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.

What Happens to Films Selected for Preservation by the Library of Congress?

On Wednesday morning, the Library of Congress announced its latest slate of movies selected for permanent safekeeping in the National Film Registry. As always, the picks varied widely. The National Film Registry’s class of 2017 includes Dumbo (1941), The Goonies (1985), Die Hard (1988), Field of Dreams (1989), and Titanic (1997), plus the home movies of a Mexican-American family of life in Corpus Christi, Texas in the 1920s.

Originally established in 1988, the National Film Preservation Act tasks the board with selecting American films that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically" significant. They can pick up to 25 per year, and the movies must be at least 10 years old. The National Film Preservation Board is made up of representatives from a number of industry organizations, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Directors Guild of America, and the National Society of Film Critics. With the new selections, there are 725 films in the registry.

Selection for the registry is an honor, of course, but what does it mean beyond that? How does the Library of Congress, the U.S. legislature’s storage agency for documents and media, go about preserving movies?

According to Steve Leggett, program coordinator for the National Film Preservation Board, selection implores the Library of Congress to get the best possible copy of the film in its original format and store it in their vaults at the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. This ensures the film will be available to future generations.

For Hollywood movies, the process is usually pretty easy. “We simply ask the studio to donate a copy,” Leggett told Mental Floss in 2015. In some cases, that isn’t even necessary. The Library of Congress has more than 1 million films on file, many of them sent by studios or filmmakers for the sake of copyright registry. When the original Star Wars was selected in 1989, Leggett says, congressional librarians simply checked that the 35 millimeter print submitted with Lucasfilm’s copyright application was in good shape. It was, so no further action was needed.

For older and more esoteric selections like newsreels, silent films, documentaries, and early technical achievements in filmmaking, Leggett says the library often seeks out a copy from the community of preservationists. Universities, private foundations, and hobbyists that preserve old films might get a call from the Library of Congress if they have a good copy of a National Film Registry selection. In rare cases, the library will barter for the film, using redundant materials on its shelves. Other times, it will make a copy or pay the archivist to make a new 35 millimeter copy for them. The Culpeper facility stores nitrate prints, the original film stock for many early movies, in specialty lockers because the material is highly volatile and flammable.

Silent films can be tricky because studios often released, revised, and then re-released versions of the film. When one is selected, Library of Congress archivists collect as many aspects and versions of the film as they can, which might mean contacting several studios and archivists.

Of particular challenge in 2015 was the induction of Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One, William Greaves’s quasi-documentary of his 1968 theatrical project staged in Central Park. The film was screened often through the years, as Greaves gained a cult following. It was released on DVD in 2006, but the National Film Preservation Act specified that the library should seek a copy in the original format, which it didn’t have. Leggett said Greaves’s 1968 original cut was “lost,” but the library worked with the late filmmaker's estate to create a new 35 millimeter version that resembled it.

The Audio-Visual Conservation Center itself, buried on a mountainside, has storage space controlled to stay cool and dry. “A film could survive for hundreds of years there,” Leggett says. He admits the audiovisual center wouldn’t survive a nuclear strike—in the event of World War III, the world might lose its best copy of Buster Keaton’s The General—“but it did survive an earthquake with all materials intact.”

Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival
15 Surprising Facts About Steve Buscemi
Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival
Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival

With his meme-worthy eyes, tireless work schedule, and penchant for playing lovable losers, Steve Buscemi is arguably the king of character actors. Moving seamlessly between big-budget films and shoestring independent projects, he’s appeared in well over 100 movies in the past 30 years. But if you think he’s anything like the oddballs and villains he regularly plays—well, you don’t know Buscemi. In celebration of the Brooklyn native's 60th birthday, here are 15 things you might not have known about the Golden Globe-winning actor.


It only seems appropriate that Buscemi, who dies on screen so frequently, would be born on such a foreboding date. Growing up in Brooklyn and Valley Stream, New York, Buscemi also experienced plenty of real-life misfortune. As a kid, he was hit by a bus and by a car (in separate incidents). On the plus side, he used the money from the legal settlement following the bus accident to attend the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York City.


