8 Disney Characters Based On Real People

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Trivial Diversions

8 Disney Characters Based On Real People

8 Disney Characters Based On Real People

I was born in January of 1990, and from as far back as I can remember I was always a fan of Disney movies. Being a 90s kid, I saw the rise of home entertainment and began collecting movies from an early age. The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, I had them all! But it wasn’t until I got older and grew more of an appreciation for film that I even knew some of the characters from the classics are based on real people.

The Evil Queen, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (Joan Crawford)

Joan Crawford, though a magnificent actress, will always be remembered as the domineering mother in true-to-life Mommie Dearest. But even before Mommie Dearest in 1981 there was the Evil Queen in 1937. Her face was molded after the classic Hollywood star and, intentionally or not, her personality as well.

Queen Crawford

Ursula, The Little Mermaid (Divine)

If you don’t know who Divine is, she’s one of the first major drag queens to grace the big screen. She would often star in John Waters films and had a successful career in disco. Ursula’s appearance, predominantly her makeup design and hair, were based on her iconic look.

Divine Ursula

Ariel, The Little Mermaid (Alyssa Milano)

In 2013, The Wendy Williams Show had Milano on to talk about a new series, Twitter, and Disney movies. Alyssa Milano revealed that, unbeknownst to her, she was a physical model for the humanoid Ariel. Apparently. Milano was asked to host a short making-of documentary for The Little Mermaid. During the recording, she learned that Ariel was based on of her when she was younger. Illustrator, Glen Keane, used photos of Milano from when she started on Who’s The Boss?



The Vultures, The Jungle Book (The Beatles)

In 1967, The Beatles were at the height of their career and the animators at Disney were looking for inspiration. Disney requested that they were voiced by The Beatles, and the vultures were drawn to look like them. But when The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, asked them John Lennon shrugged off the request and told him to tell Disney to ask Elvis. So the look and the accents stayed for the vultures and their song was re-written as a barbershop quartet.

Beatle Vulture

Peter Pan, Peter Pan (Bobby Driscoll)

Bobby Driscoll was a cute child star that would eventually meet a tragic end at the hands of drugs and alcohol. However, before he died in 1968, he was a live action inspiration for Disney’s Peter Pan. Bobby Driscoll was the first actor that Walt Disney ever put on contract when he was chosen to play the lead in Song of the South (1946). His last significant success was providing the voice, and look, for the boy who never grew up in Peter Pan.

Peter Driscol

Chernabog, Fantasia (Bela Lugosi)

Bela Lugosi had a rough life of addiction and typecasting so when he was chosen as a model for Chernabog of Fantasia I can’t imagine that he was all that excited. And I would imagine he was even more upset when the studio decided not to go with him as a model. Lugosi visited the studio and spent an entire day posing as a live action reference for Chernabog, but head animator Bill Tytla decided he wasn’t a fan and started over. Bela couldn’t catch a break after Dracula.

Bela Chernabog


Aladdin, Aladdin (Tom Cruise)

Were you in love with Aladdin as a child? If so then you were also in love with Tom Cruise, sorry. As it turns out Aladdin’s physique was modeled after Tom Cruise, who in 1992, was at the height of his popularity as a leading man. Surprisingly, Aladdin was originally supposed to be shaped from Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future.


Cruella De Vil, 101 Dalmatians (Tallulah Bankhead)

In 1961, One Hundred and One Dalmatians came out, and the world got Cruella De Vil (Cruel Devil). Betty Lou Gerson provided the voice for this villainess and drew from actress Tallulah Bankhead’s voice as inspiration. In real life Bankhead, born in Alabama, fought for liberal causes and was eventually inducted into the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame in 1981. From what we know, Bankhead never went on a puppy hunting spree.


Related topics 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin, Alyssa Milano, Bela Lugosi, Bobby Driscoll, Divine, Fantasia, Joan Crawford, Peter Pan, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, The Jungle Book, The Little Mermaid, Tom Cruise
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