If you grew up in the ‘90s—heck, if you were alive in the ‘90s—regardless of your age, you’re undoubtedly very familiar with the iconic films of Ron Clements and John Musker, even though you might not know their faces. That being said, you likely didn’t know that you have seen their faces, because they delightfully hide versions of themselves in a few of their movies! You were so caught up in the stories that their appearances probably flashed by unnoticed … or you were a toddler. Thankfully, Ron and John themselves were kind enough to talk to us about their cameo appearances in five of their films.
As many Disney fans know, Ron and John made their animated debut as two background characters in 1992’s Aladdin, during the marketplace scene when Aladdin meets Prince Achmed. However, most people probably don’t know that their cameo was originally intended for another iconic movie duo. “We first thought that they might be Siskel and Ebert,” Musker explained, referring to At the Movies’ movie critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. But the idea was ultimately scrapped due to the issue of Ebert’s signature glasses. “I just thought Roger Ebert would be impossible to sort of caricature without glasses,” Musker said, “and I thought, ‘we can’t put glasses in this movie, there’s nobody with glasses.’” From there, the task of replacing the movie critics fell on the shoulders of the scene’s animator, Mike Cedeno, who was the one that ultimately decided to use Ron and John, and the rest is history. “In terms of our cameos, I think our Aladdin one is still probably our best one,” Clements said.
Next came their cameo as “very oddly proportioned construction workers” as Musker puts it, in Hercules. Just like their brief appearance in Aladdin, the pair can be recognized by their marked differences, with Musker materializing as the taller construction worker with the exaggerated nose, and Clements as his shorter, red-headed companion.
Arguably the most delightful iteration of the two, Ron and John appear as a lanky robot (John) and what looks like a furry, otherworldly creature (Ron) in Treasure Planet. “There’s something appealing to me about those,” Musker said.
The Princess and the Frog, Part I
“In some ways, we have two appearances in Princess and the Frog,” Musker told us. Before they show up on the King Triton float in the Mardi Gras parade, Ron and John make a super quick cameo at the masquerade ball as an extension of the Fenner Brothers. Interestingly, at one part in the film’s production, animators caricatured Ron and John as the real estate agents who eventually sell Tiana the sugar mill. Although their appearance was well received around Disney Animation at the time, Ron and John ultimately decided to nix the parody because they felt it would throw off the rest of the movie. “However, when Stella jumps on the table and the cake goes flying in the air and hits those guys, they turn into caricatures of us,” Musker explained.
The Princess and the Frog, Part II
To this day, the duo’s more recognizable appearance in The Princess and the Frog is a (jokingly) controversial subject that involves hair color. “John was very upset about the two of us on the float,” Clements explained, “because, well, John went prematurely grey.”
“It’s true,” Musker said.
And while Clements admits that he went grey around the time of the making of The Princess and the Frog, he was somehow spared the same treatment as his counterpart. “That’s why no one has really recognized Ron on that float,” joked Musker, “because he doesn’t look like that.”
Finally, their most recent cameo is that of figures on a tapas cloth near the beginning of Moana, although the appearance wasn’t included in the film until late in production. “It was about solving the puzzle of how to get us in the movie in some way,” Clements explained, admitting that it “wasn’t easy” because they also wanted to stay authentic to the film.
“An amazing visual development artist, Griselda Satstrawinata-Lemay,” Musker said. “She did a lot of the tapas, the Gramma Tala ones where they’re talking about the monsters in the beginning; she also designed the one that we’re on.”
And much like their dual appearances in The Princess and the Frog, Ron and John also make another quick, nearly impossible to see iteration as carved figures during the scene when Moana runs to the side of her ill Gramma Tala. “You just literally can’t see it,” Musker said. (Side note: in all honesty, we tried looking for it, and sadly failed.)
As for the future of their Disney Easter egg appearances, there’s a good chance we haven’t seen the last Ron and John cameo. “We are imminently caricature-able, so you never know,” Musker said. “It goes back to the Ebert and Siskel thing,” Clements added, “there’s always something good about visual contrast.”
Do you have a favorite Ron and John appearance? Let us know in the comments!