12 Cool Obscure References and Facts From ‘Ready Player One’

Kim Taylor-Foster
Movies
Movies

Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One is packed with Easter Eggs and references to pop culture — many of which you might have spotted. But here’s a few secrets, facts and staggeringly well-buried references you might not have spotted. Let’s go.

1. The Hard-to-Spot Akira Bike Easter Eggs

ready player one-akira-bike
Spot the stickers on Kaneda's bike from Akira in Ready Player One.

Kaneda’s bike from Akira is a favourite Easter Egg from Ready Player One. But did you know there are also a bunch of Easter Eggs within that Easter Egg? The original bike features stickers of company logos, like Canon and Citizen, which obviously couldn’t be used in the Ready Player One film. So they were switched out for stickers featuring Hello Kitty, Miss Pac-Man, and the Atari, Sega and JFA Skateboards logos. There’s also a ThunderCats badge.

2. Hellraiser Nod

There are several horror references throughout Ready Player One, some of which we wrote about here. But A Nightmare on Elm StreetFriday the 13th and The Shining aren’t the only horror classics to pick up nods in Ready Player One. Horror fans might recognise a familiar face in early scenes – and again later on. A certain Mrs Gilmore – who lives in the Stacks beneath Wade – is none other than Hellraiser icon Claire Higgins. British actress Higgins played Julia in both the original Hellraiser from 1987 and 1988’s Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and qualifies as horror royalty.

3. Billy Idol Record

Ready-Player-One-Billy-Idol
Look closely at the space between Halliday and Morrow.

A Billy Idol 7” can be seen on Halliday’s desk in one of the memories Parzival visits in the Halliday Journals. But did you figure out which record it is? It’s Idol’s Don’t Stop EP featuring the song “Mony Mony”. The EP was released in 1981 on Chrysalis Records. And if you’re wondering what other songs featured alongside Billy’s cover version of “Mony Mony” — originally a hit for Tommy James and the Shondells in 1968 — they are: “Baby Talk”, “Untouchables” and “Dancing With Myself”.

4. Steven Spielberg’s Daughter Designed 3 Characters

If you look closely during the nightclub scene, you might glimpse three characters in the background that were actually designed by a certain Mikaela George Spielberg. One is a woman with a cat face wearing a corset, who you can see during the drone selfie moment. Another is an acrobat wearing a metal mask and big, puffy green trousers. The third is an underwater princess. Interestingly, while most Street Fighter characters make an appearance in the film, Vega is missing. Why? Because he looked too much like the masked acrobat Spielberg’s daughter designed.

5. The IOI Cars Hold a Hidden Secret

Ready Player One-cars
Just above the IOI on the bonnet, there's a QR code.

On the front of the IOI cars in the race sequences, you might spot QR codes right there on the bonnet. Even cooler is the fact that these codes are scannable and actually lead somewhere! They take you to the Warner Bros. website.

6. Staggering Numbers

A total of around 570 characters were created for the film. Of which up to 100 are original designs. And that’s not including vehicles and any other digital creations embedded in the flick.

7. Old School Toys

Among the plentiful movie and gaming references from the 1980s, you’ll notice a handful of childhood toys from the era. There’s a version of the Rubik’s Cube, and a Madball features prominently. They’re there because creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, put them in his virtual world. But Mark Rylance’s character seems particularly obsessed with 1980s toys, with less obvious nods scattered throughout. Did you notice an Etch-a-Sketch lying around in his virtual bedroom at the end of the film, and the Simple Simon badge on his lapel?

8. ‘Back to the Future’ Meets ‘Knight Rider’

Ready Player One-Delorean
The Back to the Future Delorean with KITT customisation.

It’s pretty cool that Marty McFly’s Delorean from Back to the Future is Parzival’s car of choice in the OASIS. But did you spot that he’d pimped it? The front of the car has a neat reference to Michael Knight’s artificially intelligent Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, KITT, from 1980s TV series Knight Rider. The nice little customised touch featured is KITT’s flashing red light.

9. ‘Clash of the Titans’ Meets Classic Rock

Bubo-Clash-of-the-Titans
Bubo

Canadian rock band Rush feature heavily in the book. Their album 2112 is the basis for a test. This reference, however, didn’t make the transition to the screen, except for a passing nod via a poster in Halliday’s bedroom. While the film’s bigwigs may have struggled to secure the rights to use Rush assets, there’s a wily homage to another of their albums. Involving Bubo the mechanical owl from Clash of the Titans. In one scene, Bubo spreads his wings as a character walks by in a dark purple jacket – et voilà – a super-cool re-creation of that classic album cover.

10. Another ‘Dark Crystal’ Easter Egg

The Dark Crystal-Skeksis
The Skeksis with their blades in The Dark Crystal.

The reference to Kira isn’t the only Dark Crystal Easter Egg in the film. In Ready Player One, Kira is the adopted name of Ogden Morrow’s wife, taken from the name of the Gelfling from the 1982 fantasy film. Fans of the film should look closely when Sho fires a boomerang weapon at TJ Miller’s I-R0k during the final battle, slicing off his arm and causing coins to spill out. It’s a Haakskeekah blade, the four-point dagger used by the Skesis in Jim Henson’s animatronic classic.

11. ‘Jurassic Park’ T-Rex

Ready-Player-One-Jurassic-TREX
The chase scene from Ready Player One (left) versus the scene it nods to in Jurassic Park.

One extra-cool thing to know about the film concerns the Tyrannosaurus Rex that turns up in the race scene. Not only is it a nod to Jurassic Park, but it was actually created using reference photos from the original T-Rex used in Jurassic Park. Consequently, the film’s designers initially created a T-Rex maquette brought to life for the film, instead of a ‘real’ dinosaur. In other words, the gamers in the OASIS were being chased not by the Jurassic Park dinosaur, but by the model that played the original T-Rex in Jurassic Park. They even digitally recreated the holes in the plaster. Woah.

12. Halliday’s Favourite Things

We’re told that Halliday’s favourite song is “Video Killed the Radio Star”, by The Buggles. The message of the film is that, as reverential as it is towards games, movies and pop culture, a virtual universe is no substitute for the real world. The song draws attention to the march of progress and technological advances, and serves as a warning almost. Halliday feared his creation falling into the wrong hands and being used for nefarious reasons, so it’s apt that this would be his favourite song.

His favourite music video is also significant: A-Ha’s “Take On Me.” This featured a girl reading a comic who ends up entering the animated world on the page and sees her involved in an adventure with the sketched hero. It mirrors the events of Ready Player One, and the nature of virtual reality as a whole.

Ready Player One is in cinemas now.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.
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