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Famous Cartoon Characters Whose Appearances Were Based On Real People

Updated September 7, 2021 29.4k views11 items

Caricatures in The New Yorker often derive their wit from flesh-and-blood targets, but real people also inspired classic cartoon characters. From the vultures in The Jungle Book (based on John, Paul, George, and Ringo) to Ursula the Sea Witch (based on John Waters muse Divine), animation inspiration can often be traced to actual people.

Some celebrities who inspired cartoon characters, such as Betty Boop muse Helen Kane, weren't happy with their depictions. Others, like The Little Mermaid inspiration Alyssa Milano, were delighted. But there's no doubt that animated icons are much more than whimsical figures invented for children.

You'll be surprised to learn the real-life origins of your favorite cartoon characters, and how these drawings eventually took on lives and legends of their own.