Seinfeld touts itself as a show about nothing, but indulge me for a moment: deep down it’s really a show about Disney. No, I’m not some sort of Svenjolly – I’m just a guy who loves both Seinfeld and Disney and set out to bring you undisputed evidence that the entire premise of the greatest sitcom of all time is really just one big tribute to the greatest corporation of all time. The facts below are too numerous to be considered a coincidence. Yada, yada, keep reading to see what I mean.
The Fab Four
Let’s start by breaking down the fundamentals of our friend group so you can start to see the true Bizzaro world:
Jerry: the leader of the club that’s made for you and me is clearly our Mickey Mouse. They’re both funny, clever, thin, and neat (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and the glue that binds the whole gang together. The main difference between the two is that Mickey sometimes wants to be a pirate.
George: Jerry’s best friend from childhood is George. Typically angry, this short, stocky, slow-witted, bald man is very akin to Donald Duck both physically and in his temperament. Though, since Donald never wears pants, he seems to be a bit more proud of his shrinkage.
Elaine: Jerry’s ex-girlfriend, but we really know there are some sparks there – Elaine’s sassy attitude and head that’s too big for her body aligns perfectly with Minnie. Let’s face it, neither of them are great dancers, either.
Kramer – Jerry’s hipster doofus neighbor couldn’t be more of a Goofy. Tall and lanky with hair like The Bride of Frankenstein, Kramer and Goofy similarly enjoy a good scheme and when they develop a cough, both take the same “dog pills”.
Bonus! Newman: Jerry’s arch-nemesis is a postal worker that’s in love with Elaine. While Mickey’s rival Pete isn’t a mailman, his rotund body type and love of Minnie certainly make a convenient parallel.
We get into more of the guest stars and cameos in a section down below. For now, let’s work through the episodes where we spot Disney references.
The Muppet Chronicles
Right off the bat of the pilot episode entitled “The Seinfeld Chronicles”, we start to see the Disney connection. Moments after the opening scene in the very first episode of Seinfeld, we meet Jerry and George having a conversation in the diner. This isn’t Monk’s though, it’s Pete’s Luncheonette.
The exterior of the diner here is a distinct looking storefront, filmed on the corner of Varick and Downing Street in Downtown (just like the song says) Manhattan. Look familiar? Muppet fans will recognize it as the sleazy restaurant where Kermit and gang hang during the 1984 flick, The Muppets Take Manhattan.
Seinfeld was distributed by Columbia Pictures Television and The Muppets Take Manhattan was distributed by its sister company TriStar Pictures. It may seem that Seinfeld was just using some leftover B-roll from the Muppets production just a few years later, but really we know that Larry and Jerry saw the Disney connection long before Disney purchased the Muppet franchise in 2004. Now we know that a rubber band in soup = rats in the kitchen. Oh, Paco!
Jerry is a fan of Big Al
OK, so maybe the Muppet reference didn’t convince you. Fast-forward to Season 4 when Seinfeld starts to really hit its stride. In the first episode of this season, we see Jerry on-stage performing a bit about his disdain for people in airports, specifically those who get on to a moving walkway and just stand there “like it’s a ride”…
Animated pirates and bears, of course, refer to a couple of the greatest attractions Disney Imagineering has ever created: Pirates of the Caribbean and The Country Bear Jamboree, both of which existed not only in Disneyland and Magic Kingdom but also in Tokyo Disneyland when this episode aired in 1992. It’s starting to become more apparent that Jerry has a fondness for Disney Parks…
Kramer appears on ABC
In the season 5 finale, “The Opposite”, Kramer brings his “coffee table book about coffee tables” to Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, a long-running show on Disney-owned ABC. Though Disney didn’t officially merge with the network until a year or so after this episode aired, the two companies have had a close relationship and association since the mid-fifties when Walt and Roy Disney struck a partnership with ABC to help finance Disneyland.
Host Regis Philbin, who guest stars in this episode, also has long-standing ties to Disney and even briefly appeared on a ride called Superstar Limo (now Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue!) in Disney California Adventure.
