It has been stated by numerous Disney animators that the least favorite of tasks was animating a leading male. Most only had experience with the goofy or anthropomorphic sidekicks, the lovely leading ladies, and the coveted villains. This was largely because these characters could be expressive and dynamic. In the early years of Disney it was considered taboo for the Leading Man to be anything but debonair and charming which often restrained the artist to the confines of the masculine standard. Nonetheless the job had to be done, and still the animator selected for the job took great pride in their work.
Like most people are aware, various female celebrities were used as artistic inspiration for the Disney Princesses (i.e. Alyssa Milano, Audrey Hepburn, etc.) since they epitomized beauty for their particular decade. Conversely, the same goes for the male celecrities. Here are a handful of men who may have inspired the Princes of Disney either directly or indirectly. Keep in mind, this list is ultimately incomplete as the voice actors and live action models contributed as well, these just happen to be the more recognizable names and faces.
(The Mystery Man)
One of the most enigmatic of Disney Princes, The Prince
was Disney's first attempt at a romantic, non-comedic hero. Instead of being influenced by the artistic freedom of the animator, most of his scenes were rotoscope traced from live-action reference film of actor Lewis Hightower
. This difficulty in animating a handsome romantic hero wouldn't be overcome until Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid. Again, while all voice actors and reference models offer something to a character I'll stick to more prominent faces and names.
August 23, 1912 – February 2, 1996
Gene Kelly was one of the greatest dancing Hollywood heartthrobs of the Golden Era, second only to Fred Astaire. Known for such films as the Ziegfeld Follies
(1942), On the Town
(1949), and Singing in the Rain
(1952) he has since become one of Hollywood's most memorable icons. Also regarded as one of the most stylish men of all time, Gene Kelly had a look that is beginning to be revisited by mens fashion.
February 8, 1931 – September 30, 1955
To the younger generations my "iconic" comment on Gene Kelly may have been a bit of an overstatement in comparison to James Dean. Experiencing a tremendous rise in fame until his untimely death, James Dean is most known for his role in East of Eden
(1955) and Rebel Without a Cause
(1955). Having only ever completed seven films he's still one of the most recognized dead celebrities today often depicted in artwork along side Elvis Presley and Marilyn Manroe. With his recognizable hair and laid-back, almost troubled look, James Dean represents the angsty American youth desperately fighting to seek an identity and gain control over their life.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
June 10, 1921 - Present
Born a Royal Prince of both Greece and Denmark, Prince Philip is the husband of Queen Elizabeth II of England
. Not particularly known for his political correctness nor diplomatic skills, Philip has avoided public spotlight after making numerous tasteless quotes. During a speech for students at a Chinese University Philip said, "If you stay here much longer, you'll all be slitty-eyed."
September 25, 1951 - Present
Mark Hamill was one of the most recognizable faces during the 1980s due to his success in the Star Wars
franchise (1977-83) as Luke Skywalker
. As opposed to his co-star, Harrison Ford who popularized the scoundrel character, Luke Skywalker popularized the love-struck, 'sensitive', blue-eyed hero some might see similar to Eric. Although he never had a prominent stream of acting roles since, Mark Hamill has had a lucrative career in voice-over work particularly as the Joker
in Batman The Animated Series and Films
January 3, 1956 - Present
With one of the most extensive film careers of the men on our list, Mel Gibson established himself as an action leading male with the Mad Max
series (1979-95) as well as the Lethal Weapon Trilogy
(1987-92) and lent that quality to Prince Eric. Oddly enough he would later voice the character of John Smith in Disney's Pocahontas
(1995). After a successful acting career spanning the 80s and 90s he began dipping his hand into Producing and Directing with films like Braveheart
(1995) and The Passion of the Christ
(2005). One of his recurring nicknames is "blue eyes" but after a DUI in which he made several ill-chosen comments to a Jewish cop, he's also been labeled an anti-Semite.
