9 Disney Characters That Were Inspired By Famous People

For more than a decade, Disney has always been warmly welcomed by both children and adults. The reason is understandable: most Disney stories are traditional folktales with a light fairy tale twist. In addition, conceptualizing the characters of Disney is also admirable.
Disney characters must be very memorable and recognizable. And this truly makes the job of Disney's creators more difficult. While the number of characters in Disney world is enormous, how can the creators come up with such distinguishable characters for each movie? Probably their key is taking inspiration from reality.
In fact, Disney often uses real-life people as references for their films, especially their voice artists. It ensures that the characters appear in the film more naturally and realistically. The animators observe how people move, how they look, and even their clothes. Additionally, they incorporate the character traits or habits of the reference model into the character's personalities. Therefore, it's no surprise if someone suddenly comes to your mind when watching classic Disney movies.
But who exactly was the inspiration for some of Disney's characters? We scoured every nook and cranny of the Internet to discover which real-life individuals' looks or mannerisms were used to create some of the loveliest Disney characters and the results are surprising. So scroll down to enjoy!

#1 Ariel - Alyssa Milano

Source: The Little Mermaid / Disney, Luigi Novi / Wikimedia

In an interview, Milano revealed that she didn't even know Disney had modeled for Ariel until they asked her to participate in a behind-the-scenes special for "The Little Mermaid" after the movie hit theaters.
She said, "Apparently Disney drew Ariel's face from pictures of me. Um, yes. That's really cool and lovely. Uh, this is something that I didn't know while it was going on, and then I would say about a year after the film came out, they asked me to do sort of a making-of, behind-the-scenes special on it, and they told me then, which I thought was really cool."

#2 Aladdin - Tom Cruise

Source: Disney, Getty Images

According to the documentary "Diamond in the Rough: The Making of Aladdin", Aladdin was first created as a smaller, less heroic-looking character by the animators "to give him something to really fight against." However, the head of Walt Disney Studios at the time, Jeffrey Katzenberg claimed he just didn't believe Jasmine would fall for a character like him, "I found the character of Jasmine kinda blows him away. I don't understand why she goes with him. I understand why he goes with her — that's easy. She's wonderful."

This is what Aladdin looks like after applying some of Tom Cruise's physical features.

Source: Disney

The studio thought that Aladdin's looks needed to be enhanced to make the narrative more credible and his connection with Jasmine seem more deserving. Finally, Katzenberg decided "Guys, you've got Julia Roberts and Michael J. Fox. They don't fit together. You need Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts. They fit together. You need more Tom Cruise."

#3 Snow White - Hedy Lamarr

Source: Disney, Getty Images

During the heyday of Old Hollywood, Hedy Lamarr was a hugely popular performer, and two famous figures in pop culture history—Snow White and Catwoman—were really modeled by her appearance. In the early years of World War II, Lamarr collaborated with a genius inventor to create a radio guidance system for Allied torpedoes. In essence, the technology was the catalyst for the development of Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi.

#4 The 4 vultures in "The Jungle Book" — The Beatles

Source: The Jungle Book / Disney, Parlophone Music Sweden / Wikimedia

Disney and the animators came up with an extremely clever idea for The Beatles' appearance in "The Jungle Book". George Harrison, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney would be the four vultures' voices. The animals would perform the tune "That’s What Friends Are For" and sport crazy haircuts. But rumor has it that John Lennon objected to the offer, claiming that Disney would be better off employing Elvis Presley.
Director Jon Favreau tried to make this finally happen with the live-action "The Jungle Book" in 2016, but it didn't work out, saying "I did talk about trying to get Paul [McCartney] and Ringo [Starr] into the film, because they wanted the Beatles for the original, but I couldn’t get them. We came to the idea too late. Maybe if there’s a sequel…”

#5 Jessica Rabbit - Rita Hayworth

Source: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? / Amblin Entertainment Bob Coburn / Wikimedia

Jessica Rabbit was intended to be "the ultimate masculine dream," according to Richard Williams, the animation director of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." He said that he was inspired by certain famous Old Hollywood leading actresses, ''I tried to make her like Rita Hayworth," whom the press referred to as "The Love Goddess" in the 1940s.
Williams also revealed that they "took [Jessica Rabbit's] hair from Veronica Lake, and [Robert] Zemeckis (the film's director) kept saying, 'What about the look Lauren Bacall had?" They basically grabbed inspiration from several Old Hollywood actors.

#6 Ursula - Divine

Source: The Little Mermaid / Disney Wikimedia

The famous drag queen Divine served as a very accurate model for Ursula the Sea Witch. Harris Glenn Milstead is her true name. When the Disney animators first began working on Ursula, there were a few distinct versions of the character, and "one was a manta ray that was inspired by Joan Collins." John Musker, the film's director, claims that nothing seemed to function until Rob Minkoff, one of the animators, drew "a vampy, overweight matron who everyone agreed looked a lot like Divine."
Divine died in 1988 of an enlarged heart, but they said: “he would have wanted to play the part [of Ursula] himself." One of his close friends, John Waters, agreed, saying, "What filthy anti-hero wouldn’t relish such a plum role?"

Ursula's movements were inspired by the movements of Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond in the 1950s "Sunset Boulevard".

Source: Disney /, Paramount Pictures

#7 The Genie - Robin Williams

Source: Disney, Getty Images

Directors Ron Clements and John Musker wanted Robin Williams to play the Genie so much that they literally wrote the role for him. To convince Williams into accepting the part, they even animated lines from one of his old comedy albums as if the Genie was performing them.
Genie's lead animator, Eric Goldberg, claimed that the character totally embodied Robin Williams. In fact, Williams took the script and made it his own, often going off-book: "We didn't expect him to come back with all the celebrity impressions the first time we recorded him, so we re-adapted. We incorporated Robin's riffs into the fabric of the film."
After Robin Williams died in 2014, Goldberg tearfully remembered working with Williams on the movie saying, "He was a real-life Genie, and, boy, did he grant our wishes."

#8 Tiana - Anika Noni Rose

Source:Disney, Getty Images

A lot of Tiana's physical features and character in "The Princess and the Frog" were based on Anika Noni Rose, who voiced and sang for her in the movie. One of Disney's animation supervisors, Mark Henn, said that Tiana's parts were modeled after Jaimie Milner, an intern in post-production (they even took pictures of her to help get it right). matching hair, for reference). But when it came time to really create more distinct character traits and likenesses, the animators turned to Anika Noni Rose. For instance, because Rose has dimples and is left-handed, they gave Tiana dimples and even made her left-handed.

#9 Dr. Facilier - Michael Jackson and Usher

Source:Disney, Getty Images

Dr. Facilier, the villain in the movie "The Princess and the Frog", was based on Michael Jackson. His slim figure and clothing choices, as well as the dance Dr. Facilier, performs throughout the movie, all point to the two men's striking similarities. The mannerisms and body language resemble those of the "King of Pop."
Animator Bruce W. Smith admitted at a panel that he drew inspiration for Dr. Facilier from some of his favorite performers "I like the elasticity of Jim Carrey. I love the great acting of Jack Lemmon. I tried to bounce a lot of what they brought to the screen to this character."
However, when it came to actually animating the character, Smith mostly drew inspiration from Michael Jackson and Usher: "As I began drawing him out, I realized he had to be very thin, and I had to be able to move him across the screen. I thought about guys like Michael Jackson and Usher and the types of moves they'd have as they would sort of scurrying across the screen."
This is a hand drawing of Dr. Facilier after animator Bruce W. Smith references Jackson and Usher.

Source: Disney

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