’s Life. Are you reeling? We’re not done yet. As the planet is reclaimed by all things organic, new life forms develop. Hello, Monsters, Inc.

Negroni’s elaborate theory has even more amazing corollaries (Boo from Monsters, Inc. and the witch from Brave are the same person!), so you should probably just immerse yourself and then binge-watch these movies in order.

2. Frozen and The Little Mermaid. (And Tangled, and maybe Tarzan, too?)

Wise observers noticed that the characters of Rapunzel and Flynn (post-Tangled, judging by the hair) appear at Elsa’s coronation in Frozen. That’s crazy enough, but it doesn’t stop there. What if Anna and Elsa’s parents died at sea while on their way to Rapunzel's wedding? It would make sense that if the films take place in the same universe and the characters are all royalty, the King and Queen would have been invited. Maybe years later, Flynn and Rapunzel attend Elsa's coronation out of guilt?

And about that ship that was lost at sea: Is it the same one that Ariel and Flounder hide out in in The Little Mermaid? During a Reddit AMA, the writer-directors of Frozen, Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, took things to a whole new level, hinting at the possibility that the King and Queen never actually died at all and instead washed ashore a jungle island and had a little baby named Tarzan.

3. Lots more Disney movies.

What if the aforementioned storm that marooned Frozen’s King and Queen was the same one happening at the climax of The Lion King? Fans have also noticed that a twin of the Carpet from Aladdin appears in the The Hunchback of Notre Dame, that a toy in Aladdin looks exactly like Beast from Beauty and the Beast, that the magic lamp appears in The Princess and the Frog ... the list goes on and on. The common thread here is Aladdin, which might make sense given that a genie is well equipped to travel through time and across worlds. Dogs from Lady & the Tramp surface in 101 Dalmatians, and some have speculated that Mother Gothel from Tangled and the Evil Queen from Snow White are the same person.

4. Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and E.T.

You can almost imagine Steven Spielberg and George Lucas on a soundstage somewhere mapping this one out and having a nice laugh. Turns out that there are tons of clues potentially connecting these classics, including Indy’s visit to “Club Obi Wan” in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; a hieroglyphic of R2-D2, C-3PO, and Princess Leia in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark; E.T. recognizing Yoda and wheezing out, “Hoooome” on Halloween and later on; and members of E.T.’s species appearing in the Galactic Senate in The Phantom Menace.

The grand theory argues that the crystal skull aliens from Indiana Jones brought the story of Star Wars with them to Earth, built the pyramids, and immortalized the story of C-3PO & Co. through wall carvings. The story was thus solidified in human mythology.

5. The Tim Burtonverse.

Tim Burton’s penchant for returning to certain themes could just be a sign of what interests him. Or it could point to a mind-bogglingly expansive story. Several Burtonverse theories exist. One connects his first stop-motion film, Vincent, to The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frankenweenie, and Corpse Bride as a single tale of a boy and his pup. Others include Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice in that web, and some even say they’re not just part of the same universe, but part of the same enormous movie! Aside from the common fan theory of a multi-picture narrative of a dog who is almost killed (Vincent), then does indeed die (Frankenweenie), then becomes a spirit who’s adopted in the afterlife by Jack Skellington (The Nightmare Before Christmas), repeat actors like Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder allow for some interesting possibilities for character threads.

There are some resemblances that help bridge the live action and animated worlds, too. After all, Victor from Frankenweenie and Victor from Corpse Bride look quite similar (oh, and they’re both named Victor!), and so do Elsa Van Helsing (Frankenweenie) and Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice) and even Weird Girl (Frankenweenie) and Kim (Edward Scissorhands). For the superhero crowd, there are theories asserting that Burton’s Batman movies exist in the same universe as the Joel Schumacher Batman movies (Jon Negroni again).

And for a little perspective on all conspiracy theory fandom, or to have your mind completely blown, check out this all-encompassing timeline of Burton’s films, connecting everything from Sleepy Hollow to Planet of the Apes with a determination rivaled only by Pee-wee Herman fighting to retrieve his stolen bicycle.

5 Film Transitions Worth Knowing

You see them every day, on TV shows, the news, and in movies, but how well do you know the most oft-used film transitions? Here are the big five:


The dissolve is an editing technique where one clip seems to fade—or dissolve—into the next. As the first clip is fading out, getting lighter and lighter, the second clip starts fading in, becoming more and more prominent. The process usually happens so subtly and so quickly, the viewer isn't even aware of the transition. The above video offers a great overview of the cut, with examples.


This transition is the opposite of the dissolve in that it draws attention to itself. The best example of the wipe is what's known as the Iris Wipe, which you usually find in silent films, like Buster Keaton's or the Merrie Melodies cartoons—the circle getting smaller and smaller. Other wipe shapes include stars, diamonds, and the old turning clock.

The Star Wars films are chock-full of attention-grabbing wipes. Here are two good examples from The Empire Strikes Back. The first shows the clock wipe; the second, the diagonal wipe (pay no attention to the broken blocks at the start of the second clip—that's a technical glitch, not part of the film).


As the name implies, in the basic cutaway, the filmmaker is moving from the action to something else, and then coming back to the action. Cutaways are used to edit out boring shots (like people driving to their destination—why not see what the character is seeing or even thinking sometimes?) or add action to a sequence by changing the pace of the footage. My favorite use of the cutaway is in Family Guy, where the technique is used to insert throwaway gags. Here's a great example:


The L Cut, also called a split edit, is a very cool technique whose name dates back to the old analog film days.

The audio track on a strip of celluloid film runs along the side, near the sprocket holes. In the L Cut transition, the editor traditionally cut the picture frames out of the strip, but left the narrow audio track intact, thus creating an L-shape out of the film. A different camera angle, or scene was then spliced into the spot where the old picture was, so the audio from the old footage was now cut over the new footage.

Of course, with digital editing, one doesn't need to physically cut anything anymore, but the transition is still widely used, and the name has remained the same.

Split edits like these are especially effective in portraying conversations. Imagine how a simple conversation between two people might look if all we ever got was a ping-pong edit back and forth between the two people talking. The L cut allows the viewer to read the emotion on the listener's face, as the dialogue continues over, as we see in this clip from Ferris Bueller's Day Off:


The fade in and fade out usually signal the beginning or end of a scene, especially if the filmmaker is fading to/from black. This is the most common, of course, but fading to white has become trendy, too. The opening title sequence from the HBO series Six Feet Under featured many fades to black and a couple brief fades to white. The very last bit in the sequence fades slowly to white, and is my all-time favorite example of the transition:

science fiction
Why So Many Aliens in Pop Culture Look Familiar

Aliens have been depicted countless times in cinema, from Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon (1902) to James Cameron's Avatar (2009). But despite the advancements in special-effects technology over the past century, most aliens we see on screen still share a lot of similarities—mainly, they look, move, and interact with the world like humans do. Vox explains how the classic alien look came to be in their new video below.

When you picture an alien, you may imagine a being with reptilian skin or big, black eyes, but the basic components of a human body—two arms, two legs, and a head with a face—are likely all there. In reality, finding an intelligent creature that evolved all those same features on a planet millions of light-years away would be an extraordinary coincidence. If alien life does exist, it may not look like anything we've ever seen on Earth.

But when it comes to science fiction, accuracy isn't always the goal. Creating an alien character humans can relate to may take priority. Or, the alien's design may need to work as a suit that can be worn by human performers. The result is a version of extraterrestrial life that looks alien— but not too alien—to movie audiences.

So if aliens probably won't have four limbs, two eyes, and a mouth, what would they look like if we ever met them person? These experts have some theories.

[h/t Vox]


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