Animated films usually take years to complete and the finished product that you see on the screen isn't always what the animators behind the cameras set out to create. Due to changes in color palate, facial features and outfit inspirations, many concept drawings are almost unrecognizable as their intended character.
The many talented artists at Disney's animations studios have shared their concept art with the world to showcase how the original intentions for a movie differ from the final piece of art that we all know and love.
Concept Art for Alice from “Alice in Wonderland”
Showcasing the distinct style of Mary Blair, whose art also inspired Disney’s It’s A Small World theme park attraction, this adorable art of Alice looks like she would fit right in on the classic ride, but not much like the final art that was used for the film.
Alice’s Final Design
While visually different from the concept art, the final design for Alice keeps Blair’s bright bold colors that makes the final movie so memorable. The more realistic face and body design added contrast between Alice herself and the strange creatures she interacted with.
Concept Art for Cinderella from “Cinderella”
This concept art of Cinderella is fairly similar to the design we ended up with, although her outfit is a bit more patched up and she’s wearing French sabots typical of the working class in the 16th to 19th centuries.
Cinderella’s Final Design
Cinderella is given an older and more elegant look in the final version of the film making process, which suits both her personality and the outfit given to her by the fairy godmother for the ball.
Concept Art for Peter Pan from “Peter Pan”
The concept art for Peter Pan shows him in a red outfit, which may seem surprising now, but before Disney gave him his iconic green, in most plays at the time he wore an outfit described as being made of “autumn leaves and cobwebs.”
Peter Pan’s Final Design
Voice actor Bobby Driscoll and dance teacher Roland Dupree were the live action models used to get the facial expressions and body movements right for the boy who wouldn’t grow up, resulting in his timeless expressions and quirks.
Concept Art for Tiana from “The Princess and the Frog”
This early art of Tiana, who was originally named Maddy, is just a handful of the plentiful and varied concept art needed to decide on a design for a Disney princess. Artists design both the outfits of a character and their facial and body features before a film goes into production.
Tiana’s Final Design
Tiana's name, hairstyle, outfit, and even occupation were changed along the course of the movie’s development, but it was worth it to get to one of the hardest working characters in Disney’s repertoire. Tiana, who was voiced by actress Anika Noni Rose was also the first African American princess in a Disney franchise.
Concept Art for Tinker Bell from “Peter Pan”
Actress Margaret Kerry served as the model that most of Tink’s movements and designs were based on, and in this early sketch, her hair even seems to be slightly more in Kerry's style than the bun that Tinkerbell's hair appeared in during the final film.
Tinker Bell’s Final Design
While the concept art suggested that Tinker Bell's outfit and hair were going to be a striking red color, it’s possible that her outfit was also changed to green to match Peter Pan’s changes in design.
Concept Art for the Beast from “Beauty and the Beast”
It took Glen Keane, the supervising animator for Beauty and The Beast, a long time and research on plenty of animals to come up with the now iconic Beast design of the final movie. Here is a work inspired mainly by a mandrill that Keane would see when going to the zoo.
The Beast’s Final Design
The final version of the Beast, who had the head of a buffalo, tusks of a boar, stature of a gorilla, legs of a wolf, and mane of a lion, is a hodgepodge of dangerous animals that makes the Beast truly beastly.
Concept Art for Ursula from “The Little Mermaid”
This early design of Ursula with spiky orange hair and dark spots was inspired by scorpion fish, some of the most venomous types of fish out there, which is fitting for the villainous sea witch.
Ursula’s Final Design
Famously inspired by Divine, a drag performer and character actor who rose to popularity in the '80s, Ursula shares jewelry, makeup, and body type with the drag queen, which made her into the iconic white haired half-octopus villain of the movie.
Concept Art for Belle from “Beauty and the Beast”
Similarly to the amalgamation of animals that came together to make the Beast, Belle’s design took heavy influence from famous actresses. Audrey Hepburn, Jennie Garth, Grace Kelly, Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor, and Natalie Wood were all inspirations for the headstrong leading lady.
Belle’s Final Design
While many actresses were used to design her, one final characteristic of Belle, her wispy strand of hair that she has to push back, came from Belle’s voice actress, Paige O’Hara, who often had to brush back her own hair while recording lines.
