Disney is a big part of everyone’s childhood, and while you might think of it as classic entertainment that’s been made specifically for kids, it has a long history of being influenced by popular culture. What you might think was created by Disney out of nothing, might’ve actually been a direct result of something that was popular in the media when the movie was being made. Did you know that quite a few characters in Disney were directly inspired by celebrities? Here are a few Disney characters you’re definitely familiar with but probably had no idea which celebrities inspired them. But once you see them side by side it’ll all start making sense.
1. Maleficent – Eleanor Audley
You might know that Eleanor Audley voices the character of Maleficent, but few know that she was also asked to actually act out scenes from the movie in front of cameras so that later on the animators could use them as references in their work. So, in the end, they used not only her movements and gestures as inspiration for the animated movie, but her features also inspired the appearance of Maleficent. And as a bonus, she was also the inspiration behind Cinderella’s evil stepmother. Does this mean that Eleanor just looks evil by nature or do we all see these features as evil because Disney essentially created the stereotype out of Eleanor?
2.The Mad Hatter – Ed Wynn
Ed Wynn gave his voice to the mad hatter, but once you see what the actor looked like, you’ll understand that it’s not just the voice that he and the Mad Hatter have in common. The Alice in Wonderland character he voices is basically Ed in cartoon form. Disney actually heavily based the Mad Hatter’s personally on Ed Wynn.
3. Scat Cat — Louis Armstrong
If you haven’t watched Aristocats as a child – you need to watch it now. It’s such a masterpiece. Originally Scat Cat was meant to be named Satchmo and he was supposed to be voiced by the famous Louis Armstrong. But unfortunately, Armstrong had some health problems that stopped him from voicing the character and Disney hired Scatman Crothers to fulfil the role instead.
4. Ariel – Alyssa Milano
Have you ever thought that The Little Mermaid looks a bit like Alyssa Milano? Well, you were right. It wasn’t a very well known fact and Disney actually kept it on the down-low. Even Alyssa Milano didn’t know this, and only found out when she was offered to present a documentary about the making of The Little Mermaid. In that documentary, you can see that animators used pictures of young Alyssa as the reference when creating Ariel.
5. The Four Vultures – The Beatles
If you’ve seen The Jungle Book, you’ll know that the four vultures there had some very strange accents and quite funny haircuts. The reason behind that is that they were inspired by the Beatles. And Disney was hoping they’d get the band, who was already super popular the time, to voice the characters, but John Lennon said he doesn’t really want to appear in the movie. So they hired different voice actors to speak in a similar enough accent.
6. Edna Moda – Edith Head
The superhero costume designer from the Incredibles is rumored to be based on the life and work of a real American costume designer Edith Head. She worked for Paramount for over 40 years and designed costumes for many movies, and eventually moved on to work for Universal Pictures. You can definitely see the similarities in their appearance, right? What’s even funnier, is that the actress who voiced Edna, Linda Hunt, also looks a lot like the character.
7. Alice In Wonderland — Kathryn Beaumont
Kathryn was an American actress that not only voiced Alice but served as a real-life prototype for the character. She did a lot of acting for that movie, in order for the animation artists to be able to replicate it in the movie. There are even videos of Kathryn dressed as Alice, acting out parts of the movie.
8. Ursula — Divine
Many think that Ursula from the Little Mermaid is an iconic character, but did you know it was based on Harris Glenn Milstead, who was an American actor and drag queen performer known as Divine. A lot of Ursula’s iconic gestures, facial expressions and movements, including her personality were based on the performances of Divine.