September 3, 1905 – October 25, 1988
One of the original "9 Old Men
", Eric Larson was one of Walt Disney's leading animators having helped create characters like Bambi
. It only recently occurred to me that Eric Larson died a year before The Little Mermaid
was released. This gives me reason to suspect that Prince Eric may have been in fact named after him as opposed to my earlier belief that he was named after Edvard Eriksen
who sculpted the Little Mermaid
statue in Cophenhegan, Denmark.
(The Bad Boy)
Michael J. Fox
June 9, 1961 - Present
Early on in the production of Aladdin, while the story was still being developed and the characters designed, it was originally conceived that Aladdin would be a skrawny underdog-type character. Apparently, Michael J. Fox fit the bill. Not a particularly tall actor (5'4"), Michael hit the big screen in films like Teen Wolf
(1985), the Back to the Future Trilogy
(1985-90), and Mars Attacks
(1996). He'd even later voice the character of Milo Thatch in Disney's Atlantis
(2001). It was the executive decision of then Studio Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg
, that the early Aladdin wasn't sexy enough. Although it is still Michael J. Fox's character Marty McFly who is the inspiration for Aladdin's rambunctious behavior.
July 3, 1962 - Present
When Jeffrey Katzenberg demanded a 'sexier' Aladdin, he specifically referred to Tom Cruise. Having shot up from cute-boy-nextdoor in Risky Business
(1983) to full blown sex icon of Top Gun
(1989) and later the Mission Impossible Trilogy
(1996-06) It was his sex-appeal during the early 1990's that Katzenberg wanted to channel into Aladdin in order to match that of his romantic interest, the beautiful Princess Jasmine
. Now the undisputed king of Hollywood, Tom Cruise is the highest paid actor in the film industry despite his recent, often turbulent public image.
The Beast/Prince Adam
Michelangelo's Jesus & Adam
The Final Judgment
Glenn Keane has stated that he derived much of his inspiration for the beast's transformation sequence from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
in Rome. Painted by Michelangelo, it is among the most recognizable of religious artwork in the world. Similarities can be seen between the Beast's transformation scene and The Final Judgment
fresco featuring the second coming of Jesus. With an erotic passion and forte for the male figure, Michelangelo is considered the greatest artist in terms of financial success and second only to Leonardo DaVinci in recognition.
God Giving Life to Adam
Although I'm not certain that Prince Adam is the character's official name, it has widely become accepted as such by Disney cult-followers and enthusiast. Poetically, it makes sense as his character physically, as well as spiritually, transcends from being a beast to a human being. This correlates to the story of Adam from the Bible
rising above the animals in both design and in the eating of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
(The New Guy)
The Jonas Brothers
The Jonas Brothers
(Sept 16 1992/Aug 15 1989/Nov 5 1987 - Present)
According to Naveen's supervising animator Randy Haycock
, the prince's final look was largely determined in part by his teenage daughter. When asked what boys were considered the cutest these days she responded with "The Jonas Brothers". Haycock came up with a number of variations of the prince, incorporating their various features and would leave it to his daughter to narrow down which ones she would "go on a date with". Pretty much any living person in ear's shot of a teenage girl has heard of the trio band for they seem to collectively represent what is considered "cute" among teenagers.
January 19, 1969 - Present
Not appearing black but most likely Indie-Punjabi
as the name (meaning "new
") would indicate, some are apposed to the interracial coupling and others feel it neglects to represent African-American
men. The only connections I can possibly make with the name is actor Naveen Andrews most known for his role on ABC's LOST
(2004-present). He was also among PEOPLE Magazine
's 2006 Most Beautiful People. Whether the character is Indian, Latin, or Mediterranian, Prince Naveen is meant to be "exotic".
June 10, 1909 - October 14, 1959
The first man of inspiration to not be of the era in which the film is developed, I still find it fitting that the prince should be named Flynn. While the prince may not be physically inspired by him, few actors in screen have ever played so many heroes as Errol Flynn. A trained fencer he appeared as the lead in such moves as The Adventures of Robin Hood
(1938) and The Adventures of Don Juan
(1948). Having gained a bit of a reputation with his drinking, fighting, boating and sex affairs he was given the nickname 'Satan's Angel' by fellow Hollywood legend Marlene Dietrich.