Concept Art for Aladdin from “Aladdin”
In early versions of the script, Aladdin was written to be more boyish than his final counterpart, being as young as 13, and this concept art reflects that.
Aladdin’s Final Design
As work on the movie continued, Aladdin's age was increased to 18. His final design was influenced by Tom Cruise and Calvin Klein models, and he became the roguish street rat that we all know and love.
Concept Art for Moana from “Moana”
In the original concept art for the character Moana, she is quite a bit younger than she appears in the final film, and she has a much more slender frame. The film was originally going to feature a younger girl, but Moana was aged up to give the audience a better sense of her strength and fortitude.
Moana’s Final Design
Moana’s final design has a much more normal body type, which audiences loved because she looked like a real adolescent girl. Writer John Musker explained the changes in the character, “We wanted this action adventure heroine. We really did want her to feel like she had legs that could really swim and scale a tree and jump off a cliff. She could really believably carry all that stuff, and it wouldn’t look like she’d be overpowered by her own environment but that she could physically take charge and command a boat across the ocean.”
Concept Art for Woody from “Toy Story”
Woody is a classic doll with human proportions in “Toy Story,” but his original concept art was a little more vintage. Woody originally looked similar to a marionette-style figure, which might have frightened more guests than it would have delighted if it was included in the original movie.
Woody’s Final Design
In the final film, the Woody doll, who is voiced by actor Tom Hanks, has a classic design that isn’t unrealistic for a popular doll. His eyes also have a lot more expression and brightness than some of the original designs for the character, which tended to look more devious, like an Old West cowboy might have been.
Concept Art for Ariel and Prince Eric from “The Little Mermaid”
During production for “The Little Mermaid,” animators took inspiration for their lead characters from a lot of contemporary sources in the 1980s. Animators Glen Keane and Mark Henn based Ariel’s look on Alyssa Milano, who was starring on the show “Who’s the Boss?” at the time, and they created Prince Eric’s look based on Broadway performer Joshua Finkel’s movements.
Ariel and Prince Eric’s Final Design
The real sources that inspired the animators while making “The Little Mermaid” are what made the film really come to life. They also used footage of astronaut Sally Ride on a space walk to understand how Ariel’s hair would float about under water. Animator Glen Keane even joked that Ariel’s final design looked like his own wife, “minus the fins.”
Concept Art for Mushu from “Mulan”
Mushu the dragon was the main source of comic relief in the animated “Mulan” film. But early concept art shows that the writers weren’t always set on him looking like a traditional dragon. Some of his early designs make him look rounder and more anxious, which shows that his personality wasn’t set in stone from the beginning, either.
Mushu’s Final Design
In the final film, animators decided that the best color for Mushu would be red, to compliment the green colors of China’s landscapes. The role also went to comedian Eddie Murphy, who added life to the role. But Mushu wasn’t present for Disney’s live action version of the classic story, because it was a film with a more serious tone overall.
Concept Art for “The Aristocats”
“The Artistocats” was a 1970 animated film from Disney that was in production for about nine years. During that time, the story went through many changes and the script was changed multiple times before filming started. Developing the look of the characters took over 18 months, but even early designs of the animals in the story look similar to their finished counterparts.
“The Aristocats” Final Design
The animals in “The Aristocats” all had a classic Disney design and most of their characters were inspired by the actors who were hired to voice the characters. Phil Harris was hired to voice Thomas O’Malley because producers thought that he had an attitude similar to classic film actor Clark Gable. And Eva Gabor was cast as Duchess because director Wolfgang Reitherman said that she had “the freshest femme voice we’ve ever had.”
Concept Art for the Seven Dwarfs From “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”
The production phase of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” lasted for a long time because it was the Disney studio’s first feature length film. Walt Disney wanted the dwarfs to be very comedic, so many funny sketches of the characters were made including this one, which makes the characters look similar to Mickey Mouse and his body type.
