These Disney Characters Were Almost Way Different

by Kaitlin Reilly

For many of us, it's hard to imagine a childhood without the appearance of beloved Disney characters. I know it would be a challenge for me: growing up, I was a total Disney kid, who obsessively viewed animated flicks like The Little Mermaid, Hercules, and The Hunchback Of Notre Dame until the VHS tape broke from overuse. At heart, I'm still a Disney kid. And while some people may prefer the 2D world of Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and Ariel to the current 3D world that Disney usually exists in with releases like Finding Nemo, the truth is that many character, 2D or 3D, didn't look the same in the early stages of film-making. Your beloved Disney characters were unrecognizable during the development process, and had they turned out the way originally intended, those Disney characters could have looked very, very different.

Whether you're a fan of the iconic princesses, cute sidekicks, or even dashingly devious villains, these characters didn't emerge from the minds of the animators at Disney without careful planning. It took many drafts to get these guys just right, and clearly Disney did a great job — there's a reason why we still adore these animated characters. Here are just a few that looked very different in the early stages of development:

1. Beauty And The Beast's Gaston Wasn't Always So Buff

According to the behind-the-scenes featurette for the film, Gaston didn't always have those broad shoulders and super-human muscles. In original designs for the animated film, the villainous Gaston was actually quite thin. According to the video, the animators eventually decided to make Gaston traditionally "handsome" to show that beauty on the outside doesn't always equate to beauty on the inside — a juxtaposition to The Beast, who was ugly on the outside but kind deep down.

2. The Beast Could Have Looked Far More Like A... Well, Beast

The behind-the-scenes look also showed an original design for Belle's beast, featured above. While the final design for The Beast appears to have borrowed from a bull (he's certainly hot-headed like one!) one concept made The Beast look far more like a family pet.

3. Frozen's Elsa Was Originally The Villain

As director and screenwriter Jennifer Lee discussed in The Art Of Frozen, Elsa wasn't always supposed to be a good person — or Anna's sister! The script originally had her as the main antagonist, but after thinking about Elsa's isolation, the writers thought it would be better if Elsa was just misunderstood. That led to the idea that Anna and Elsa should be sisters, rather than rivals — and the ultimate feminist Disney flick was born!

4. The Little Mermaid's Ursula Could Have Been A Different Sea Creature

The forever fabulous octopus Ursula was ultimately inspired by Baltimore drag queen Divine — but before the animators settled on that design, they jumped back and forth between several other iterations. According to a new article from Hazlitt, concept designs for Ursula showed the sea witch as both a manta ray and a deadly scorpion.

5. 101 Dalmatians' Cruella De Vil Was Aged Up

Original animator Marc Davis had a different approach to the cruel and calculating Cruella. According to Style Noir, Cruella was originally supposed to be a young, beautiful fashionista. According to this site, the concept for Cruella was based on the idea of a wealthy heiress who is obsessed with fashion and can't help but give in to her every impulse — much like shopaholics.

6. Aladdin's Genie Wasn't Always Blue

Original concept work for the genie (expertly voiced by the late great Robin Williams) was super different from the original product, but perhaps the most noticeable aspect of the character was the color swap. Though the genie went through many iterations, this green design was eventually scrapped in favor of the final blue design.

7. Iago Was Originally Supposed To Sound Very Different

Gilbert Gottfried's distinct voice lent itself to the parrot Iago, but according to the commentary on Aladdin's DVD re-release in 2004, the filmmakers originally wanted Iago to have a British accent.

8. Aladdin Himself Was Supposed To Look Much Younger

According to the DVD commentary, Aladdin could have looked very different. Originally the filmmakers wanted him to be a more kid-like figure, based loosely on actor Michael J. Fox. After designing Jasmine, though, the filmmakers decided that the couple wouldn't work well unless Aladdin was aged up, and chose to base Aladdin on a young Tom Cruise instead.

9. Snow White's Titular Character Was Supposed To Be Sexy

Snow White, the youngest princess in the Disney universe, wasn't always the picture of innocence. According to The Daily Mail, the earliest Snow White drawing, from around 1935, featured a Snow White that resembled "sexy" cartoon Betty Boop. The artist, Grim Natwick, was told by the studio that they wanted a more demure Snow White, which is how the Snow White we all know came to be.

10. Toy Story's Woody Wasn't Always A Nice Guy

According to The Independent, Woody wasn't supposed to hero of the story. In fact, in early versions of Toy Story, Woody was (as his voice actor Tom Hanks put it) "a jerk." The studio reportedly didn't like that version of the cowboy, and refused to continue with the project unless major changes were made.

11. Buzz Almost Had A Different Name

Woody's rival and eventual BFF originally had a different name: Lunar Larry. The team decided to swap it for Buzz Lightyear in honor of real-life astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. Personally, the latter seems to suit him much better.

It's hard to imagine any of our beloved Disney characters as any different than they were onscreen, but in an alternate universe, we may have loved very different characters.

Images: Walt Disney Pictures; Popeye (1980)/YouTube (2); Giphy (5)