Here Are 21 Cartoons That Are Based On Real People

You probably never thought too much about where the inspiration of your favorite cartoon came from. Well, you would be quite surprised to find out that some of them were actually based on real people, rather than a sudden inspiration from a cartoonist. We have gathered some awesome cartoons that animators created based on celebrities and also friends! Keep reading to have your mind blown away by cartoons you would have never guessed had a real-life counterpart.

#21. Ursula

Nobody really liked Ursula in Disney’s animated film The Little Mermaid. Even though she isn’t the primary antagonist of the original story, I’m pretty sure she isn’t anyone’s favorite character. With her purplish washed out skin and her prominent double chin, combined with her malicious grin, calling somebody Ursula is far from a compliment.

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However, you would be surprised that Ursula was in fact inspired by a real-life person. The cartoonist for Ursula basically sketched Harris Glenn Milstead, a drag queen known for her appearances in several of John Waters’ films. Better known as Divine, Harris Glenn is the inspiration of the secondary villainess in The Little Mermaid.

#20. Shrek

Who doesn’t love Shrek? It simply is a classic and it is impossible not to have a favorite character. It’s funny because the character of the ogre is always referred to as being too ugly for Princess Fiona. So one would have never thought that Shrek was actually sketched based off of a person in real life!

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The inspiration for our favorite ogre happens to be Maurice Tillet, a 1940’s wrestler known for his nickname “The French Angel”. Maurice was known not only for his fighting skills but also for his unique physical appearance. Several years later, animators for the Shrek film found Maurice to be the ideal inspiration for their main character.

#19. Edna Mode

Another of our beloved characters! If you watched The Incredibles (and we really hope that you did because it is fantastic), then you probably love Edna Mode as much as we do. She’s smart, sarcastic and blunt. Everything you would ever want for a professional superhero custom designer. And, she happens to have a real-life double!

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Meet Edith Head, the inspiration for the best superhero outfitter. It wasn’t just the looks of Edith that were translated onto Edna, but also her outstanding skills as a costume designer. Edith was, in fact, the winner of eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design.

#18. Popeye

If you were born more than two decades ago, then you probably are familiar with Popeye, the fictional character created by Elzie Crisler Segar. Popeye appeared in the King Features comic strip for the first time back in 1929, and then he passed on to be an animated character on television

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The inspiration of Popeye came from a man named Frank Rocky Fiegel. The cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar drew Popeye based off of one of his neighbors. The hot-tempered and spinach-loving character is directly linked to a man that lived in Chester, Illinois. Apparently, the tough-guy appearance, toothless mouth, and many wrinkles of this old man inspired Elzie Crisler Segar to create the first sketch of Popeye.

#17. Aladdin

Now this one might be a bit harder to believe given the resemblance isn’t all that striking, but hear us out. Aladdin was supposed to look like Michale J. Fox, the Canadian-American actor, comedian, film producer, and author. However, the Disney animators thought it was coming off as too childish, so they had to make a quick change.

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Since Aladdin was supposed to pass off as a prince, the animators needed to make him appear more manly. Therefore, they made the change of using Tom Cruise instead as their model. I’m not sure about you, but I think that using Tom Cruise to portray a manly character seems like quite a good idea.

#16. Bugs Bunny

It might be a little confusing to think that a rabbit was inspired by a real-life person, rather than a real-life bunny. Well, that happens to be the case of Bugs Bunny, the animated cartoon that was created in the 1930s by Leon Schlesinger Productions and whose voice is portrayed by Mel Blanc.

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The look and appearance of Bugs Bunny is actually inspired by Clark Gable. It wasn’t that Mr. Gable looked like a Bunny, it was more the attitude that the animators took in. At the time, Warner Bros. was having issues with making Bugs Bunny have a more swagger-like persona, but upon seeing Gable act in the film It Happened One Nightinspiration came in no time.