As a teenager, Buscemi worked a series of odd jobs: ice cream truck driver, mover, gas station attendant. He even sold newspapers in the toll lane of the Triborough Bridge. When Buscemi turned 18, his father, a sanitation worker, encouraged his son to take the civil service exam and become a New York City firefighter. Four years later, in 1980, the future star became a member of Engine Co. 55, located in New York City's Little Italy district. While he answered emergency calls during the day, at night Buscemi played improv clubs and auditioned for acting roles.

After four years working for the FDNY, Buscemi landed one of the lead roles in Bill Sherwood’s Parting Glances (1986), a drama set during the early days of AIDS in New York. Buscemi took a three-month leave of absence during filming, and afterwards decided not to return.


For a brief while, Buscemi tried his hand at stand-up comedy (he bombed). In 1984, he met fellow aspiring actor Mark Boone, Jr., and the two began performing together. Part improv, part scripted comedy, the two would often carry out power struggles that pitted thin-man Buscemi against the larger Boone. The New York Times called their act “theater in the absurdist vein.”


Like any hard-working actor, Buscemi has had his share of failed auditions. His tryout for Alan Parker’s Fame lasted less than 30 seconds. In the late ‘80s, Martin Scorsese brought him in four different times to read for The Last Temptation of Christ. (Buscemi ended up reading every apostle’s part before being turned away.) He also auditioned for the part of Seinfeld’s George Costanza—at least according to numerous sources, including Jason Alexander himself. But it turns out this tidbit—fueled, no doubt, by the thought of a very twitchy, bug-eyed Costanza—isn’t true. On a recent episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Buscemi addressed the rumor in his typical good-natured way: “I never did [the audition] and I don’t know how to correct it because I don’t know how the Internet works.”


After gaining momentum with roles in Mystery Train, Reservoir Dogs, Barton Fink, and other films, Buscemi took a turn behind the camera with 1996’s Trees Lounge. The movie, which he also wrote, follows a bumbling layabout named Tommy who spends most of his time at the title bar in the town where he grew up. It’s a classic flick for Buscemi fans and, according to the actor, it was pretty much his life as a teenager living on Long Island. “I was truly directionless, living with my parents,” Buscemi said in an interview. “I was driving an ice-cream truck and working at a gas station… The drinking age was 18 then, so I spent every night hanging out with my friends in bars, drinking.”


Steve Buscemi in 'Fargo' (1996)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

He’s been shot numerous times, stabbed with an ice pick, riddled with throwing knives, tossed off a balcony, and fed to a wood chipper. Yes, Buscemi’s characters have died a variety of deaths, and the actor isn’t without a sense of humor about the whole matter. He’ll often joke in interviews that he’s living longer and longer as the years go by. Before the 2005 release of The Island, in which the aforementioned balcony-tossing occurs (and into a glass bar no less), Buscemi said he was happy his character lived almost a third of the way through the movie. Buscemi admitted that he will actually read ahead in any script he receives to see when and how he dies.


For connoisseurs of Buscemi's movie deaths, the demise of Fargo’s Carl Showalter by way of axe then wood chipper is the crème de la crème. But when asked about his own favorite onscreen death, Buscemi references another Coen brothers film: The Big Lebowski. In that movie his character, Donny Kerabatsos, succumbs to a heart attack. It’s a surprise for viewers, and so out-of-the-blue that Buscemi can’t help but be tickled at the randomness of it. “They thought, ‘Well, Buscemi’s in it, so we’ve gotta kill him,'" the actor said in an appearance on The Daily Show.


