10 Real Life Inspirations Behind Iconic Disney Characters

How cool would it be to have your face, body movements and overall mannerisms, be the inspiration behind a Disney character? Well for the stars listed below, this fantasy is a very real reality. These are the stars that were unique enough to embody the one-of-a-kind characteristics that some of the most iconic Disney characters exhibit. They have the looks, they have the body and most importantly, they have the personality.

Some of these stars found themselves auditioning for the once in a lifetime role of modeling a Disney character, while others were lucky enough to have their famous characteristics taken right from their own personality. Some of the people you’ll recognize, which could come as a shock, while others are uncannily similar to their Disney counterparts. Whatever your reaction, here is a list of ten iconic Disney characters pictured with their real life inspirations.

10 Ursula-Divine

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Although the character of Ursula is based off the sea witch in Hans Christian Anderson’s story of the same title, the physical appearance of Ursula in The Little Mermaid is based on the famous drag queen, Divine. When you get a good view of the curvy drag queen, the resemblance between Divine and her Disney counterpart is uncanny. They have the same make-up, the same hair, the same curves and even the same mole. Divine is known for starring in a grand total of ten John Waters movies, but she is best known for her role in Pink Flamingos. Sadly, Divine died while The Little Mermaid was still in production. She never got the chance to see her Disney side.

9 Ariel-Alyssa Milano

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Although Ariel’s iconic red hair is based on the astronaut, Sally Ride’s hair, the mannerisms and personality of Ariel are based on a younger Alyssa Milano. Milano, who was filming Who’s the Boss? during the production of Ariel has said this about her likeness to Ariel, “I didn't know that when it was going on, but they asked me to host the making of The Little Mermaid and it came out there that the drawing and likeness of The Little Mermaid was based on pictures of me from when I was younger, which is so cool.” In addition to Alyssa Milano, actress Sherri Stoner was also used as an inspiration for Ariel.

8 Snow White-Marge Champion

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Marge Champion, previously known as Marge Bell, served as the inspiration for a number of Disney characters, but her first and most iconic character that she modeled for was none other than Snow White. The animators of Snow White hired Marge Champion, a young dancer, so they could make Snow White’s movements seem more realistic. Marge would dress in Snow White’s costume and act out the scenes that are seen in the final film. Marge would later go on to serve as the inspiration for the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio and Hyacinth Hippo from Fantasia. 

7 Captain Hook-Hans Conried

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Hans Conried is a talented actor who has lent his voice to numerous films. When Disney hired him to voice the evil villain, Captain Hook, they didn't expect him to be the inspiration behind the iconic character. But when Conried came dressed as the part of Captain Hook for his reference shoot, animator Frank Thomas decided to use Conried as a base to create the look and mannerisms for Captain Hook. So thanks to Conried, we have one of the most memorable villains in all of Disney.

6 Belle-Sherri Stoner

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Stoner served as a writer and animator for Disney. Although she mostly worked on TV shows, the animators at Disney got to know her and all her little quirks quite well. So in addition to serving as the reference for Belle, Stoner’s mannerisms were added to the Princess, such as Belle brushing her hair away from her face. Stoner also served as an inspiration for Ariel. During her work on The Little Mermaid, Stoner would swim around in a water tank to help animators make Ariel look more realistic.

5 Aladdin-Tom Cruise

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Although the way that Aladdin’s pants move is a reference to MC hammer, Tom Cruise served as the reference for Aladdin’s looks and mannerisms. Disney initially wanted to use Michael J. Fox in his role in Back to the Future, to serve as the live model for Aladdin, but they eventually decided that Fox looked too young for the part of Aladdin. Instead, the animators decided to use Tom Cruise as their live reference for Aladdin. They believed that Cruise looked mature enough to bring the character to his full potential.

4 The Jungle Book Vultures-The Beatles

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The Vultures from The Jungle Book serve as a representation of the famous band, The Beatles. The Beatles were originally supposed to be the voices of the vultures at the request of their manager, Brian Epstein. As a result, Disney decided to model the vultures after The Beatles. Unfortunately, when Epstein took the idea to the band, Lennon decided that it wasn't a good idea and stopped the project. After The Beatles vetoed the project, the vulture’s song was rewritten to feature a barbershop quartet. However, the mop-top haircuts and the Liverpool accents remained a part of the vultures, serving as a reference to The Beatles.

3 Aurora-Helene Stanley

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Helene Stanley served as numerous references for Disney animators. Stanley started working for Disney near the end of her film career but in that time, she accomplished quite a bit. Her Disney credits include modeling for Cinderella and her stepsister Anastasia, Aurora and Anita Radcliffe in 101 Dalmatians.

2 Tinker Bell-Margaret Kerry

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There have always been rumors that the inspiration behind Tinker Bell came from Marilyn Monroe, but that’s only a myth. The real inspiration for the temperamental fairy, is Margaret Kerry. Kerry auditioned to be the live model for Tinker Bell in the early stages of production. During her audition, she had to pantomime the motions that would eventually be animated into Tinker Bell. The animators loved Kerry and in the next six months, Kerry acted out Tinker Bell’s scenes with the help of props like a giant keyhole and a giant pair of scissors.

1 Tramp-A stray dog

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When the animators of Lady and the Tramp were deciding what the Tramp should look like, no one seemed to agree on anything. That is until story artist, Ed Penner, found a dog roaming the streets that looked like a perfect Tramp. Although Penner couldn't catch the dog at first, it was discovered in a city pound a few days later. Even though the real Tramp turned out to be female, she served as the ideal reference for Tramp. After the stray dog finished her work on Lady and the Tramp, the dog lived out the rest of her days in a home for Hollywood dogs.

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