Inspirations behind these cartoon characters

Published April 18, 2020
Illustration by Muhammad Faizan
Illustration by Muhammad Faizan

We have spent our childhood loving some cartoon or animated characters, whether they were from Disney or Loony Toons, and are always eager to watch them. Some of us even fantasise and want to be like them.

Though not

all of them are fictional creations, there are some created or modified by the illustrators’ inspiration from some real-life persons.

Let’s have a look at some of these very famous cartoon/animated characters and the real people behind them.

Aladdin — Tom Cruise

The story of Aladdin is very old, but evergreen and all generations love to see this rogue yet kind-hearted and brave boy. The original character design of Aladdin was modelled on Back to the Future star Michael J. Fox by Disney animators. But producer and former chairman of Walt Disney Studios, Jeffrey Katzengberg dismissed Fox for being too ‘cute’ — an attribute not suitable for a character like Aladdin. He wanted Aladdin to be an iconic hero type, so he suggested a look more inspired by Tom Cruise.

When asked why the inspiration for Aladdin was Tom Cruise, the lead Disney animator Glen Keane said, “There’s a confidence with all of his attitudes and his poses.”

Thus Cruise became the ultimate choice for the hero-like characteristics in Aladdin.

Genie — Robin Williams

Genie is another favourite character from the story and movie Aladdin. The blue genie is funny, dumb and soft-hearted.

While making the animations, the choice for the voice behind genie was Robin Williams. And while assigning him the voiceover, animators John Clement and Ron Musker couldn’t resist Robin William’s personality — they liked him to the extent that they made Genie to look and act like the late Robin. You may not know, many of the Genie’s best lines were also improvised by Robin Williams.

Tinker Bell — Margaret Kerry

Cute little Tinker Bell is known for sprinkling pixie dust and the magic works for her. Well, she is also one of the Disney characters who had real life inspirations behind her and this time, animator Marc Davis, one of Walt Disney nine famous animators, got inspiration from Margaret Kerry, a teen actress who was naughty and playful as Tinker Bell. She also modelled as Tinker Bell.

Many believe Tinker Bell was inspired by Marlin Monroe, but it was denied due to the fact Monroe was not a dancer while Kerry performed good acrobatic moves, which were much needed for a character like Tinker Bell.

Shrek — Maurice Tillet

Maurice Tillet is a Russian-born French professional wrestler. He is believed to be the inspiration behind the adorable Shrek.

By nature, Tillet is sensitive, kind, gentle and with a noble demeanour; however, at the age of 17, doctors diagnosed Tillet with acromegaly, a hormonal disorder which causes increased bone growth including in the hands, feet and face. Poor Tillet faced all this with courage, but when photos of his acromegaly surfaced, it showed his striking resemblance to Shrek. However, DreamWorks have neither denied the rumours, nor they have accepted it. They also haven’t commented on the rumours.

Popeye — Frank ‘Rocky’ Fiegel

Not many of you know or have seen Popeye the Sailor cartoons; they were a rage long time ago. Perhaps you may have heard about Popeye who is scrappy little seaman with bulging forearms, a squinty eye, and a screwed-up face, punctuated with an ever-present pipe in his mouth. He also gets instant energy after eating a can of spinach.

Popeye is the creation of cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar in 1929. He introduced Popeye the Sailor into his existing newspaper cartoon strip, Thimble Theatre. Segar was inspired by a man named Frank ‘Rocky’ Fiegel, who also lived in his hometown in Chester, Illinois.

Fiegel was regarded a local legend. He was strong, toothless, smoked a pipe and was very kind to children. Fiegel wasn’t aware of his role in the creation of Popeye until his final years of life. He passed away in 1947 and his gravestone bears an engraving of Popeye’s face!

Pocahontas — Irene Bedard

Pocahontas is based on an actual historical figure instead of the traditional fairy tale or folktale. She was the daughter of Powhatan, the formidable ruler of more than 30 Algonquian-speaking tribes in and around the area that the early English settlers would claim as Jamestown, Virginia.

However, Disney’s Pocahontas was modelled after Irene Bedard, a Native American actress, who has voiced over Pocahontas. Apart from voice, the princess’ actions and gestures are also based on Irene Bedard.

Bugs Bunny — Clark Gable

Not everything, but just the mannerism of Bugs Bunny are said to have been inspired by famous Hollywood actor Clark Gable, such as his smirk and quick talking.

Apart from that, the carrot-eating manner was also inspired by a scene in his movie, It Happened One Night, when the fast-talking Clark Gable snacks on carrots while leaning on a fence.

Dennis the Menace — Dennis Ketcham

This naughty cartoon character is the nightmare of most parents. But believe it or not, Dennis came from the real-life son of Hank Ketcham, who was the original creator of Dennis the Menace.

Ketcham’s son was only four at the time and yet he refused to take naps and even used to mess up his entire room. Tired and exhaust, his mum once said to Hank, “Your son is a menace!” this struck Ketcham and that’s how this comic character was born.

Rainier Wolfcastle — Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening. There is an Austrian, muscular fictional guy shown to be a movie star. He is actually a parody of none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Wolfcastle, like Schwarzenegger, is a veteran of many action movies and in The Simpsons movie, he referred to as Arnold Schwarzenegger.

There are many other cartoon characters which are believed to have been inspired by real people, however they lack authenticity so they are not included in the list.

Ariel — Alyssa Milano

Little Mermaid came out in 1989, the same year, actress Alyssa Milano’s (not many of us know of) sitcom Who’s the boss? came out. She was 17 at the time. It is said that producers thought the teen actress Alyssa Milano was a match ‘mer-maid’ in heaven for Ariel.

In 2013, in an interview, Milano said: “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.”

The Vultures — The Beatles

The Beatles is the most influential band of all times, Beatles have inspired generations not only in music, but also in fashion, film and global representation. But kids, there is one more thing attached to them.

Remember the vultures from The Jungle Book? Well, the original plan was The Beatles to voice the four vultures, but unfortunately, schedule of The Beatles didn’t leave any time for recording their lines. However, the vultures still bear some resemblance with the fab-four group, The Beatles.

Tintin — Palle Huld

Tintin was created by the Belgian artist Georges Remi, better known as Hergé, who never expected that his character would gain such popularity. Hergé was inspired by a real-life person for Tintin’s adventures. Although there is a debate about who is the real Tintin, many believe that it was Palle Huld.

As the story goes, in 1928, the Danish newspaper, Politiken, held a competition for teenage boys to mark the centennial of novelist and playwright Jules Verne, and offered the award to the winner to travel around the world unaccompanied, without using planes, and to return in 46 days. Competing against several hundred applicants, the 15-year-old Palle Huld emerged victorious.

Huld left Copenhagen and travelled by rail and steamship through England, Scotland, Canada, Japan, Manchuria, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Germany. After 44 days, Huld returned to his homeland and was greeted by a crowd of 20,000 admirers.

As soon as he got back, he wrote the book about his adventurous journey. Apparently, the book got in the hands of Hergé who decided to illustrate the story.

Published in Dawn, Young World, April 18th, 2020



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