At the poker table in the saloon when Rango first enters, there is an owl in a top hat holding a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights. These were the cards held by notorious Wild West gunman "Wild" Bill Hickok, the moment he was shot dead in a saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota. Bill's hand is since known as "The Dead Man's Hand".
Instead of recording voice-overs in booths, with every actor isolated from everyone else, most of the voice-over work was recorded on a set, with the actors voicing their characters while performing with their fellow cast members. This enabled the performers to follow the rhythms of their co-stars, while also giving them room for improvisation. The same thing was done for Shark Tale (2004).
Clint Eastwood is the visual inspiration for Spirit of the West. In the back of his golf cart, the "Spirit" has five Oscar-like film awards (which Rango calls "golden guardians"). Eastwood has received exactly five Oscars, including his Irving J. Thalberg Award. The voice of the "Spirit," Timothy Olyphant, starred in the Western television series, Deadwood (2004).
In the beginning of the film, when Rango is dodging another car, he lands on the windshield of another car. The driver looks like Hunter S. Thompson, who Johnny Depp played in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).
During the scene in which Rango describes the Spirit of the West to the townspeople by drawing images in the sky with a smoldering stick, it is possible to spot the logo of American rock band KISS, Imperial Tie Fighters from Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), a shark fin, a dinosaur, and a "Kilroy was here" drawing for a brief moment.
Words of wisdom from the Spirit of the West: 1. Sometimes you have to dig deep to find what you're looking for. 2. Doesn't matter what they call you, it's the deeds that make the man. 3. Then be a hero! 4. It's not about you, it's about them. 5. No man can walk out of his own story.
The bottle in which Rango goes into to escape the bird in the desert is called "Jarrito", spanish for a small jar or container, pronounced "har EE toe". When he escapes the bird again in the town, Rango ducks into a latrine made from an empty Pepto-Bismol bottle (an anti-diarrhea medicine).
When Rango claims to have killed all seven Jenkins brothers with one bullet, the boast is an allusion to the fairy tale "The Valiant Little Taylor", who kills seven flies with one swipe of his hand, but convinces everyone he meets that he killed seven men with one blow.
The headstones of Dirt's graveyard, where the little girl points Rango to Amos' tomb, the epitaphs read "Sheriff Kippy - Rest in pleas-", " Sheriff Tucker - Hold my beer and watch this", "Sheriff Amos - Thurs.-Sat. RIP" and "He's Dead Jim".
In the beginning of the movie, Rango says he "will become the greatest lover the world has ever known." In Don Juan DeMarco (1994), Depp played a mental patient who believes he is the world's greatest lover.
Both scenes, in which Rango was running away or being chased (in the desert and in town right before he meets the mayor) were nods to or riffs on the chase scenes in Raising Arizona (1987), particularly the music.
Parent users of the review site Common Sense Media slammed the film upon release, as it depicted numerous scenes of drinking, smoking, and contained strong language and violence. They also complained that the film's sexual references should have earned it a PG-13 rating. Although the trailers did not reveal too much, the film itself is aimed mostly at an older audience, with its dark, gritty atmosphere, adult humor and script, but does have lighter moments, with content suitable for kids under twelve.
Breathe California regards the film a public health hazard. It said there were at least sixty instances of smoking in the film. Because of this, some of the anti-smoking organizations, including Breathe California, petitioned for the film to receive an R-rating instead of the original PG rating received by the Motion Picture Association of America. However, no change was made, and the film retained the PG rating.
Unlike many animated films, this film depicts Wild West-era firearms fairly accurately, and the models used in the film, are easily recognizable compared to their real-life counterparts. The only major errors are that the single-action revolvers depicted in the film, whose hammers need to be manually cocked back to be able to fire, all function in double-action mode, which does not require manual cocking, and that the predominant revolver in the film, the Colt Single Action Army, (better known as the Peacemaker), is depicted as having a swing-out cylinder, while in reality, the cylinder is fixed in place.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The Mayor (voiced by Ned Beatty) is reminiscent of the character Noah Cross, played by John Huston in Chinatown (1974). He even wears suspenders like Huston's character. Also, the plot in Chinatown (1974) involves water, and a shady scheme involving Cross, as it does the Mayor in Rango (2011).
Among the movies and television shows parodied are: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998): early in the movie, when Rango is flying from windshield to windshield. The Time Machine (1960): When the townsfolk, who seem hypnotized, move in unison toward the water. Deadwood (2004): A quick shot from the balcony overlooking the town of Dirt, exactly resembling Al Swearengen's in the town of Deadwood. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966): The gunfight scene between Rango and Bad Bill. The Andy Griffith Show (1960): Rango is modeled after Don Knotts' characterization of Deputy Barney Fife. Chinatown (1974): The Mayor is patterned after John Huston's performance and appearance, and as in that film, he is stealing the water to get rich.