Although Disney is known for fairytales, their animators have to pull inspiration from somewhere. Many of the characters we see on our screen are actually based on real-life people. Here are 10 Disney characters whose personality and looks were inspired by different celebrities.
1. Ariel is based on Alyssa Milano
Unbeknownst to Alyssa Milano, she was the inspiration for Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Disney animators based Ariel’s appearance on pictures of Alyssa Milano. Although she was unaware of this resemblance when the movie first came out in 1989, she now thinks that being the real-life inspiration for the mermaid is “really cool and lovely.”
2. Jessica Rabbit is based on Rita Hayworth
Jessica Rabbit was the ultimate femme fatale in the 1988 movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Cartoonist Richard Williams said that Jessica Rabbit is supposed to embody the “ultimate male fantasy” and as such, she was based on many different Old Hollywood starlets. Williams said that Rita Hayworth was the overall inspiration for Jessica Rabbit, but the hair was based on Veronica Lake and her look was based on Lauren Bacall.
3. Edna Mode is based on Linda Hunt
Edna Mode is one of the most memorable characters from The Incredibles franchise, known for her small stature but big personality. Originally, the character Edna was believed to be based on the costume designer Edith Head, but has a near-perfect resemblance to the actress Linda Hunt.
4. The vultures are based on The Beatles
When Disney’s The Jungle Book came out in 1967, the Beatles were one of the most popular bands in the world. The four vultures in The Jungle Book sport funky hairdos similar to the Beatles but also sing “That’s What Friends Are For” — a song similar to The Beatles’ 1967 song “I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends.”
5. Aladdin is based on Tom Cruise
Although Aladdin’s pants in Disney’s Aladdin were based on MC Hammer’s signature style, the rest of his character was based on actor Tom Cruise. Originally, Aladdin was based on actor Michael J. Fox, but the creators thought audiences wouldn’t believe that Jasmine would fall for a guy based on Michael J. Fox (ouch). So Disney revamped Aladdin to be more like Tom Cruise.
6. Ursula was based on Lady Divine
The sea-witch Ursula went through many different versions before directors and animators landed on the Ursula we see in the movie The Little Mermaid. One version of Ursula was based on Joan Collins. Another version of Ursula was a “beautiful but deadly” scorpionfish. The Ursula we all know and love today was based on the drag queen Lady Divine. Ursula and Lady Divine had the same body type, jewelry, eye makeup, hair, and personality. Sadly, Lady Divine never got to see Ursula come to life, as he passed away in 1988, a year before The Little Mermaid came out.
7. Cruella de Vil is based on Tallulah Bankhead
Cruella de Vil perfectly embodies actress Tallulah Bankhead, and once you see it, it’s hard to erase the resemblance from memory. Like Cruella de Vil, Tallulah Bankhead was very thin and constantly chain-smoking. Tallulah Bankhead had a deep raspy voice, and would recklessly drive around in her loud car, just as Cruella does in the movie.
8. Princess Tiana is based on Anika Noni Rose
Anika Noni Rose is a real-life princess! Anika Noni Rose, who voiced Princess Tiana in the 2009 movie The Princess and the Frog was the real-life inspiration for her character. Like Anika, Princess Tiana has dimples and animators even made Tiana left-handed because Anika is left-handed!
9. Dr. Facilier is based on Michael Jackson
Speaking of The Princess and the Frog, did you know that Dr. Facilier (the movie’s villain) is based on Michael Jackson? Michael Jackson was a huge influence on the movie’s final version of Dr. Facilier, and Jackson’s presence can certainly be felt when Facilier sings and dances in the film.
10. The Mad Hatter is based on Ed Wynn
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One of the zaniest characters in Alice in Wonderland is actually based on a real person. Comedian Ed Wynn was the inspiration for Mad Hatter. Not only did Wynn voice the Mad Hatter, but the visual resemblance between the Hatter and Wynn is uncanny.