Another Muppet Reference
Season 6 gives us the glorious episode 5 entitled “The Couch”. As part of the plot, George is forced to join a book club. In one scene, we see him slacking off from reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s to enjoy the latest copy of CRACKED magazine. This is the November 1994, issue #294 of the satirical publication. On the back cover, we see a lovable Disney character being dissected with the caption “Kermit the Frog goes back to school”.
Another fun fact about this episode is that the video store clerk that refuses to rent Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Geroge is played by Patton Oswalt, known in Disney communities as the voice of Remy in Ratatouille (2007). Read more about his role and a few other guest stars with Disney connections further below.
He’s going to Disney World!
Season 7 brings us another “hot & heavy” episode: number 11, “The Rye”, finds Kramer responsible for a handsome-cab horse named Rusty with a Beef-A-Reeno™ addiction. Rusty’s owner Dennis skipped town for a very specific reason…
As this episode aired in 1996, it looks like Dennis was heading to the Happiest Place on Earth just in time to see a birthday cake castle celebrating Walt Disney World’s 25th anniversary (comparable in value to a slice of cake from the wedding of King Edward VIII to Wallis Simpson, circa 1937).
Frank’s upgrading to an Annual Pass
In season 8, episode 12 titled “The Money”, George realized that his parents may have more money than he thought. Upon getting this wake-up call, they decide to start living it up and announce that they’re moving to Florida. Frank’s enthusiasm for Disney’s Signature Dining comes through as he exclaims:
Sadly, the Constanza’s ended up moving back to New York. We would have loved to have seen a TGIF-style, multi-part episode of Seinfeld where the cast all end up in Disney World. It’d be a whole lot of “these Mickey pretzels are making my thirsty”.
The great Iron Man debate
Seinfeld’s 9th and final season was one of the best. In episode 2, the gang, usually discussing Superman, find themselves in an argument over one of Marvel’s greatest heroes.
According to notes from Kramer’s intern, Darren: Mr. Seinfeld and Mr. Costanza debated on whether or not Iron Man wore some sort undergarment between his skin and his iron suit…
Although Disney’s acquisition of Marvel didn’t happen for 12 years after this episode aired in 1997, we like to think that the writer had some intuitive abilities – that they were in touch with a lot of cosmic kind of things.
Elaine loves The Lion King
Episode 6 of season 9 was most memorable for two reasons: both being Disney references.
The episode follows a sub-plot about Elaine’s coworker nicknamed “The Sidler” for his silent, sneaky ability to sneak up next to you. The Sidler, Lou, “sidled” Elaine in her office while she was making a Cup-A-Soup and singing “that song from the Lion King“.
Jerry is repulsed by this, but not just because Elaine was singing “Hakuna Matata”, but also because she was indulging in an instant soup.
This reference is a fascinating one since this episode aired in 1997, nearly 3 years after The Lion King debuted in theaters. It just goes to show how desperate the Seinfeld writers were to incorporate as many Disney references as possible into the season… actually, into one episode…
Even The Sidler loves Disney
Also in this episode, we find out that Jerry’s girlfriend has a rare toy collection that he’s desperate to gain access to. Along the way, we also find out that the Sidler has an affinity for a very specific toy from his childhood:
Released in 1968 and popularized in the 1970s, the Mickey Mouse gumball machine was a favorite of Disney kids, including Lou.
The “Summer of George” was spent in Epcot
Halfway through season 9, we find out about George’s large wallet in episode 12, “The Reverse Peephole”. While Jerry’s auditing the monstrosity that is the wallet, he reads off of a card:
Show this card at any participating Orlando-area Exxon station to get your free “Save the Tiger” poster.
This card isn’t made up by clever writers, it was an actual card that existed back in 1998, the year this episode aired (today, you can always find some pop up on eBay). Some of you may remember being handed the card on your way out of Ellen’s Energy Adventure in Epcot – the actual card was a promotion in cooperation with Exxon, the company that sponsored the energy attraction back then.
