10 Cartoons Inspired by Live-Action Characters (or Real People)


[Editor’s note: While your Flavorwire editors take a much-needed holiday break, we’ll spend the next two weekends revisiting some of our most popular features of the year. This post was originally published October 7, 2011.] Cartoon creators don’t always borrow personalities from live action film and TV, but when they do, it sometimes isn’t as obvious as we’d think. Have you ever noticed that Milhouse is a flawless animated rendition of The Wonder Years’ Paul Pfeiffer? And Doug Funnie’s retired neighbor? Y’know, that Dink guy who hangs around giving Doug strange advice? He’s most certainly an homage to Home Improvement‘s Mr. Wilson, the wisest man on the other side of Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor’s fence. Check out some quirky cartoons and their live equivalents after the jump, and hit the comments to let us know the others you’ve found. They’re everywhere.

Milhouse Van Houten and Paul Joshua Pfeiffer

Before growing up to graduate from Yale and become a lawyer, Josh Saviano stole our hearts as the lovably dorky Paul Pfeiffer. In addition to being Kevin Arnold’s trusty best friend, Paul Pfeiffer served as inspiration for the cartoon world’s beloved blue-haired Milhouse. They have the same hairstyle, the same outfits, the same impaired vision, and serve the same character purpose — to stand by Kevin Arnold’s and Bart Simpson’s respective sides through thick and thin.

Bud Dink and Wilson Wilson, Jr.

They live next door. They give you advice. Some decent, some useless. But we can’t help but love these retired folks who seemingly have nothing better to do than linger in their yards, waiting for those younger and less wise to ask one of life’s many questions.

Chip and Indiana Jones/Dale and Thomas Magnum

In their 1989 Rescue Rangers series, Chip and Dale adopt the getups of some serious adventurers. Chip is clearly an homage to Indiana Jones, a legend his target kiddie audience could probably recognize, but who’s Dale supposed to be? If you guessed Tom Selleck in Magnum, P.I., you’re right! That chipmunk needs a mustache and some hot ’80s babes, pronto.

Rocko and Woody Allen

Here’s a fun fact. When Rocko’s Modern Life creators pitched the show, they described Rocko as “a young anthropomorphic Woody Allen.” True, like Alvy Singer, nothing went right for this animated wallaby, but we never would have pinned Allen as the inspiration for the little Aussie.

Philip J. Fry and Jim Stark

Identical twins, right? Nope, just Fry from Futurama and James Dean wearing matching outfits. The cartoon’s signature red jacket, white shirt, and denim ensemble is a reference to Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause character, Jim Stark. Fry’s hair might be a little on the orange side, but we’ll take it.

Oskar Kokoshka and Yakov Smirnoff

Y’know the Czech guy in Hey Arnold! who boards at Arnold’s grandparents’ house? The con artist who’s a little on the creepy side? His mannerisms, voice, and catchphrases are inspired by Ukranian comedian Yakov Smirnoff. We don’t blame the show’s creators for stealing Smirnoff’s steez — check out that stellar sweater.

Ollie Williams and Al Roker

This one’s a bit obvious, but also hilarious: The sole purpose of Family Guy’s Ollie Williams is to poke fun at his real-life TV counterpart, Al Roker. From his big, yellow raincoat to his affinity for shouting weather forecasts, we’d say Ollie is pretty spot-on in his neck of the woods.

Eric Cartman and Archie Bunker

South Park creators acknowledge that Cartman is their little Archie Bunker, and we can see why. Although separated by a few generations and animations, the South Park and All in the Family personalities are made of similar ingredients — cynicism and sass with a dollop of political incorrectness.

Shrek and Maurice Tillet

Maurice Tillet wasn’t an ogre, nor did he have a donkey sidekick, but Shrek animators give Tillet credit as the physical inspiration for our big green friend. As an early-20th century French wrestler, Tillet was known as world heavyweight champion “The French Angel,” crushing opponents with his bear hug.