What would Frozen or Toy Story be like if Elsa and Woody weren’t so nice? Would Cruella De Vil evoke the same terror if she was 30 years younger? We often forget that it took a lot of work to get our favorite Disney characters to where they are today. The flawless princesses and deviously creepy villains often looked (and sometimes acted) totally different in the early stages of production.
After many careful drafts, we got the Disney characters we know and love, but it wasn’t always so. These characters were almost completely different before Disney made some careful edits.
1. The Little Mermaid’s Ursula was a different sea creature.
Ursula was inspired by the drag queen Divine, but in early sketches she didn’t have eight creepy tentacles. Originally, the Little Mermaid villain was based on a spinefish or scorpion fish and had lots of spikes and spines.
2. Aladdin was a lot younger.
Aladdin wasn’t always a dapper young man — he was originally much youngerboy. According to commentary on Aladdin’s 2004 DVD re-release, Aladdin was originally kid-like and based on a young Michael J. Fox. Animators ultimately decided that Aladdin needed to be older to work as a love interest for Jasmine and instead based his character on a young Tom Cruise.
3. Cruella De Vil was a lot younger, too.
101 Dalmations’ fur-crazed villain was originally a young, beautiful fashionista. Apparently, animator Marc Davis’ original design was based on a young, fashion-obsessed heiress who had to have everything she wanted. Eventually, Disney settled on a rich older woman which we think suits the creepy character much more. Would she be as scary if she was in her 20s? Probably not.
4. Snow White was supposed to be sexy.
Snow White was originally quite the sexpot — at least for the 1930s. According to The Daily Mail, early versions of the Betty Boop-inspired character showed flirty, long eyelashes and sultry, pouty lips. Grim Natwick, the artist who created the character, was told to make her a bit more demure which is how we know Snow White today.
5. Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston was not a beefcake.
One of Gaston’s only redeeming qualities is that he is totally handsome. This wasn’t always the case. A behind-the-scenes video shows that Belle’s villainous other man was pretty darn lanky. Animators made him more traditionally handsome in later edits. After all, the whole theme of Beauty and the Beast is that outer beauty does not equate inner beauty. Gaston was mean to be handsome on the outside and ugly deep down, whereas the Beast was ugly on the outside and a kind, wonderful person. How would that play off if Gaston was nasty and unattractive? Gross.
6. Beauty and the Beast’s Beast was originally more dog-like.
The behind-the-scenes video also shows the Beast looking a bit different. The Beast we know is a mix between a bull and a wolf, but this Beast looks a whole lot hairier and a whole lot more like a puppy dog. We’re also getting some major Chewbacca vibes.
7. Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent was originally a bug-like creature.
Maleficent definitely got a more powerful look in later sketches (left), but in early sketches (right) she had a totally different bug-inspired look. What on earth is the story behind those antennae? We’re pretty glad Disney chose a horn-inspired hat instead.
8. Aladdin’s Genie was originally green.
This is the original concept art for Genie from Aladdin. It was changed to look more like Robin Williams pic.twitter.com/47I962tmu6
— Anthony Jaques (@anthers) April 15, 2014
Robin Williams’ classic Aladdin character looked a whole lot more like Slimer from Ghostbusters in earlier concept art. Thankfully, Disney altered the character to look more like Williams and also made him a friendly shade of blue.
9. The Little Mermaid’s King Triton was almost bald.
Ariel’s father, who was based on the Greek God Triton, didn’t always have major muscles and flowing silver locks. An early concept design showed King Triton to be much more fish-like with pointed ears and a bald head. Fortunately, Disney decided to give him long hair and larger muscles inspired by images of the Greek God. This made him look way more powerful, and now, we totally get why Ariel didn’t want to disobey Dad.
10. Frozen’s Elsa was originally a villain.
Poor, misunderstood Elsa wasn’t always a protagonist. In the original script, which was adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, she wasn’t even related to Anna. Anna was a peasant who asked Elsa, the evil Snow Queen, to freeze her heart. She originally had light blue skin, blue hair and a coat made out of living — we repeat living — weasels.
Look at how creepy she is in this early sketch.
Disney ultimately decided to make Elsa misunderstood rather than a villain (partly built around the song “Let It Go”) and had the story focus on the importance of family over true love, which is why they’re sisters. These changes made Frozen a whole lot more relatable than the original fairy tale and it ended up being a box office smash.
11. Toy Story’s Woody wasn’t the hero.
Woody definitely has some less-than-stellar moments. The cowboy toy deals with jealousy throughout the entirety of Toy Story, but when it comes down to it, he does have a good heart. Originally, this wasn’t really the case. Woody wasn’t supposed to be the hero, he was the bad guy. The studio didn’t like the nasty version of the character and refused to move forward with the project until major changes were made. Just look at how sketchy he looks in early concept sketches — we don’t like him either!
Do you think Disney made the right call changing these characters? Tell us in the comments!