We have compiled a list of famous Disney characters and their original concept art so you can get a glimpse of how the characters could have looked.
Disney is well known for creating amazing characters we all love. From Aladdin to Rapunzel, all of them have traits unique personalities and traits that make us want to look up to them. But did you know that some of the characters all of us so fondly remember almost ended up looking completely different?
Better or worse – you be the judge.
Check them out in the gallery below!
#1. Carl Fredricksen In Up (2009)
Even after Disney purchased Pixar in 2006, the new movies created by the former Pixar animator featured characters quite different from usual Disney movies. For example, some of their features were more pronounced, like Carl’s nose that resembles a balloon and his relatively large head compared to his body.
#2. Pocahontas In Pocahontas (1995)
Pocahontas was yet another character designed by Glen Keane. Designing her was no easy task as Jeffrey Katzenberg asked him to create “the most idealized and finest woman ever made”. Keane took inspiration from Filipino model Dyna Taylor, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and even a 1620 illustration of Pocahontas in a history book. In all, it took 55 animators to create the final model of Pocahontas.
#3. Ursula In The Little Mermaid (1989)
As you can probably tell by now, originally Ursula was supposed to look much creepier, with saw-like teeth and a freaky red mohawk – in fact, her whole look was based on a scorpion fish! Animator Glen Keane took direct inspiration from a drag queen named Divine, recreating her body type, makeup, and jewelry.
#4. Rapunzel In Tangled (2010)
The concept art of Rapunzel of the left was created back in 2006 by an illustrator named Claire Keane, the daughter of animator Glen Keane. While designing the character, the illustrator researched Scandinavian and medieval arts and took inspiration from the works of Charley Harper. However, the artist that directly inspired the concept art of Rapunzel was William-Adolphe Bouguereau who used mythological themes and emphasized the female body in his works.
#5 Jane Porter In Tarzan (1999)
The two main characters of Tarzan – Jane and Tarzan himself – were created in two different parts of the world at the same time. Glen Keane was working on Tarzan in California while Ken Duncan was developing Jane in Paris. That caused many inconveniences when it came to animation and the two illustrators had to send hundreds of animations to each other and organize countless video conferences. Jane’s character and mannerisms were based on Minnie Driver who also voiced Jane in the movie.
#6. Tinker Bell In Peter Pan (1953)
Because of his outstanding work in creating female characters, the task of creating Tinker Bell was given to animator Marc Davis. Since the character did not speak, the artist had to work hard to express her emotions through facial expressions and body language. Tinker Bell’s look resembled pin-up girls of the day and some even compared her to Marilyn Monroe.
#7 Alice In Alice In Wonderland (1951)
Alice was created by illustrator Mary Blair, who worked on other Disney films, like Pinocchio and Peter Pan. Her work was deeply inspired by the colorful South American culture she experienced on a trip there with Walt Disney himself. Disney was having trouble portraying the story the way it was told in the book so he invited Blair to help him as he considered her to be one of his most talented artists – and she definitely proved that she was.
#8 Belle In Beauty And The Beast (1991)
was created by artists James Baxter and Mark Henn, who already had previous experience in working on other Disney characters like Ariel, Jasmine, Mulan, and Tiana. The artists’ goal was to make Belle look European – so they added fuller lips, narrower eyes, darker eyebrows and the signature lock of hair falling on her face. Belle’s look was mainly inspired by Vivien Leigh and Audrey Hepburn.
#9 Maleficent In Sleeping Beauty (1959)
Maleficent was created by Marc Davis, the same person who created Cruella De Vil’s and Tinker Bell. The first concept art had the character dressed in red and black as it had a strong meaning to the artist but the colors were later changed to black and purple as they clashed with the background.
#10 Cruella De Vil In One Hundred And One Dalmatians (1961)
Cruella De Vil was another one of Marc Davis’, the man behind Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty and Tinker Bell in Peter Pan, genius creations.
#11 Aristocats In The Aristocats (1970)
Ken Anderson, the artist behind the Aristocats, took a whole eighteen months to develop these adorable characters.
#12 Beast From Beauty And The Beast (1991)
Having grossed a whopping $403 million, Beauty and The Beast is considered to be one of the most successful animated movies of all time and was even nominated for an Oscar. The artists designing the characters were on a tight schedule – instead of the usual 4 year period to finish the movie, they were only given two. That lead to the movie having scenes reused from previous Disney movies and even premiering without being fully finished!
#13 Princess Jasmine In Aladdin (1992)
Mark Henn was originally hired to illustrate Aladdin’s mother but as she was removed from the movie, he was given the part of designing one of the main characters – Jasmine. Her aesthetic was based on Arabian culture and architecture, especially the Taj Mahal.
#14 Mulan In Mulan (1998)
Mulan’s character was created to resemble traditional Japanese and Chinese paintings and was drawn with less feminine features when compared to other Disney princesses.
#15 Flynn Rider In Rapunzel (2010)
From the beginning, Flynn Ryder was supposed to be a “dashing thief” – his looks were to match those of Rapunzel’s. To achieve that, the producers and animators invited women from the office to a “Hot Man Meeting”, where they brought pictures of the men they found the most handsome. The clear winners were Clark Gable and David Beckham
#16 The Evil Queen In Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Walt Disney came up with the idea of creating an animated movie from the Brothers Grimm tale “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” back in 1934. He took three years to finish it and sunk all of his money into the production – but it was an amazing success. Half a year after the premiere, Walt earned enough money to open a new studio in Burbank.
#17 Anna In Frozen (2013)
Many compare Anna’s look to that of Rapunzel’s – but upon closer look, they are very different. Anna’s cheeks are fuller, her face is rounder and her eyelashes are bigger than Rapunzel’s. However, a few things are common, like their costumes, that were both inspired by traditional Norwegian clothes.
#18 Genie In Aladdin (1992)
The Genie was created by Eric Goldberg, a newcomer to the Disney world at the time. The artist was quite a comedian himself and was heavily inspired by the works of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld
#19 Aladdin In Aladdin (1992)
Aladdin’s story was inspired by the book “One Thousand and One Nights” – a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales. However, Aladdin’s story was changed a bit when creating the movie: in the original tale, there was no flying carpet and the character’s parents weren’t deceased.
#20 Ariel In The Little Mermaid (1989)
Glen Keane joked that Ariel looks just like his wife minus the fins. The animator based Ariel’s looks on Alyssa Milano.
#21 Snow White In Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Walt Disney’s first full-length animated movie “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs” was an incredible success and had talented illustrators like Albert Hurter, Gustaf Tenggren and Joe Grant working on it. Snow White’s looks were heavily toned down when compared to the original to make her look more realistic.
#22 Cinderella In Cinderella (1950)
Cinderella was yet another work of the talented artist Mary Blair, whose artistic skills Walt Disney trusted very much. Needless to say, she succeeded once again since Cinderella was a massive success upon its release in 1950.
#23 Princess Aurora In Sleeping Beauty (1959)
For Sleeping Beauty, Walt Disney challenged the animators to make the characters as realistic as possible and illustrator Marc Davis did just that when designing Princess Aurora. Her looks were inspired mainly by Audrey Hepburn.
#24 King Triton In The Little Mermaid (1989)
In the original Hans Christian Andersen tale, Triton does not have a name and is not prejudiced towards humans. His looks were greatly inspired by the Greek sea god Poseidon.
#25 Peter Pan In Peter Pan (1953)
Peter Pan’s character was created by animator Mit Kahl who originally wanted to animate Captain Hook. The artist says he faced some difficulties when animating the character floating in mid-air.