The card could be used at any of the three Exxon gas stations (now Speedway stations) to redeem your “Save the Tiger” poster (I don’t know anyone that’s done this, including George). Another Seinfeld tie-in here is that Michael Richards (Kramer) can be seen in the ride video of Ellen’s Energy Adventure as a caveman who discovers fire and sparked the progress of civilization.
A Hidden Mickey
Did you know that there’s at least one Hidden Mickey in Seinfeld? If you don’t already know, a Hidden Mickey is an image of our favorite cartoon mouse hidden in the decor of Disney movies, Parks, and Resorts. They’re so popular that you can even pick up a guide book pointing them out if you don’t like finding them on your own.
In episode 13 of season 9, ironically named “The Cartoon”, J̶e̶r̶r̶y̶ Susan’s college roommate Sally Weaver (played by Kathy Griffin) performs a one-woman show called “Jerry Seinfeld is the Devil”. The theater where her show takes place contains a poster with an unmistakable image in it…
Unfortunately, we can’t make out what the poster says, so we just assume it was a prop that was made up specifically to demonstrate the Disney conspiracy that we’re pointing out here.
Kramer digs Star Wars
Our last episode reference takes place during “The Puerto Rican Day” festivities seen in season 9, episode 20. George worries about losing his vision while someone tortures him from afar with a laser pointer. Kramer’s advice:
You’ll be fine as long as it doesn’t hit you right in the pupil, ’cause then the whole ball will go up like the Death Star. Pew!
Though Disney didn’t buy Lucasfilm/Star Wars until 2012 (this episode aired in 1998), Disney and Star Wars already had a deep connection and association in the theme parks.
The Cast, Reoccurring Characters, and Guest Stars
Besides dropping an incredible amount of Disney references in its episodes, the producers have enlisted a number of reoccurring characters and guest stars that have links to the Disney universe. Let’s start with the main cast.
In real life, George is portrayed by actor Jason Alexander. Alexander’s most memorable Disney credit would be the voice of the gargoyle Hugo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996). He’s also had a few other Disney stints including a number of roles on ABC’s Dinosaurs (1991-1994).
Some may describe Elaine as pretty, kind of short, with a big wall-o-hair, and a face like a frying pan. In reality, actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus has those same qualities, with the addition of a few ties to the Disney universe. Dreyfus was the voice of Princess Atta in Pixar’s A Bug’s Life (1998) and most recently had a role in Pixar’s Onward (2020) as the voice of Ian and Barley’s mom, Laurel Lightfoot.
Puddy actor Patrick Warburton is best known to Disney fans as the Chief Flight Attendant during the pre-show of Soarin’ Around the World in both Disney California Adventure and Epcot, but did you know you can also find him as the voice of the security droid G2-4T seen during the queue of Star Tours in both Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios? He’s also voiced a number of characters in Disney films and TV shows, including Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) and Buzz Lightyear in the short-lived Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000-2001). Nice work, pal!
Postal employee Newman, played brilliantly by actor Wayne Knight, is a staple of the Seinfeld universe. In the Disney universe, Knight lends the voice to Al McWhiggin (of Al’s Toy Barn) in Toy Story 2 (1999) and weirdly enough voices Emperor Zurg opposite his Seinfeld regular costar, Patrick Warburton in the short-lived Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000-2001) series.
Another Pixar pal, George’s mother Estelle is played by the legendary Estelle Harris. Her distinct shrilly voice is that of Mrs. Potato Head in the Toy Story franchise. Other Disney work includes a reoccurring role as Muriel on the Disney Channel’s The Suite Life of Zack & Cody (2005-2008). Well, I guess now we know which amusement park she accused George of treating himself like!
Naked Guy on the Subway
In season 3, Jerry befriends a large, naked man on the subway. Close your eyes (for more reasons than one) and listen to his voice – sound familiar? The naked man is played by actor Ernie Sabella, best known to Disney fans as the voice of Pumbaa in The Lion King (1994), The Lion Guard (2015-2019), Festival of the Lion King, and most other places you hear the flatulent warthog’s voice.
