Disney is celebrating a special anniversary today. Happy 61st to the Disneyland theme park, which is the only park designed and constructed under the direct supervision of creator Walt Disney. The Mouse House mogul wanted to create his own amusement park after visiting other tourist attractions with his daughters during the 1930s and ‘40s. We’ve explored the many things you probably didn’t know about the Disney theme parks and some of the weirdest urban legends about Disney himself. But today we’re taking a closer look at the Disney characters we love who were almost entirely different from the animated icons we know today.
Frozen‘s Elsa was almost evil. From Wired:
In an earlier iteration of the film, Elsa was truly evil, using her icy powers to destroy her hometown, but Lasseter and others in Disney’s Story Trust (based on Pixar’s Braintrust) pushed back in their intensive meetings. ‘Sometimes you come out very tired,’ Frozen director Jennifer Lee says of the notes sessions, ‘but you never come out of it feeling like you don’t know what to do or where to go.’ Lasseter thought that Elsa shouldn’t be a villain but a victim of an affliction, living in fear of hurting someone she loves—her sister. He was reminded of his son Sam, who at age 10 was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. After the diagnosis, he was sad for a long time, not able to understand why he had been chosen for such a fate. Elsa, Lasseter suggested, was similarly innocent.
Animator Glen Keane looked at teen idols and movie stars to create Aladdin. The main inspiration for the character was originally Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future, but the artist later changed Aladdin’s look to mirror that of actor Tom Cruise.
John Goodman’s character Sulley almost had tentacles instead of legs, but the animators thought it would distract audiences.
The Vultures in the 1968 film The Jungle Book were originally going to be voiced by The Beatles. John Lennon didn’t like the idea (his manager’s idea, really) and told Disney they should hire Elvis Presley instead. The Vultures’ hairstyles are an homage to The Beatles.
Most people know that The Little Mermaid villainess Ursula was inspired by John Waters’ muse Divine. But Ursula was, at one point, conceived as a “tall, thin regal-looking sea witch. Which is why — at this point in production — the character was first modeled on a manta ray (which then allowed the artists to give this villainess a stylish cape) and — later — a scorpion fish.”
Sleeping Beauty‘s Princess Aurora wore a brown dress in the original concept art for the character.
Here’s the Guardian about “evil” Woody from Toy Story:
The existence of ‘evil Woody’ is well-documented, but new photographs from Pixar’s ‘Living Archive’ in Emeryville, California show how different he might have been from the final version voiced by Hanks. A sculpture of the toy meanie features heavily lidded eyelids, a long, pointy nose, terse lips and a puppet-style chin, the legacy of his origins in an even earlier draft as a ventriloquist’s dummy. The final Woody’s trademark bright demeanour – famously based on Pixar animator Tone Thyne’s cheery features — is notably absent. Evil Woody was originally pitched as a sarcastic bully, a sneering gunslinger whose cruel behaviour causes the other toys to rise up in rebellion. But executives disliked early drafts so much that they ordered a complete rewrite. Meanwhile, the cowboy’s pal Buzz Lightyear progressed through a variety of versions before reaching his final form, and was at one point known as Lunar Larry.
Animator Marc Davis made One Hundred and One Dalmatians‘ Cruella de Vil an icon, but the character was originally created to look like a younger, more glamorous heiress.
Here’s what Beauty and the Beast‘s Belle almost looked like.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit was Disney’s first animated character to have its own series during the 1920 and ‘30s. He appeared in films distributed by Universal Pictures. When Disney went their own way, Mickey was born. The beloved mouse — who was also named Mortimer Mouse — was first drawn as a dog, cat, female cow, and male horse.