The Seven Dwarfs’ Final Design
During production, there was also a lot of work done to come up with each of the dwarf’s names. Some of the names that didn’t make the cut included Jumpy, Dizzy, Puffy and Nifty. In the end, the right decisions for the film were made and the finished 1937 movie won an honorary Oscar and became the highest-grossing animated film of all time.
Concept Art for Elastigirl from “The Incredibles”
In the original concept art for Elastigirl, the mother in the animated film “The Incredibles,” she is shown to have a very slender build and some ‘60s inspired outfits. Her darker costume is reminiscent of villains from the 1960s Batman television show, including a dark eye mask and long black gloves.
Elastigirl’s Final Design
Elastigirl’s final design was a much more realistic body type for a mother of three children, and the studio was praised for making this decision. Her design helps give the character more depth and make the movie’s plot more believable, plus the red is a very flattering color on the character and she got to keep the black eye mask from earlier concept art.
Concept Art for Sulley and Boo from “Monsters, Inc.”
This early concept art of the inseparable characters Sulley and Boo from “Monsters, Inc.” show a different side of the characters than were seen in the film. In this art, Boo is old enough to wear glasses and she seems to be arguing with Sulley, who is very blocky and humorous with a large pink nose.
Sulley and Boo’s Final Design
In their final designs, Sulley is much, much larger than Boo, who isn’t young enough to fully understand the monster world around her. This size difference adds a comedic element to the film because it’s hilarious that Sulley would ever find Boo scary. The finished designs were also computer animated instead of being drawn by hand, like was done in previous Disney animated films.
Concept Art for Mulan from “Mulan”
While “Mulan” was in production, the animators knew that this Disney princess would be much different from her predecessors. She wouldn’t need a prince to save her and she would have much more strength than the girls in previous films, so the animators wanted to show that by giving the character a body shape that was not similar to a Barbie doll. Their concept art reflected Mulan’s strength without focusing too much on her feminine features.
Mulan’s Final Design
In the final film, Mulan does look different than some of the Disney princesses before her. To correctly animate the time period in ancient China, Chinese artist Chen Yi mentored the film’s animators about traditional Chinese styles, which added a level of authenticity to the film. The inspiration from Chinese art also inspired the characters’ costumes and hairstyles.
Concept Art for Pocahontas from “Pocahontas”
History buffs will know that Disney’s animated version of the story of Pocahontas isn’t very accurate to the events of real life history. For starters, Pocahontas would have been about 12 years old during the events of the film, so her relationship with John Smith would never have happened the way it was portrayed. But in early concept art for the film, they considered making her character much younger, similar to Tiger Lily in “Peter Pan.”
Pocahontas’s Final Design
After the success of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” animators raised Pocahontas’s age and focused on the romantic plot of the film. Studio chairman at the time Jeffrey Katzenberg even told supervising animator of the film Glen Keane to make Pocahontas “the most idealized and finest women ever made.”
Concept Art for Envy from “Inside Out”
In the Pixar film “Inside Out,” viewers watch the emotions inside teenager Riley’s mind, which include Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. But during the production of this film, the animators thought up many more emotions for the movie including Envy, Love, Gloom, Guilt, and Hope.
Envy’s Final Design
In the final film, Envy’s design was used in part to inspire Digust’s final look in the movie. While many of the other emotion characters weren’t included in the movie, the creation of these extra characters helped to inspire the ones that did make it to the big screen.
Concept Art for Hades from “Hercules”
Hades as a ruler of the underworld is typically thought of as someone who lives in a pretty hot climate, as this concept art portrays. This art is a very Western take on the Greek character, portraying him with horns, a mustache and long, skeletal fingers. His pointed shoes and green socks also didn’t make it to the final film.
Hades’s Final Design
In “Hercules,” Hades' look has a much more toned down color, and there’s no use of the color red in his character at all. His red horns were swapped out for blue, fiery hair and his red outfit was switched with a gray outfit that matched Classical Greek styles. These changes helped the character feel more sinister and less like a child’s Halloween costume.
Concept Art for the Castle From “Beauty and the Beast”
The animated version of “Beauty and the Beast” was based on the old fairytale of the same name, but there were a few people who helped modernize the story that made it the film we know and love today. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton was responsible for making Belle’s character a smart girl with a love for books, as is shown in this concept art of Belle reading to the objects of the castle.
