Weird early versions of Disney characters

Mark Lankester
Movies Blog4 January 2013
disney concept art

Your favourite Disney toons weren't always so recognisable.

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.

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.

[Robin hood pic]

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.

[Beauty and the beast]

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.


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.


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.

[Buzz Lightyear]

Thankfully for fans, loads of early Disney/Pixar designs are online and we’ve rounded up a few more of our favourites below.

(Credit the blogs we’ve taken stuff from)

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