Disney Movie Characters That Were Actually Based On Real Life People

by Shasta

Throughout Disney's history, they have created incredibly amazing stories. Stories that have been in our lives since our childhoods.

Of course, many of those characters became some of our absolute favorites. And others even more dear to our hearts.

However, something you may not know, is that many of them were indeed based off of people in real life. And in some cases, some celebrities, both since passed, and present.

Here are just a few of the Disney characters that were in fact based on real life humans, that gave the inspiration the animators needed to bring each character to the films we all know and love.

The 4 vultures — The Beatles

Say whaaaat?! Is it just me or are you just as surprised by this fact as I am?!

In 1967, The Beatles were one of the most popular bands. So much so that while Disney's The Jungle Book was in production, the people in charge of making the film came up with a rather ingenious idea that included The Beatles.

Their legendary idea was that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr would be the voice overs for 4 vultures.

They implemented the animals to have crazy hairstyles and that they would sing the song That’s What Friends Are For.

Sadly enough, although the popular band inspired the birds, it wasn't enough reason to forge ahead with the idea.

Since then, it's been said that Lennon much preferred to not appear in the film at all.

Apparently he explained to the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, that it would be a better idea for Disney to hire Elvis Presley.

Because of his great decline, the film only depicts the vultures speaking in an accent that is only similar to what the people in Liverpool actually have.

The actual voice overs were performed by, J. Pat O’Malley, Digby Wolfe, Lord Tim Hudson, and Chad Stuart.

The 4 vultures — The Beatles
via: © The Jungle Book / Disney © Parlophone Music Sweden / Wikimedia

Maleficent — Eleanor Audley

Eleanor Audley gave not only her voice for Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, but then Disney filmmakers had the idea of asking her to not only film, but to also perform the very scenes that help the animators most, in producing the fictional character for the animation aspect of the movie.

That means, the Eleanor's features and very own gestures entirely inspired the face and ultimately each movement of Maleficent.

In addition, she was used as a baseline for Lady Tremaine, who is Cinderella's utterly evil stepmother.

Maleficent — Eleanor Audley
via: © The Sleeping Beauty / Disney © Wikipedia

Jessica Rabbit — Rita Hayworth

The heart-breaker of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? first became an icon solely to her stunning figure and the way she portrayed herself in the movie. However, her appearance was definitely a coincidence, Jessica Rabbit was actually based off of the gorgeous actress Rita Hayworth.

In the beginning of the designing of her character, writer Gary K. Wolf used her as a base for the dancer of the short film, Red Hot Riding Hood, which is animated as well. That film was created by Tex Avery.

But, during the production, Jessica Rabbit's image shifted entirely. This big shift was then inspired by multiple actresses, but at the end, the majority of the inspiration came from Rita.

Richard Williams, who is the director of animation for the film, said that he 'tried to make the character look similar to Hayworth, but with Veronica Lake’s hair.' How completely intriguing!

Jessica Rabbit — Rita Hayworth
via: © Who Framed Roger Rabbit? / Amblin Entertainment © Bob Coburn / Wikimedia

The Mad Hatter — Ed Wynn

The Mad Hatter is most definitely one of Alice In Wonderland's most distinctive and completely unique characters.

The entirety of the Mad Hatter was based upon clearly the appearance, the personality, and ultimately the gestures of actor Ed Wynn. Not to mention that he was also the voice behind the character.

After the comparison seen here, it's clear that he served as the perfect inspiration for the animators to use as their original design for the Hatter.

The Mad Hatter — Ed Wynn
via: © Alice in Wonderland / Disney © Wikimedia

Edna Moda — Linda Hunt

It's been said that the story of Edna's character in the The Incredibles, was actually based upon the life of a fashion designer, Edith Head.

Yet, the appearance of the character is almost identical to that of the actress Linda Hunt.