The Castle’s Final Design
The scene from the concept art depicted Belle showing the objects of the castle where she would like to travel in the future, but other screenwriters decided to change the scene to Belle baking a cake. Woolverton considered this change regressive to Belle’s independent nature, so they compromised and that is why Belle visits the library of the castle in the feature film.
Concept Art for Cruella de Vil from “101 Dalmations”
Cruella de Vil looks just as devilish in the concept art, if not more so, as she does in the finalized film. Her striking black and white hair comes from the art featured in the 1956 novel by Dodie Smith.
Cruella de Vil’s Final Design
Given sharper cheekbones, longer hair, and a less glamorous makeup look, the final design of Cruella de Vil is as iconic as she is frightening, just as Roger sings in his song about her.
Concept Art for Elsa from “Frozen”
Arguably going through the lengthiest development for a Disney character, the origins of the character of Elsa go back as far as the 1930s and continued on and off until 2012. Throughout most of that time, Elsa was a villain, as seen here.
Elsa’s Final Design
However, it wasn’t until the creators decided to make Elsa a sympathetic character that the story that was the basis for "Frozen" seemed to flow better, and with that change, they made the more human design found in the final movie.
Concept Art for Rapunzel from “Tangled”
The style for Rapunzel from "Tangled" took its inspiration from oil paintings, especially The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. The aim of these designs was to create a romantic and lush style, and this art by Claire Keane fits that description to a T.
Rapunzel’s Final Design
The 3D team behind Tangled opted for a style focusing on aesthetics rather than realism to help blend “the warmth and intuitive feel of hand-drawn” animation with the CGI used in the film. But it still ended up taking the studio seven years to create Rapunzel’s hair!
Concept Art for Snow White from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”
Being the first feature length animated movie by the studio, Disney didn’t have a precedent for how to design their princesses. This early art of Snow White looks very different from the version we saw in the film and she seems to take inspiration from Betty Boop, with her large head, long eyelashes, and small lips.
Snow White’s Final Design
Snow White in the final film has a more human look, possibly due to the use of rotoscoping for a small selection of scenes, though most of the animator’s disapproved of the technique and thought it hindered the creation of effective caricatures.
Concept Art for Carl Fredricksen from “Up”
"Up’s" director Peter Docter wanted to make a movie about using a flying house to get away from the troubles of life, and after drawing this small grumpy old man holding cheery balloons, he decided to make him the main character of the film.
Carl Fredricksen’s Final Design
Carl Fredricksen may seem like an odd choice for the star of a Disney movie, but Docter wasn’t worried about having an elderly protagonist, saying that kids would relate to him like they would relate to their grandparents.
Concept Art for the Genie from “Aladdin”
Genie was the first character to be designed for “Aladdin” and he was a struggle for animators to get right. While most of his characteristics are the same as they appeared in the film, this concept art makes him seem almost malicious compared to the Genie we got.
The Genie’s Final Design
Ron Clements and John Musker, directors for “Aladdin,” created the Genie with Robin Williams, even asking Eric Goldberg, Genie’s supervising director, to animate a clip of William’s stand-up as performed by the Genie. That reel convinced Williams to join the project, and he brought the character to life with his performance.
Concept Art for Jane from “Tarzan”
Jane Porter was always planned to be the prim and proper counterpart to Tarzan’s wild personality and background, and this concept art reflects that. Her kind and gentle nature even comes across in the original design.
Jane’s Final Design
Originally wearing an outfit similar to the concept art, throughout the course of the movie, Jane's outfit begins to be more disheveled, making it more suited for the jungle and showing her bond with Tarzan and his home.
Concept Art for Princess Aurora from “Sleeping Beauty”
Landing on the design for Aurora was difficult for the Disney staff, mainly because they didn’t want her to clash against Eyvind Earle’s detailed backgrounds. Here she is seen with dark hair and a more flowing skirt, which was blue in the first designs for the character.
Princess Aurora’s Final Design
In the end, it was decided that Aurora should have curled blonde hair and a pleated skirt to go with Earle’s art. However this final design led to difficulties in animating the character because of how exact the line art was, leaving little to no room for error in the animating process.
