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How Famous Disney Characters Looked In Original Concept Art

How Famous Disney Characters Looked In Original Concept Art January 22, 2021Leave a comment

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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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 Cruella de Vil from “101 Dalmations”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

Disney

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

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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”

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"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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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”

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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

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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.