Video Store Clerk
As mentioned above, we meet a character who works at the video store (not Vincent or Gene) in season 6, episode 5. Actor Patton Oswalt made his first television acting appearance as a guest star in this role. Oswalt’s most famous Disney connection is that of the voice of Remy in Ratatouille (2007) but he also voiced Professor Dementor in Disney Channel’s Kim Possible series as well as Agent(s) Koenig in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Eric the Clown
Many people don’t know that the man behind the makeup in season 5, episode 19 is Disney Legend Jon Favreau. Favreau has a huge involvement with Disney. For Marvel, he plays Tony Stark’s right-hand man, Happy Hogan as well as directed and produced a number of Iron Man and Avengers films. Favreau also directed the “live-action” versions of both The Jungle Book (2016) and The Lion King (2019). He’s even broken into the Star Wars universe as the creator of the Disney+ series, The Mandalorian – meaning he’s directly responsible for our obsession with baby Yoda! Thank the maker!
Med School Student
Daniel Dae Kim may be best known by Disney fans for playing the role of Jin on ABC’s LOST, but before he got LOST, Kim had a small stint on Seinfeld as a med school student charged with guessing the ailment of actors (Mickey and Kramer) hired to play patients.
Kramer’s Girlfriend, Emily
Did you know that Kramer had a fling with a Disney Princess? That’s right! In season 8, episode 12 the voice of Princess Vanellope von Schweetz, comedian Sarah Silverman, guest stars as Kramer’s overly cuddly girlfriend. The Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) star also had a cameo role in Disney’s 2011 film, The Muppets.
Art Imitating Art
The Walt Disney Company seemed to have caught on to all of the Disney references on Seinfeld (without ever having to read this blog post) and in an effort up the ante, they’ve created their own parodies. Here are some examples:
Known for their pop-culture spoofs, The Muppets published a calendar in the mid-nineties with a take-off of Seinfeld called Frogfeld. As you can imagine, Kermit plays Jerry, Fozzie plays George, Piggy plays Elaine, and Gonzo is Kramer (naturally). Unfortunately, this still image is all we get of a show would certainly make for must-see TV.
ABC’s short-lived Muppets Tonight, however, did bless us with a mash-up of Muppet Babies and Seinfeld called: Seinfeld Babies. Take a look at the full clip, below – it really is breathtaking!
Mickey Mouse Works
Wanting to jump on the bandwagon, Mickey and gang had a quick parody of Seinfeld during an episode of the ABC Saturday morning cartoon called Mickey Mouse Works. The premise was that Donald is hit in the head and falls into a world where Goofy is everywhere. When he turns on the TV and flips through the channels he finds the opening to Goofeld.
Below is an excellent bootleg of the skit. I’ve never seen such beautiful work. It’s genius. The zoom-ins, the framing. I was enchanted…
Seinfeld In Real Life
While the actors that portrayed Jerry and Kramer (Jerry Seinfeld and Michael Richards, respectively) haven’t had any major roles with Disney, we know that they’re fans of the parks.
Jerry and family have been spotted in the Magic Kingdom on occasion:
…and even Michael Richards joined a Disneyland gang called the “Van Buren Boys”:
Confirmed! Michael Richards aka Kramer from Seinfeld is at Disneyland! #saw …. https://t.co/LGiSzt56Up pic.twitter.com/qfXQ2b1kZa
— Disney Parks Celebs (@DisneyParkCeleb) September 10, 2016
Seinfeld co-creator and Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David also gets in on the Disney fun with a 2007 walk-on role on Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana. In the segment, David’s kids even mention “Uncle Jerry” – it’s the best of both worlds!
Well, there you have it, a blog post about nothing. Am I crazy or am I so sane that I just blew your mind? Either way, if you’re still reading this then you deserve a sculpture of you made out of fusilli. Why? Because you’re silly!
Did we miss a Seinfeld-Disney connection? Well then, stuff your sorries in a sack and let us know in the comments below or send us a note via our contact form.