Concept Art for Jasmine from “Aladdin”
The concept art for “Aladdin” was inspired by the art of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, who was known for his bold flowing lines, which seemed to production designer Richard Vander Wende to match with Arabic calligraphy. This version of Jasmine, while looking rather different, showcases Hirschfeld’s influence.
Jasmine’s Final Design
After taking Aladdin’s mother out of the script, Jasmine was given a more prominent role and stronger personality in the film. The changes made to her character actually led the studio to redesign Aladdin so the characters would have better chemistry.
Concept Art for King Triton from “The Little Mermaid”
Lacking his iconic beard and crown, this concept art of King Triton has a Fu Manchu mustache that seems to be inspired by a catfish. Other iterations of his early design included a much more vibrant color palate than was used in the movie.
King Triton’s Final Design
Unsurprisingly, the design of King Triton in the final film has many similarities to the Greek god of the same name, including their beards, tridents, and the golden palaces they lived in.
Concept Art for Anna from “Frozen”
The Disney animated film "Frozen" went through a long process to get to the film we saw in theaters. For a long time, animators planned for the film to be two dimensional, and this concept art of Anna gives us a glimpse of what we may have gotten if it were.
Anna’s Final Design
Kristen Bell, the voice actress of Anna, gave the designers lots of inspiration for how Anna looked and acted in the final movie, turning her from a more typical princess into the quirky, awkward, and kind-hearted younger sister seen in the film.
Concept Art for Kuzco from “The Emperor’s New Groove”
While Incan people and culture served as the basis for Kuzco’s clothes and features, the plot for the movie was original going to be more in line with the classic story “The Prince and the Pauper” with Kuzco and Pacha looking nearly identical and later swapping places.
Kuzco’s Final Design
When the story of the film changed to be of a more comedic nature, Kuzco’s design was changed to be simpler and better suited for a comedy. He looks somewhat similar to the early concept art, whereas the character of Pacha got a much bigger change.
Concept Art for Flynn Rider from “Tangled”
In early versions of Tangled, Flynn Rider wasn’t going to be a smarmy thief, but a common farmer. This idea was scrapped when Nathan Greno and Byron Howard took charge, but it may be possible that this art served as some inspiration for Kristoph from "Frozen."
Flynn Rider’s Final Design
Greno and Byron gathered women from the studio together to have a “hot man meeting” to figure out how to design the most handsome man they could, culminating in the dashing thief seen on screen.
Concept Art for Baby Rapunzel from “Tangled”
Claire Keane, a conceptual artist for "Tangled," and who also worked on the Disney films "Enchanted," "Wreck-it Ralph," and "Frozen," created this adorable art for Baby Rapunzel, which featured hair designs that may have inspired later versions of the character.
Baby Rapunzel’s Final Design
Although Baby Rapunzel herself didn’t change much in the final version, it’s interesting to note that the fairies seen braiding her hair in the concept art made no appearance in the film.
Concept Art for Yzma from “The Emperor’s New Groove”
In the original version of “The Emperor’s New Groove” titled “Kingdom of the Sun,” Yzma was going to sacrifice Kuzco in order to revive Supei, the Incan god of darkness, to block out the sun for making her no longer beautiful. However, the script and entire movie changed, and so did her motivation.
Yzma’s Final Design
In the finished film, Yzma got a more stylized look, with purple skin and impossibly long lashes, but she remained relatively the same: bitter, evil, and out to get Kuzco. This design also paired very well with Eartha Kitt's voiceover for the role.
Concept Art for the Ice Palace from “Frozen”
Matching the original plan for Elsa to be the villain in the story of "Frozen," concept art featuring the ice palace had a more sinister feeling than the final version that appeared in the movie. This version of the ice palace also utilizes a lot of natural elements, like snow covered trees made of ice and massive snowflakes.
The Ice Palace’s Final Design
While less dark and scary, the final Ice Palace is still very big and empty, showcasing the isolation Elsa deals with throughout the course of the film. This version of the Ice Palace is also more reminiscent of classic architecture with its grand staircase and monumental fountain.