In Con Air, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action movie filled with muscled-up prisoners, Buscemi played the most dangerous con of them all. His Garland Greene—a serial killer whose exploits “make the Manson family look like the Partridge family,” according to one character—enters the film strapped to a chair, Hannibal Lecter mask affixed to his face. Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg, a friend of Buscemi’s, wrote the part with him in mind, and was tickled when Buscemi accepted the role. To this day, fans will still serenade the actor with “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”


Steve Buscemi in Desperado
Columbia Pictures

Although he inevitably dies (courtesy of Danny Trejo’s throwing knives), Buscemi commands the opening of Desperado, Robert Rodriguez’s stylish revenge movie, regaling bar patrons with the story of the title gunslinger, played by Antonio Banderas. Because his character’s name is never mentioned, Rodriguez decided to have some fun and name him "Buscemi" in the credits.


Buscemi’s crooked smile has helped him portray lowlifes and losers throughout his career. Dentists have offered to fix the actor’s teeth, but he always turns them down, knowing how valuable those chompers are to the Buscemi brand. In a guest starring role on The Simpsons, Buscemi poked fun at the matter after a dentist offers to straighten his character’s teeth: “You’re going to kill my livelihood if you do that!”


Many people pronounce his last name “Boo-shemmy,” but it turns out Buscemi himself pronounces it “Boo-semmy.” In interviews, Buscemi says he’s following his father’s pronunciation, and says he doesn’t begrudge anyone who says it differently. It turns out, though, that his fans have it right—or at least mostly right. On a trip to Sicily to visit family, Buscemi recounted recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he noticed everyone saying “Boo-SHAY-me.”


Steve Buscemi in 'Trees Lounge' (1996)
Live Entertainment

On April 12th, 2001, while filming Domestic Disturbance in Wilmington, North Carolina, Buscemi, co-star Vince Vaughn, and screenwriter Scott Rosenberg went out for late night drinks at the Firebelly Lounge. After Vaughn traded insults with another patron (whose girlfriend had apparently been flirting with Vaughn), the two stepped outside, and a brief scuffle ensued before the two were separated. Buscemi, who was among the crowd that had gathered, was then confronted by a man who, after a brief exchange, attacked the actor with a pocketknife. Buscemi suffered stab wounds to his face, throat, and hands, and had to return to New York to recuperate. His attacker, Timothy Fogerty, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. In typical good-guy fashion, Buscemi declined to press additional charges and instead insisted Fogerty enter a substance abuse program.


After the horrific attack on New York City’s Twin Towers on September 11, Buscemi—like many Americans—was desperate to help. Although it had been nearly 20 years since he had strapped on his fireman’s gear, the actor reunited with his Engine 55 brethren and for days scoured the towers’ debris for survivors. Buscemi didn’t want his actions publicized; when people asked to take his picture, he declined. It took more than 10 years, in fact, before word got out, thanks to a Facebook post from Engine 55. “Brother Steve worked 12-hour shifts alongside other firefighters digging and sifting through the rubble,” the post read. “This guy is a badass!”


People who take a tour of the historic Philadelphia prison may notice a familiar voice coming through their listening device. So how did Buscemi end up lending his talents to such a seemingly obscure place? It turns out Eastern State is a popular location for film and photo shoots. Scenes from Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys were filmed there, as were album covers for artists like Tina Turner. In 2000, Buscemi scouted the penitentiary for a film project. The location didn’t work out, but the actor fell in love with the history and grand architecture of the 190-year-old prison. When officials asked for his help to celebrate the prison’s tenth year running tours, he agreed.



After years of playing disposable villains and losers on the periphery, Buscemi had grown accustomed to being passed over for leading roles. So when Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter offered him the part of corrupt politician Enoch “Nucky” Thompson in the award-winning HBO series, Buscemi offered his usual reply. “When Terry did call me and he said that he and Marty [Scorsese] wanted me to play this role, my response was, ‘Terry, I know you’re looking at other actors, and I just appreciate that my name is being thrown in,’" Buscemi recalled. "He said, ‘No, Steve, I just said we want you.’ It still didn’t sink in.” Eventually, of course, reality did sink in, and Buscemi went on to win a Golden Globe and Emmy Award across the show’s five seasons.


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