● At one point in Christopher Nolan’s 2014 film Interstellar, Matthew McConaughey is seen reading
The Willoughbys. So in this movie, the Barnabys are caught reading a fictional book called “Interstellar.”
● The cat in Disney’s original Mary Poppins was called Willoughby. In The Willoughbys, Nanny always carries an unexplained umbrella as an ode to her onscreen predecessor. She even floats down the stars with it.
● Instead of the real American bus carrier Greyhound, people in the film are seen riding “Cathound” buses.
● Many scenes in the movie feature hidden cats. One’s title is visible in the ocean during the final scene, while another rides an alligator’s back during the parent’ tour of the Amazon.
● There’s a running gag involving car and bus pile-ups. When The Cat causes Nanny’s bus to suddenly stop, the audience can see that the driver is wearing a neck brace — he’s had the unfortunate luck of being involved in all the crashes.
● The buses feature advertisements for Melanoff’s best-selling candy, Lickety Twist, and a stage musical about nuns.
● Tim and Jane fall asleep while steering the dirigible, but awake to find The Cat has taken the wheel. That’s a callback to the Saturday Night Live sketch Toonces the Driving Cat, co-starring Steve Martin. He and Martin Short currently tour together and have co-starred often on screen, most recently in
Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a Netflix variety special that received four Emmy nominations.
● In the same scene, Tim drinks from a takeout coffee cup, but the barista has spelled his name T-O-M.
● In portraits at the Willoughby home, all the men (and some women) have formidable mustaches. Father is clean-shaven, however, because Mother has clipped his yarn facial hair for her knitting.
● When Tim says, “With great responsibility comes great mustache,” he’s riffing off one of Peter Parker’s most famous lines in the Spider-Man comics (“With great power comes great responsibility”).
● Tim is an immediate fan of Commander Melanoff because of his mustache. His logo on his candy bars also features said mustache.
● Commander Melanoff fits exactly inside the negative space created by his factory (which has a peppermint for a doorbell).
● Nanny once jokingly calls Commander Melanoff, “Sugar Daddy.”
● When Ruth devours candy at Melanoff’s factory, she is meant to resemble a Pac-Man arcade game.
● Baby Ruth is the name of a real candy bar that turns 100 next year.
● On the screens in Commander Melanoff’s factory, a cartoon is always playing about how he first discovered candy. The filmmakers had Citizen Kane in mind, with a candy bar being Melanoff’s Rosebud.
● At the Barnabys’ foster home, there's a lot of posters for made-up movies. A notable one is for Accidentally Married 2.
● Barnaby twins never blink. Character designer Craig Kellman had the idea to base them off Danny Torrance in The Shining.
● When Nanny meets the siblings, her shadow is literally shaped like a heart, enveloping the kids.
● A banjo player in a garbage truck plays “Dueling Banjos” from the film Deliverance.
● This American Life host Ira Glass is heard introducing a podcast episode from one car’s radio.
● Ricky Gervais’ dad was from Ontario, like Pearn.
● Lois Lowry drew all the illustrations in her book “The Willoughbys.”
● Pearn originally wanted to call “I Choose” — the song Alessia Cara sings in the film — “Box in a Box.”
● The handmade travel brochure the children send is from The Reprehensible Travel Agency.
● The name Melanoff came from an actual incident in Lowry’s life: “I had a friend who decreed one time that he was the expert at choosing a melon when he went to the supermarket. He said he always chose the best melon, just by his intuition. I had another friend who said, ‘No, no. I can do that better than you. I have my own method.’ So, they actually bought a whole bunch of melons and they had an event at their house, which they called the Melanoff.”