10 Disney Characters You Didn’t Know Were Based on Real People

year ago

Animated and fictional characters aren’t always solely based on someone’s wild imagination. Most of the times, a real person is kept in mind while creating an illustrated character. The artist takes some features of the real person and incorporates them into the caricature version of them. And more Disney characters were created like this than we would ever imagine.

1. Eleanor Audley portrayed Maleficent before the animation.

Eleanor Audley not only gave a voice to Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, but Disney filmmakers also asked her to perform and film the scenes that would help the animators produce the fictional character. This means that the actress’ features and gestures inspired the movements and face of Maleficent.
Additionally, Eleanor also served as inspiration for creating the animated character, Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s legendary and evil stepmother.

2. Jessica Rabbit was based on Rita Hayworth.

The bombshell of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? became an icon due to her portrayal in the film and her stunning figure. But her appearance wasn’t just a matter of luck: Jessica Rabbit was based on the beautiful actress Rita Hayworth.

At the beginning of the character design, the writer Gary K. Wolf based her on the dancer of the animated short film Red Hot Riding Hood, created by Tex Avery. However, during the production of the movie, Jessica Rabbit’s image shifted. This shift was inspired by several actresses, but mostly by Rita. Richard Williams, the director of animation for the film, said he tried to make the character look similar to Hayworth, but with Veronica Lake’s hair.

3. Maui is a slim teenager, and Moana does not exist.

Moana is a fully fictional character. The author’s original idea was to make a movie about Maui, but after their visit to Polynesia, they were inspired by the beautiful and powerful women there (as shown in the photo on the right). They also learned a lot about navigation, and this is how the character of Moana came to life. The movie is full of references to Polynesian mythology, in which the islands are believed to have been created by the demigod Maui. In the myths, in contrast to the movie, Maui appears as a slim young man who is coming of age with a top-knot on his head.

4. Ursula was based on Divine.

Harris Glenn Milstead, also known as Divine, was a distinguished American actor and drag queen who served as inspiration for creating the evil Ursula from The Little Mermaid. His shows and presentations were critical for shaping the features, stunning style, and personality of the villain.

5. Cruella de Vil was created having Tallulah Bankhead in mind.

The animated version of Cruella de Vil appeared for the first time on screen in the 1961 movie A Hundred and One Dalmatians. In the film, Betty Lou Gerson gave voice to the iconic villain. However, Marc Davis, the head of animation, had to create Cruella from scratch, so he and his team relied on the personality and gestures of Tallulah Bankhead to design her.

6. Irene Bedard was a physical model for Pocahontas.

Irene Bedard is best known for her portrayal of Native American characters in a variety of films. For Disney, she dubbed and was a physical model for Pocahontas. Irene gave the character a powerful and emotional presence.

7. Chuckie Finster’s appearance was inspired by Mark Mothersbaugh.

© Rugrats / Nickelodeon, Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/East News

Mark Mothersbaugh is an American singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, author, and visual artist. Not only did he create Rugrats’ memorable soundtracks, but also inspired the design of Chucky, one of the show’s main characters.

8. A real “Beauty and the Beast” existed in medieval France.

The story of Beauty and the Beast was written by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve and published in 1740. She is believed to have been inspired by a real couple — Pedro and Catherine Gonsalvus. Pedro suffered from a rare genetic condition, due to which his entire body was covered in thick hair. Catherine supposedly did not see her groom before the wedding day.

Although the husband did not turn into a handsome prince, the couple ended up having 7 children.

9. The Vultures from The Jungle Book were inspired by The Beatles

1967 was the height of The Beatles popularity and also the year that The Jungle Book was released by Disney. Supposedly it was the Beatles manager who suggested that Disney Studios design the vultures based on them. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were about to not only voice the characters but also to sing a song called “That’s What Friends Are For,” when Lennon suddenly refused. As a result, the song was rewritten as a barbershop quartet instead.

10. Dr. Facilier was based on Michael Jackson.

Dr. Facilier, the villain in the movie The Princess and the Frog, was based on Michael Jackson. The strong resemblance between the 2 is not only evident in his slim figure and choice of clothes, but also in the choreography Dr. Facilier’s character performs throughout the film. The mannerisms and postures are the same as those the “King of Pop” used to display.


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