How To Train With a T. Rex Easter Eggs

Easter eggs are a staple in today's modern entertainment. Whether it be animated films, cartoons, DVD special features,...and yes, even children's books. I'm sure you're quite aware of the multitude of easter eggs found in Pixar's films, as well as the vast majority of hidden gags in Looney Tunes throughout the years. I, myself, have snuck in countless inside jokes in almost all of my work since I've been working in the industry. Check out this ID for Animania and see if you can find me: Animania Superhero ID.

Why do we do this? Boredom. Either that, or it's just a lot of fun.

Being an animator, it was almost inevitable that I would somehow slip a couple of inside jokes into the first children's book I illustrated, How To Train With a T. Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals. Some are obvious. Others, not so much. I knew that it would make it fun for my friends and family to read through the book to see something familiar. An extra connection that I knew would be enjoyable for my loved ones.

The first one you'll encounter is on pages 16-17 (click on all images to view larger):

How To Train With a T.Rex pages 16-17
Say, what's the name of that pizza delivery service?

Ava's Pizza
Ah, yes. Ava's Pizza, named after my daughter. She loved seeing this.

Turn the page, and you'll find pages 18-19:

How To Train With a T.Rex pages 18-19
Say, what's the name of that broccoli delivery service?

Old Man Ezra's Broccoli Farm
Ezra's the name of my son, of course.

He did NOT like this at first. He thought that old guy was him and got all grumpy about it. I reassured him that it wasn't him, but the truck driver. "See, you hire him to do the delivery of all the broccoli!" That seemed to work. He likes seeing his name in the book now.

And the "Ol' Man" bit was something I took from one of Ezra's sayings. He would call us "ol' man!" every once in a while. He's quite the entertaining fellow, that Ezra.

Next, is page 22:

How To Train With a T.Rex page 22
This was a dozy of a page. With the deadline looming, I knew it would be crazy to work on all the details of the basketball players, so I tried a simple approach at first. It didn't work out. I just had to face the music and create each and every one of these guys with all the different colors and line colors and shading, etc. It was crazy. But worth it.

Say, doesn't that look like some artist/animator you might know?

Faces in the crowd
Couldn't resist putting myself in this. Just too easy. I'm the only guy wearing purple and red: my little homage to Prince.

Other faces:

The bald guy right next to me is my brother in law, Von.

Two above him, with the full beard and wearing purple and white (for the school he went to in Cincinnati) is my other brother in law, Nate.

Directly above him in the fu manchu mustache is their father, my father in law, Jim Corrona. Otherwise known as "Coach". I drew him as he looked in the late 70's, when he was the head basketball coach at Salem High School, Salem, Illinois. Their school colors were dark green and white.

The rest are just various faces and people culled from various sources, mostly from NBA team sites. Some are actual players, but I wouldn't know what their names are for the life of me.

Pages 26-27 was an interesting spread to work on:

How To Train With a T.Rex pages 26-27
It's always fun to turn the book on its side, right? This spread gave me fits! I couldn't for the life of me work out a decent concept for the text. That is, until I decided to make it vertical. Violá!

Say, those hikers in the bottom lefthand corner look kinda familiar to me....

Hikers and tiny people from p. 26
The hikers on the left are loosely based on me and Andrea when we went to Italy back in '99. A stretch, I know, but that was what I was thinking of when I started to draw this couple.

Why am I showing a close up of all the little people underneath the Eiffel Tower(s)? My daughter, Ava, helped out with the coloring of some of them! I showed her how to work the stylus and Wacom tablet in Photoshop and let her go to town. She had a LOT of fun with this. She's very proud of her work.

On the last page of the book, page 32:

How To Train with a T.Rex page 32
The very last image of the book, we have Michael relaxing with his dog, Herman, on a couch. Surrounding him are items and photos that remind the reader of Michael's journey that he spoke of throughout the entire book. Hints and clues around the room, similar to the ending of The Usual Suspects, where we find out that Kevin Spacey's character's tale was all fabricated, made up by looking at various things around the office. (I'm not suggesting that Michael's story was made up, mind you!)

Take a closer look at the toy model of that NY subway car....

Page 32 close up: CANON gets up
If you put a subway car in a children's book, I'm bound to bomb it with a tag: CANON.

Okay! How's that for your Monday? Hope you enjoyed this little tour of easter eggs found in my book. Never sure if I'll ever have a chance to do this, but it's always a thrill when I do have the opportunity. Makes it all the more special for the readers, I hope.

If you haven't checked the book out, I hope this might encourage you to buy the book solely for the sake of impressing your little ones that you know who Ava and Ezra are, and know that the illustrator can be found on that one page filled with basketball centers. Who knows, it just might work.


  1. Very fun! I've done this with friends names in books before and it's always great to see their responses!

  2. My first picture book was a Christmas story. I drew a lot of my family members into the book as elves. :)

  3. That was great to see all the little extras you put in there, thanks for sharing.

  4. Delightful!! And those drawings are so beautiful and fun- I need to buy the book!!

    Thanks for sharing the eggs with us, Ward!! :)

  5. What a great looking book, and now with Easter eggs!. Reminds me of some of my favorite Golden books, always something new to see!

  6. This is great, Ward. Thanks for sharing all those. I'll have to pick up the book when I come to Portland in November!

  7. Thank you all! Really appreciate the nice comments.

  8. The more I see of your book, the more fun and lovely it looks. I really have to get it for my children. My 5 year old daughter *loved* The Olympics and I'm sure the American-ness of it will be easily explainable to 2 young Brits :)

  9. I've been working on an animated music video...snuck my friends into an apartment in a wide shot of the main characters apartment building. Super subtle, but it's an easter egg. It's for me. :)


  10. Became a fan of your work sir! Absolutely adorable.

    I am so happy to have discovered this blog! It goes straight into my blogroll.

  11. I love your stuff, I think it's really excellent the colors the style everything!!