#15. Harley Quinn

Maybe you know Harley Quinn as the seductive character portrayed by Margot Robbie in the recent film Suicide Squad. But if you are a little older, you might remember Harley Quinn as a fictional character that dressed in a red and black suit paired up with the buffoon look.

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This Harley Quinn that we are referring to was inspired by Arleen Sorkin, an American actress, comedian, and screenwriter. The DC writer Paul Dini wanted to give the joker a female sidekick, and he thought that there was nobody more adequate than his friend Arleen.

#14. Krusty The Clown

Krusty The Clown is another character that you probably didn’t know was inspired by a person in real life. For this one, it was Rusty Nails that served as a model for Herschel Shmoikel Pinchas Yerucham Krustofsky (the long version of Krusty the Clown), the cartoon character from the series The Simpsons.

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Maybe you thought that Krusty came from the imagination of Matt Groening. Thus, you’re probably surprised to know that the scoundrel clown was based on real-life performer Rusty Nails, a clown that would show up on TV and that Groening would watch when he was just a kid.

#13. Jessica Rabbit

Jessica Rabbit is probably the epitome of a seductress. She is a character from the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit and is renowned as a sex symbol of animation. Whether it’s her stunning hourglass figure, her well-endowed bust, her half-closed eyes or her silky hair, there is something about Jessica Rabbit you probably admire.

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Well, while definitely a great exaggeration, Jessica Rabbit is actually based off of not one real-life person, but three, those being Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, and Lauren Bacall. The creator, Richard Williams, wanted to combine these three women to come up with a character that would embody the “ultimate male fantasy.” And he did a really good job at it!

#12. Milhouse Van Houten

Another character from one of the most famous series in the world, Milhouse Van Houten from The Simpsons, was also inspired by somebody in real life. Josh Saviano’s performance as Paul Pfeiffer in the film The Wonder Yearswas exactly where the animators drew inspiration from.

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And here’s another fun fact! Does anyone know where the name Milhous comes from? The name for Bart’s nerdy best friend came from Richard Nixon’s middle name. In case you didn’t know, the 37th president of the United States’ full name was Richard Milhous Nixon.

#11. Mr. Magoo

Mr. Magoo, also known by his first name Quincy, is the cartoon from the famous animation created in 1949. He is a wealthy man that is often found in very comical situations, particularly because of his exaggerated near-sightedness. While Mr. Magoo finds himself in these not so favorable situations, he gets away with it with a lot of luck!

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This half-blind cartoon with myopia was inspired by W.C Fields. It doesn’t take a lot to see the resemblance. Clearly, the animators of Mr. Magoo really liked the physical features of the American juggler, actor, and comedian. However, Fields’ comic persona was that of a misanthrope, while Mr. Magoo was portrayed as upbeat and friendly.

#10. The Little Mermaid

Now that you know that Ursula from The Little Mermaid was inspired by a person in real life, you should also know that the Little Mermaid herself, Ariel, was also inspired by somebody that lives in the real world. If you ever watched the series Charmed, and you were a fan of Phoebe Halliwell, then you might recognize this real-life inspiration.

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The animators of the Little Mermaid used a young Alyssa Milano as the model for their main character. While they don’t look that similar, we can see that these two share several features. The animators also used inspiration from Sally Ride, the astronaut, to figure out how to draw the underwater hair movements of Ariel.

#9. Leopold “Butters” Stotch 

Leopold “Butters” Stotch, the character in the animated series South Park, whose name is a play on the candy butterscotch, is another one of the characters you probably didn’t think was inspired on a real-life person. While Leopold is voiced by co-creator Matt Stone, he is based on the co-producer, Eric Stough.

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Leopold Butters started off as a more background character. However, little by little he made his way to be one of the most memorable characters within the animated television series. The show creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone thought it would be a good idea to base the appearance of Leopold on the co-producer, who they perceived as a goody-goody.

#8. Tinkerbell

Who doesn’t know Tinkerbell? Whether you had a Tinkerbell costume when you were little, or you wished you had some magic pixie dust that would take you to Neverland, you are probably familiar with the ultra-famous fairy. It might come as a surprise, but the animators were struggling a lot to come up with Tinkerbell’s look.

