15 Surprising Facts About Disney’s Most Famous Characters
Your favorite cartoons growing up have some interesting backstories.
Mickey Mouse was almost named Mortimer
When Walt Disney suggested the name to his wife, Lillian, she didn’t think the name matched the character’s personality. He later came up with Mickey Mouse, and the rest is history. Mortimer Mouse eventually became Mickey’s taller, more arrogant nemesis, sporadically appearing in print and short films since 1936.
Mickey and Minnie have the same birthday
In 1933, Walt Disney stated that Mickey’s birthday was October 1, 1928, since that was “the day on which his first picture was started,” waltdisney.org reports. But in 1978, Dave Smith, founder of the Disney Archives, changed the date to November 18, 1928, the premiere of Steamboat Willie. The 1928 animated short officially debuted Mickey and Minnie Mouse to the world, which meant that date was Minnie’s birthday, too. Check out these vintage photos of Mickey and Minnie mouse.
Several Disney characters have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
On November 18, 1978, Mickey Mouse became not only the first Disney character to get a star, but the first ever cartoon character to get one. Six more stars have since been awarded to Disney characters: Snow White (1987), Kermit the Frog (2002), Donald Duck (2004), Winnie the Pooh (2006), Tinker Bell (2010), and The Muppets (2012).
Maleficent and Cinderella’s stepmother are the same person
In real life, that is. Actress Eleanor Audley voiced both Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother, and Maleficent, the villain in Sleeping Beauty. Audley also had a prolific career in television, appearing on shows like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Dick Van Dyke Show before her death in 1991.
Pocahontas is the only Disney princess based on a real person
But that doesn’t mean the Disney movie accurately portrays what happened in real life. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Pocahontas’ real name was Amonute. Pocahontas was just a nickname meaning “playful one” or “ill-behaved child.” She was a child when she met John Smith, not an adult as he was, and they didn’t have a romantic relationship.
Only two Disney princesses have supernatural powers
While Disney princess movies tend to focus the plot on some sort of magic, the main leading ladies rarely possess magical abilities themselves. The two exceptions are Rapunzel with her healing, glowing hair and Elsa with her icy powers. There are a few rules Disney movie makers never break: check out these things that are banned from Disney movies.
Sulley has a ton of hair
The big blue protagonist in Monsters, Inc. has more than 2.3 million individual hairs. Since each one needed to be animated, it took about 12 hours just to produce a single frame with Sulley.
And Dalmatians have a ton of spots
More than 6,400,000 spots appear on the dogs in the movie 101 Dalmations. Each puppy has 32, their mother Perdita has 68, and their father Pongo has 72.
The Beast has the features of many animals
Animator Glen Keane told animatedviews.com that he created the titular character from Beauty and the Beast with the legs of a wolf, the tail of a dog, the body of a bear, the head of a buffalo, the eyebrows of a gorilla, the muzzle of a wild boar, and the mane of a lion.
Jackie Chan played two popular Disney roles
Yes, you read that right. In the Chinese translation of Beauty and the Beast, Jackie Chan voiced the Beast, and in the Chinese version of Mulan, he dubbed Captain Li Shang. He sang for both roles. Did you know you can learn these impressive words just by listening to Disney songs?
The man who voiced Donald Duck had more than just one role
Clarence Nash is most known for voicing Donald Duck (a role he played for 50 years), his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and Daisy Duck in some of her earliest appearances. But he also appears in other animated shorts and films as the voice of random barnyard animals, including a chirping bluebird, a horse, a bear, additional dogs in 101 Dalmatians, and, of course, ducks.
Dumbo was almost on the cover of TIME
When Disney’s fifth animated film was released in the summer of 1941, it was met with praise from critics and audiences alike. It made almost $2.5 million by the time the holidays came around. TIME had plans to honor Dumbo on the cover of its December 29, 1941, issue as “Mammal of the Year” (instead of “Person of the Year”). But when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, news had to take priority, according to waltdisney.org. However, the precious pachyderm was still honored in the “Cinema” section of the magazine. Find out if a Disney film was the most popular movie the year you were born.
Lady from Lady and the Tramp is based on a real dog
That dog was also named Lady, a Springer Spaniel that belonged to a Disney writer named Joe Grant. After seeing sketches of the dog, Walt Disney told Grant to create a storyboard with them but ended up scrapping the idea. It wasn’t until Disney read a story called “Happy Dan, the Whistling Dog” about a dog “from the other side of the tracks” that he revisited the story with Grant’s original sketches.
Walt Disney didn’t like the spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp
It may seem crazy, considering that brief scene has become iconic in pop culture, but when Disney first heard the idea about two dogs sharing a bowl of spaghetti, he “wasn’t convinced that it would be a very clean-cut scene,” former studio archivist Steven Vagnini told Yahoo Movies. “As you can imagine, if you have two pets and they eat a plate of spaghetti, it’s hard to envision that being too graceful.” Luckily, an animator created a mock-up of the scene and convinced Disney to give it the green light. Keep working on your Disney knowledge with these tricky questions to test your cartoon trivia.