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20 Beloved Disney Characters That Are Based On Real-Life People

Throughout its history of formation and development, Disney has created countless wonderful stories that follow us during our childhood. Most Disney animated movies are inspired by fairy tales. This makes some scenes in the movie become far different from real life. But what about the characters? How did the creators come up with what these characters from the story would look like on the screen? What can be the inspiration? Was it just pure imagination or was there a real-life person that inspired the magic seen on the screen?

Well, we have a lot of questions here but if you scroll down below you’ll get them all. Check out the origins and sources of inspiration for some of these characters, as well as the real-life counterparts to those Disney classics.

#1 The Genie – Robin Williams

Source: Eva Rinaldi, Disney

Genie in “Aladdin” was specifically written with Robin Williams in mind. The directors Ron Clements and John Musker wanted Robin Williams to play the role of Genie so much that they wrote the entire character around him and the animators created it for him. The character was an embodiment of Robin Williams.

#2 Ursula – Drag Queen Divine

Source: Theo’s Little, Disney

Famous drag queen Divine served as a very accurate model for The Little Mermaid character Ursula the Sea Witch. The larger-than-life character, real name Harris Glenn Milstead, was once named Drag Queen of the Century by People magazine. Ron Clements, the filmmaker, said to SBS that “it just fit the character.” She was outrageous and theatrical.

#3 Wall-E – Charlie Chaplin

Source: First National, Disney

2008 saw the debut of the animated film Wall-E by Walt Disney Pictures, which was created by Pixar Animation Studios. Robot WALL-E is the main character in the story (Waste Allocation Load Lifter: Earth-Class).

Since WALL-E  didn’t talk, the filmmakers were unable to rely on words to emote and tell a story. To learn how to tell a tale just via facial expressions, the film’s writing team and animation team studied films starring Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin for over a year.

#4 The 4 Vultures – The Beatles

Source: Bradford Timeline, Disney

The Beatles, a legendary English rock band that was established in Liverpool in 1960, served as the primary source of inspiration for the animators who created the vultures in the animated movie “The Jungle Book.” At first, The Beatles were even supposed to provide their voices and songs to the characters, but that didn’t work out.

#5 Edna Mode – Edith Head

Source: Cinema Classico, Disney

One of the superhero character from “The Incredibles” was also based on a lifestyle legend Edith Head. She is basically a costume designer and had won eight academy awards.

#6 Scat Cat – Louis Armstrong

Source: Ky, Disney

This well-known cat from the film “The Aristocats” was initially intended to be written for Louis Armstrong, who was also going to provide the voice. However, he was unable to participate in the project owing to various health issues, and the musician Scatman Crothers replaced him. Satchmo the Animal’s initial name was altered to Scat Cat once Crothers joined the cast and even sang a new song for the cat.

#7 The Mad Hatter – Ed Wynn

Source: CBS Television, Disney

American actor and comedian Isaiah Edwin Leopold, popularly known by his name Ed Wynn, was from the United States. He was used as a reference while the Mad Hatter from the animated film “Alice in Wonderland” was being created. The Mad Hatter is a highly distinctive and odd figure, even in Lewis Caroll’s story. Additionally, Ed Wynn provided the character’s voice.

#8 Princess Aurora – Helene Stanley

Source: Disney, Disney

The Sleeping Beauty, a 1959 Disney animated film, is based on the same-named fairy tale by Charles Perrault. Disney had a hard time finding a voice actor for Aurora. Strangely enough, despite all the work that went into creating Mary Costa’s voice and accent, she only has 18 lines of dialogue and the shortest screen time of all speaking main characters in full-length Disney movies.

Audrey Hepburn served as a major influence on Aurora’s look; in fact, Aurora’s slim shape and narrow waist were modeled after hers. But she got her facial features, dance moves, elegance and grace from her live-action model Helene Stanley.

#9 Maleficent – Eleanor Audley

Source: Unknown, Disney

The Haunted Mansion attractions at Disney’s various theme parks include Madame Leota, whose voice is provided by actress Eleanor Audley. However, she also contributed to the live-action and animated versions of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. She served as an inspiration for Lady Tremaine and Maleficent in these roles.

