While some are the product of imagination, others are direct references to the pop culture icons of the time.
In fact, many had a little help from a few public figures.
Here is a quick look at a few beloved animation stars and the folks that inspired them.
Edna Mode = Edith Head
The pint-size fashion guru from The Incredibles had a talent for designing for gods. When not showing off her latest collection in Milan, she’s creating fire-proof, stretchy garments that can turn invisible and breathe like Egyptian cotton.
Her flair for the dramatic, signature round glasses, and her skill with a needle and thread pays homage to the late, great Edith Head, the great costume designer of every major motion picture during Hollywood’s Golden Age.
His creator, E.C. Segar, based this character on a local tough guy named Frank “Rocky” Fiegel from his hometown of Chester, Illinois.
The local legend was pipe-smoking fighting man known for his fighting prowess and his soft spot for kids.
On that note, the character of Wimpy was also based on one of Segar’s buddies, a man named William “Windy Bill” Schuchert, a theater owner whose soft spot only extended to hamburgers.
Betty Boop = Helen Kane
The darling of Fleischer Studios was best known for her black bob and squeaky voice, attributes that could be traced to singer Kane, whose big hit “I Wanna Be Loved By You” became Boop’s signature song.
Unlike many folks who might see a toon version of themselves as an honor, Kane was none to thrilled with Boop. She sued Paramount and Max Fleischer for wrongful appropriation in the cartoons, claiming that the character was a direct copy of her and demanded payment. Unfortunately, the judge wasn’t too much of a fan, and found the the style used by both Boop and Kane was not unique to either character.
The Vultures from The Jungle Book = The Beatles
The mop top haircuts and British accents on macabre group of cadaver pickers should’ve tipped off fans of the Disney pic.
Apparently, Beatle’s manager Brian Epstein wanted the Fab Four to appear in a Disney pic, and while the Mouse House was on board, John Lennon fought the idea. However, despite Lennon’s protests, animators opted to keep the some of the looks and accents of the foursome for the the birdies.
Tintin = Palle Huld
Herge’s internationally beloved character of Tintin was believed to be based on the exploits of Palle Huld, a Danish writer, actor and world traveler who got his start at exploring when he won a contest.
You see, back in the day, silly things like “parental approval” and “endangerment of a minor” wouldn’t stop a business from exploiting a young man looking to pursue a dream. So the newspaper Politiken offered to send one lucky teenage boy around the globe…alone…for 46 days. Huld entered the contest and won, and thus found himself wandering across Europe by his lonesome.
Huld’s adventures were documented by the rag and used by the paper to promote sales. Huld became an international superstar, and his travels and adventures were turned into a weekly comic for millions of non Americans who never got Tintin to enjoy…
Foghorn Leghorn = Senator Beauregard Claghorn (aka Kenny Delmar)
The loudmouth prince of poultry with a Southern drawl made his first appearance in the 1946 short Walky Talky Hawky, directed by Robert McKimson. Seen as a paunchy, overzealous farm bird who wants to keep his rule of the roost, Leghorn can be caught outsmarting itty-bitty chicken hawks and beating up on unsuspecting dogs.
While not exactly based on a “real” character, Foghorn is the feathered version of Senator Beauregard Claghorn, a popular radio character from The Fred Allen Show, voiced by Kenny Delmar. His catchphrase of “That’s a joke, son” is directed lifted from the fictional Charleston blowhard.