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So to fix this, they resorted to asking Margaret Kerry to pose for them while they designed what would be the most renowned fairy in the animated world. Margaret was the live-action model for Tinkerbell and while she was at it, she had to pose with giant props to make her look smaller.

#7. Vultures From “The Jungle Book”

One of the funniest inspirations in the list is the flock of vultures from The Jungle BookThese four creatures were not just based on four random people, but on a very very popular band that everybody knows about: The Beatles.

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For those that were lucky enough to watch The Jungle Book during its premiere back in 1967, it wasn’t too hard to know where the inspiration for funny vultures actually came from. While they were a sort of parody, these vultures are very memorable for being personifications of the famous band.

#6. C. Montgomery Burns

Yet another character from The Simpsons that was inspired by a real-life character is C. Montgomery Burns, the evil and greedy boss of Homer Simpson that owns the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. He is the villain of the series and while his bad reputation doesn’t make him the most loved character, he definitely appealed to the audience given he was included repeatedly in many episodes.

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Mr. Burns, the stereotype of the American corporate that is obsessed with money and power, is based on Barry Diller, the founder of Fox. If it weren’t for the fame of The Simpsons, we aren’t all that sure that the producers could have gotten away with making their boss appear like a power-seeking villain!

#5. Pocahontas

Colors of the Wind was probably one of our favorite songs back in the day when Disney animated movies ruled the TV realm. And without a doubt, many of us fell in love with the appearance of Pocahontas. She was absolutely stunning and admirably brave. But while she existed in real life back in 1596, her animated version in the film was inspired by somebody that belongs more in our era.

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Pocahontas was inspired by actress Irene Bedard. In fact, not only was she the model for the animation, but also the one who voiced her. That means that Pocahontas was literally the animated embodiment of Irene. The animator Glen Keane said that he decided against using the historical Pocahontas because she wasn’t beautiful enough.

#4. Betty Boop

Betty Boop has complicated origins. She was first supposed to be a poodle but not long after, Paramount decided it was best to portray her as a human. And when the decision was made, the creators initially made Betty Boop a caricature of Helen Kane.

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Interestingly enough, the singer Helen Kane was a performer of a particular music style. Amongst those performers that also shared her style was African American singer, Baby Esther Jones, who had a “baby” manner of singing. Who would have known that Betty Boop traces back to an African American singer from the 1920s?

#3. Rainier Wolfcastle

To complete the list of characters from The Simpsons that were inspired by somebody in real life we have Rainier Wolfcastle. However, the similarity is much clearer compared to the previous cases! Rainier was voiced by cast member Harry Shearer but his appearance is clearly derived from The Governator, the cartoon in the superhero franchise developed by Stan Lee.

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Well if you haven’t guessed it yet, Rainier was inspired by no other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was the co-developer of The Governator. Fun fact: that character has a wife named Maria, and it so happens to be that Arnold’s ex-wife was called Maria too.

#2. Chuckie

Chuckie Finster, one of the main characters from television show Rugrats, was inspired by real-life composer Mark Mothersbaugh. Mark actually composed a lot of music for both movies and TV shows, including the theme song for Rugrats, and while at it, he was used as a model for Chuckie.

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Despite the significant age gap (Chuckie is just two years old) and the fact that Chuckie sees the world as this huge scary place, we can sort of see the resemblance between the scaredy-cat that has allergies and the grown composer. They even boast the same signature glasses!

#1. Alice In Wonderland

Alice in Wonderlanis another classic and favorite, so maybe you would like to know that the animation of this curious little girl was based on Kathryn Beaumont. Kathryn was the life model for the blonde and blue-eyed mischievous Alice.

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Kathryn is another example of somebody that had a caricature fully based on her. She wasn’t just the real-life model of Alice, but she was also the one who voiced her and the one who portrayed Alice in real-life performances. Amazing!

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