First, make sure and read Lothar’s post below, I forgot this would stack on top.

A handful of commenters have wondered if they’ve seen references to Pixar’s Up in recent comics. I’m not so much “denying the accusation”, since it’s no secret we make homages and references and take inspiration from many pop culture sources, and I don’t believe there’s any shame in that. I’m happy to say “Yep, you got the reference!” when people pick up on them. But the Up parallels only became apparent to me when they were pointed out, and being an interesting set of coincidences, made for interesting trivia, so I thought I’d discuss it just for funsies.

#1 – The cerberus’s heads resemble the antagonist dogs, Alpha, Beta and Gamma.

Pixar and I both used a doberman pinscher, a rottweiler and a bulldog as our bad guy dog breeds, and probably for similar reasons. Dobermans and rottweilers are among the first breeds that come to mind when you think “big mean dog” (whether justified or not; calm down puppylovers). Pit bull terriers would also be high up on that list, but they have less distinctive features. The breed seems to vary a lot and it generally looks more nondescript than the recognisable shapes and facial markings of dobermans and rotties, so those dogs make for a better basis for caricature. I also quickly realised that the similar black-with-tan markings would translate well into markings on a unified beast.

Bulldogs have less of a bad rep, they’re generally pretty docile, so why did we both choose bulldogs for our third evil dog? Probably the simplest reason is the distinctive look. Easy to caricature and make different from the other two. But also perhaps to act as the comic foil in the trio. Bulldogs are naturally kind of goofy looking, and both Gamma and the third cerberus head display the silliest behaviour of their respective trios (the bulldog being the first head to take interest in Morth’s ball). There are plenty of other choices we could have made to fill the distinct-look/silly-role: a toy poodle or pomeranian would certainly have been amusing. But bulldog has the benefit of retaining an air of toughness about it so doesn’t look too out of place next to the big dogs.

In addition, my bulldog head was kind of an oblique reference to Winston Churchill. The British Bulldog, WWII, get it? (Ohhh yes.)

Actually in early sketches, the centre head was going to be a wolf. But I ultimately opted for domestic dogs, since Hound daemons are always depicted with collars, and the Hound’s war themes suggest dogs trained for human conflict. The wild nature of the wolf didn’t fit the very human idea of warfare.

#2 – Muntz’s pack and the cerberus are both comically distracted at a critical juncture by a thrown tennis ball.

I completely forgot about this scene in Up, had to go looking for it to remind myself. So it wasn’t a conscious reference on my part, but could it have been unconscious influence? Well, in the comments, Silversword posited that the EN scene may have been written prior to Up‘s release, so I went looking for the dates. Up came out in May 2009, although I didn’t see it until it was out on DVD, in late 2009.

And here’s a post from the EN writers’ private admin forum from January 2009 (edited for future spoilers):

The fact is, exploiting a mean dog by playing into its puppy instincts is an old gag. Pretty sure Bugs Bunny’s done it a couple times. Foghorn Leghorn’s probably done it to that dog he was always antagonising. It’s an old cartoon trope.

Funny thing, I briefly thought about colouring the ball like Luxo Jr’s star ball before deciding to go with a simple tennis ball.

And not that anybody pointed this out, but:

#3 – Both Up and Bookend of Unimaginable Power include a character inappropriately named “Kevin”

Well our Kevin dates back to 2007, so there. And the explanation here is that Kevin is just kind of a dorky name. Sorry, Kevins of the world. Look, I’m sure it suits you fine, but not so much evil Patternari daemon eyeballs, or giant, flightless (not to mention female) cryptid birds.