#10 Jessica Rabbit – Rita Hayworth

Source: Street & Smith; Fox Films, Disney

Jessica Rabbit was a character in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a 1988 live-action/animated comedy. “I tried to make her look like Rita Hayworth; we took her hair from Veronica Lake, and Zemeckis kept saying, ‘What about the look Lauren Bacall had?” said animation director Richard Williams. He went on to say that the figure was meant to represent the “ideal male dream, created by a cartoonist.”

#11 Scar – Jeremy Irons

Source: Gage Skidmore, Disney

Scar from “The Lion King,” one of history’s most devious and menacing villains, was portrayed by Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons, who also provided the character’s voice. Due to its resemblance to the play Hamlet, the filmmakers intended the movie to have a particular Shakespearean tone. The greatest choice was Jeremy Irons because of his training in both Shakespeare and stage shows.

#12 Peter Pan – Bobby Driscoll

Source: NBC Television Network, Disney

The winner of the Academy Juvenile Award appeared in several live-action Disney productions. For his ability, youthful charm, and attractiveness, he was adored during the 1950s. Furthermore, the designers believed that Peter Pan may benefit from some of his characteristics.

#13 Tiana – Anika Noni Rose

Source: Peabody Awards, Disney

Anika Noni Rose, who not only provided the voice for Tiana but also served as the inspiration for many of the distinctive and specific characteristics of the character Tiana from the film “The Princess and the Frog.” Rose’s characteristics were studied in detail to the point that the animation was given dimples and left-handed like Rose.

#14 Cruella de Vil – Tallulah Bankhead

Source: Talbot, Disney

The iconic villain Cruella from the movie ‘A Hundred and One Dalmatians’ was voiced by Betty Lou Garson but the character was based on Tallulah Bankhead the American actress on the stage and screen who acted during 1918-1968.

#15 Alice – Kathryn Beaumont

Source: Disney, Disney

Not only was Kathryn Beaumont the inspiration for the lead character Alice in the movie “Alice in Wonderland,” but also provided the character’s voice. She was just 10 years old at the time. She created the persona in real life, as shown in a number of her photos and a performance video.

#16 Captain Hook – Hans Conried

Source: Disney, Disney

The voice of Captain Hook from the film “Peter Pan” was originally going to be provided by American actor, comedian, and voice actor Hans Georg Conried Jr., but the animators considered him to be too vibrant and chose to really base the character’s look on his real personality.

#17 Tinker Bell – Margret Kerry

Source: Disney, Disney

Against the common belief that Tinker Bell, a hot-headed pixie from the movie Peter Pan was inspired by Marilyn Monroe the truth is that Margret Kerry served as the inspiration for it. She auditioned for the character and her actions around certain props like oversized keyhole and scissors were used while creating the animation.

#18 Ariel – Alyssa Milano

Source: Mary Alice, Disney

The Little Mermaid’s Princess Ariel is a unique princess. She is a mermaid and is easily featured with her sparkling red hair.

The American actress Alyssa Milano served as a source of inspiration for the Disney animators as they created this character. For studying her facial traits, they frequently utilized images of her from when she was younger. She learned about it a year after the movie’s theatrical debut when she was asked to participate in a making-of, behind-the-scenes special.

#19 Snow White – Marge Champion

Source: Unknown, Disney

Snow White, a character from the film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” was based on Marge Champion, a dancer, and choreographer who worked as a dancer for Disney’s movies because of her pure and innocent appearance. The animation also included some of her dances. She was requested to wear a football helmet to help the animators visualize the character’s larger-than-average head, which is one of the most well-known tales from her time working as a model for Snow White.

#20 Pocahontas – Irene Bedard

Source: fossilmike, Disney

Irene Bedard, a Native American actress, served as the model for the creation of the Pocahontas character from the Disney film of the same name. She gave the character voice as well. She also portrayed Pocahontas’ mother when Disney chose to make a live-action version of the animation film.