12 Popular Disney Characters Who Were Based On Real People

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Our childhood has always been filled with amazing Disney created stories. At some point we have also been able to really idolize some of their characters as they became really close to our hearts. But, did you know that there are many Disney characters which were based on real people who happened to be real-life celebrities? Here is a selection of some of the most iconic Disney characters that were based on real people and probably served as the inspiration for the creation of such characters:

1 The 4 vultures in The Jungle Book- based on The Beatles

The filmmakers and Disney, who were in charge of the adaption of the novel The Jungle Book, conceived an ingenious cameo of The Beatles while producing the animated film. This was in 1967 when The Beatles were already one of the top, most popular bands of the time. In fact, it was John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison who were chosen to voice the 4 vultures in the movie. The vultures were also created with crazy hairstyles and are featured singing the song “That’s What Friends Are For”. While the band did provide inspiration for the birds, it still wasn’t enough reason to go forward with the plan.

However, Lennon had declined the offer and preferred not to make an appearance in the film, as he explained to his band manager, Brian Epstein, that he should tell Disney that it would be a better idea to hire Elvis Presley for the role. Following his rejection of the role, the cast of vultures in the film were voiced by J.Pat O’Malley, Digby Wolfe, Lord Tim Hudson, and Chad Stuart. The vultures all appear speaking in an accent similar to that of people living in Liverpool.

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2Maleficent- based on Eleanor Audley

The character Maleficent in the Disney film Sleeping Beauty was voiced by Eleanor Audley. Audley was also asked by the Disney filmmakers to perform and film the scenes which would help the animators in the production of the fictional character. As such, the movement and face of maleficent was inspired by Audley’s features and gestures. Eleanor was also an inspiration for the creation of yet another Disney character, the legendary Lady Tremaine who was Cinderella’s evil stepmother.

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3Jessica Rabbit- based on Rita Hayworth

By her portrayal as a bombshell with a stunning figure in the film, “Who framed Roger Rabbit?” Jessica Rabbit has become one of Disney’s iconic characters. However, it wasn’t a matter of luck that a character with such features was created. In fact, the beautiful actress Rita Hayworth served as the inspiration for Jessica Rabbit.

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When creating the character design, the writer Gary K. Wolf based her on the dancer of the animated short film Red Hot Riding Hood, which was created by Tex Avery. But, while the movie’s production was underway, the image of Jessica Rabbit shifted. While this shift was seemingly inspired by several actresses at first, it was mostly Rita’s image that made an impact. The director of the animated film, Richard Williams, said that he had indeed tried to make the character look very similar to Hayworth, but with Veronica Lake’s hair.

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4The Mad Hatter- based on Ed Wynn

In the film Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter is one of the most unique and distinctive characters. The inspiration for the Mad Hatter’s appearance, personality, and gestures in the film was all inspired and based on the actor Ed Wynn. In fact, he even voiced the character thereby serving as the perfect model which helped the animators design the character of the Hatter.

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5Edna Mode- based on Linda Hunt

The character of Edna Mode from the movie “The Incredibles” bears a perfect resemblance to the actress Linda Hunt. However, it is believed that her story was originally based on the life of Edith Head, who was a fashion designer.

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6Scat Cat- based on Louis Armstrong

The role of Scat Cat from the film The Aristocrats was originally written for the distinguished jazz singer and trumpeter, Louis Armstrong. The popular cat which was going to be named Satchmo the Cat was originally going to be voiced by him. However, due to unexpected health problems, Armstrong could not be part of the project which forced the filmmakers give the role to Scatman Crothers, who was also a musician. This was the reason why the character’s name was changed to Scat Cat, and a whole new song was written for Crothers to perform.

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7Dr. Facilier—based on Michael Jackson

In the movie The Princess and the Frog, the villainous character Dr. Facilier was actually based Michael Jackson. Throughout the film, there is a strong resemblance between the two in terms of their slim figure and dressing sense and style, and even in the choreography performed by Dr. Facilier. The mannerisms were rather identical to that which used to be displayed by the “King of Pop”.

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8Ariel- based on Alyssa Milano

When the character of Ariel for The Little Mermaid was being designed by the creative brains of Disney, to match their concept of the image of a sweet, beautiful, and contemporary young woman, they used Alyssa Milano as their inspiration.

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The actress, in an interview revealed that she wasn’t aware of this, at least not when the character was being produced. However, Milano was later invited to be part of a presentation in a documentary which would show how the movie was made. Only, then did she discover that the character of Ariel was based on her. Pictures of her during her teens were used by the creators of the tape to recreate the iconic mermaid.

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9Ursula – based on Divine

The evil Ursula from The Little Mermaid was inspired by a distinguished American actor and drag queen- Harris Glenn Misltead, who was also known as Divine. The features, personality, and stunning style of Ursula were based off his performance in his shows and presentations.

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10Alice- based on Kathryn Beaumont

The actress Kathryn Beaumont served as the inspiration for the main character, Alice in the film Alice in Wonderland. She even did provide the voice for her character Alice. Alice was brought to life by Disney’s animators using Kathryn as their model, who was only 10 years old at the time. There are countless photographs depicting Kathryn’s work and even videos which show her acting and voicing the character of Alice.

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11Cruella de Vil- based on Tallulah Bankhead

In the 1961 movie, A Hundred and One Dalmatians, the animated version of Cruella de Vil was first seen on screen. The iconic villainous character was voiced by Betty Lou Gerson in the film. But, Marc Davis, the head of animation along with his team used the personality and gestures f Tallulah Bankhead to create and design the character of Cruella from scratch.

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12Snow White- based on Marge Champion

In the twentieth century, Marge Champion was one of the most emblematic dancers of her time. In fact, the young artist auditioned for the role of Snow White, when she was only 14 years old. She was then tasked with recreating the character’s scene in front of the animators while keeping the elegance and the delicate movements of her dancing experiencing which also characterized the princess.

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A big reason why she was best suited for the role and eventually got it was because of her father. She was good in dancing and acting and was raised to behave like royalty. Her father Ernest Belcher, taught her social etiquette like bowing to royalty. She was given the role because her postures and gestures were exactly what the producers were looking for the creation of the character of Snow White.

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