Edna Moda — Linda Hunt
via: © The Incredibles / Disney © Wikimedia

Scat Cat — Louis Armstrong

The role of Scat Cat from The Aristocats was originally intended to be for Louis Armstrong. He's a very distinguished jazz trumpeter and singer. The hole idea was that he would give the fluffy cat his voice, and his name was actually meant to be Satchmo the Cat.

Unfortunately though, unforeseen health issues prevented Armstrong from being apart of the project at all.

Of course, this forced the filmmakers to find someone else, and they did, Scatman Crothers.

And that's the reason they renamed the character to his well known name. In addition, they wrote a new song for him that Crothers also got the chance to perform.

Scat Cat — Louis Armstrong
via: © The Aristocats / Disney © Wikimedia

Dr. Facilier — Michael Jackson

The villain in the movie The Princess and the Frog, is Dr Facilier and is indeed based on the late Michael Jackson.

The uncanny resemblance is obvious, from his choice of clothes, to his slim figure, even to his choreography throughout the movie.

If you don't believe me, give it another watch. You'll see the same mannerisms and postures that the 'King of Pop' once displayed in his prime.

Dr. Facilier — Michael Jackson
via: © The Princess and the Frog / Disney © Alan Light / Wikimedia

Ariel — Alyssa Milano

When the creativity was free flowing for The Little Mermaid, and Disney began designing Ariel's character, they deeply wanted to have a character full of beauty, and tenderness. They also wanted her to be a contemporary young woman, so they chose Alyssa Milano for their inspiration.

In the middle of an interview, the actress revealed that she actually was not at all aware of this fact. At least not when the character was being produced.

However, she was invited later on to be present during a documentary, and the producers divulged how the movie was made. That was when she made her shocking discovery.

The original creators had used pictures from her teen years to create Ariel in her image.

This one is definitely one I had no idea about!

Ariel — Alyssa Milano
via: © The Little Mermaid / Disney © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia

Ursula — Divine

Legendary villain Ursula, was inspired by Harris Glenn Mistead, who may be better known as Divine.

Divine is an American actor and drag queen. His shows and stunning features were the very foundation that shaped the style and personality of the evil villain.

Ursula — Divine
via: © The Little Mermaid / Disney © Wikimedia

Alice — Kathryn Beaumont

Alice from the famous magical tale Alice in Wonderland was inspired by actress Kathryn Beaumont.

She also did the voice over for Alice as well.

Disney's animators used her as a model to ultimately bring Alice to life, and she was only 10 years old at the time of production.

An unknown amount of photographs showcase Kathryn's dedication for the character. In fact there's even a video of her acting and doing the voice of her role as Alice.

 Alice — Kathryn Beaumont
via: © Alice in wonderland / Disney © JJerms2 / imgur

Cruella de Vil — Tallulah Bankhead

Cruella de Vil's animated version first appeared on screen in 1961 in the first movie of A Hundred and One Dalmatians. Betty Lou Gerson is the one that we can thank for the voice of the iconic villain.

But the head of animation, Marc Davis, had to completely create Cruella from scratch. So his team and he relied completely on the personality and gestures of Tallulah Bankhead as they created her.

Cruella de Vil — Tallulah Bankhead
via: © 101 Dalmatians / Disney © Talbot / Wikimedia

Snow White — Marge Champion

Last but not least, Snow White. Marge Champion was only 14 years old when she first auditioned for the role of Snow White. She was one of the most emblematic dancers of the 20th century.

She was given the job of recreating the scenes for the character in front of the animators.

However, it was suggested that she keep her own elegance and delicate movements from her dancing career, and in doing that, she brought Snow White it animated life.

Marge's father was a heavy influence on her winning the role. She had a wonderful talent for acting and dancing, but she also very much behaved like royalty because of how she was raised.

Ernest Belcher is Marge's father, and he taught her to regularly behave rather delicately and even to bow on cue. Her upbringing gave her the chance to win the role, because her posture and gestures were precisely what the producers were looking for in creating Snow White.

Snow White — Marge Champion
via: © Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs / Disney © Wikimedia

It's crazy right? You learn something new every day! At least I did.