Movie Editor's Blog

Movie Editor's Blog

Weird early versions of Disney characters

You might not want to hear this, but the loveable critters that emerge from Disney’s dream factory are not made of magic and fairy dust, but are the products of a rigorous studio machine.

During production of Disney and Pixar ‘toons, hundreds of concept artists, storyboarders, script editors and animation gurus work for years to hash out the look and feel of characters that, they hope, we’ll fall in love with.

They don’t usually get it right first time.

[Related story: Teaser artwork released for new Pixar projects]
[Related story: Disney buys Star Wars studio and announces Episode 7]

Take, for example, the foxy Robin Hood in the somewhat derided 1973 film of the same name. In these superb early sketches by animator Ken Anderson, Robin is much cuter and younger-looking than the finished product, thanks to a longer nose and differently-proportioned body.
The creation of a character... Robin Hood's evolution (Credit: Disney)
Fellow artist Mitt Kahl stepped in and totally changed the character into an older, more swashbuckling outlaw. The nose itself went through several revisions. Too short and he was distractingly cute for a hero. Too long and he’d be too sneaky... you know, like a fox. It takes a lot of trial and error to create that perfect Disney look.
Too buxom to be Belle (Credit: Disney)
This early drawing of Belle from ‘Beauty And The Beast’ is also markedly different, making her look much sexier than the demure and reserved character seen in the final film.
Uninviting... Rafiki (Credit: Disney)
And how about this sketch of Rafiki, in ‘The Lion King’? The wise old Shaman of the Pride is a cranky looking mandrill in initial designs.
Menacing... Williams' Genie and it's earlier form (Credit: Disney)
Robin Williams’ endearingly wacky Genie is the best thing about ‘Aladdin’, but concepts for the character out-evil the socks off of Jafar. You ain’t never had a friend like him, and nor would you want one.

Thankfully for fans, loads of early Disney/Pixar designs are online and we’ve rounded up a few more of our favourites below.
To infinity, and a redesign... Buzz Lightyear (Credit: Disney)

King Louie wanted to be a man-cub from the start (Credit: Disney)

Monster, sync? Sulley and Boo (Credit: Disney)Mulan's butch earlier forms (Credit: Disney)Up's Carl Fredricksen's depressing origins (Credit: Disney)Quasimodo was never really a looker in the first place... (Credit: Disney)Too sneaky? Timon's original concept designs (Credit: Disney)Drunk? Woody (Credit: Disney)The wrong sleepy head... More Snow White than Princes Aurora (Credit: Disney)



Special thanks to Deja View, Animationarchive.net, and Disneyconceptart.tumblr.