Disney characters are known the world over, and many of them are much loved. In fact, Disney’s takes on popular stories and fairy tales are often so influential that they have become almost the definitive version.
Think of the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White and you probably see a Disney’s black-haired, rosy cheeked heroine with her popped collar and paned sleeves. While a red-haired Ariel will be how many people children today picture Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid.
But Disney’s interpretations of such famous characters often changed dramatically during the creative process before taking their final form. And a YouTube video shows just how much. It reveals how 33 Disney characters were “supposed to look”, from a pinup Tinker Bell to a villainous Woody and Maleficent with… antennae? (for inspiration for your own work, see our character design tips).
Almost everyone has a favorite Disney character – be it a hero or villain. And it’s often the character design that really makes a classic Disney movie, so obviously a lot of thought goes into every detail. And sometimes the final result is very different from the original concept.
We’ve already seen how Disney ditched its original Belle from Beauty and the Beast concept for being “too beautiful”. But the YouTube video above, created and shared by TheThings Animated (opens in new tab) shows how no fewer than 33 popular Disney characters changed – often dramatically – from the original ideas.
Final character designs rarely end up exactly as they first started out. Sometimes the details that change are tiny, but sometimes the characters are completely transformed. From a young, glamorous Cruella De Vil to a very bizarre Genie in Aladdin, seeing the original designs for Disney characters shows us just how many iterations illustrators go through. It’s especially interesting to see how much the choice of voice actor sometimes changed the character designs.
The video’s picked up almost a million views, and people have a lot to say. Some Disney faves would be hard to imagine with the original concepts, but some people find a few of them more interesting than the final characters – particularly the punk-looking Ursula from the Little Mermaid. People are commenting with plenty of fun facts and explanations for some of the changes too, from a suggestion that Ariel got red hair to avoid blond locks from clashing with the background to the original Sisu being too difficult to make into a toy.
“Always enjoy seeing the journey and what inspired the changes,” one person wrote on YouTube. “Some designs I like but can understand after discovery why changes happened.” “I love villain-Elsa so much, I wish they had gone with it,” someone else said. For our part, we’ll now never be able to unsee Snow White as Betty Boop.