Everyone loves a good villain, and Disney's baddies are among the most beloved and feared in all of cinema. But while their hideous scowls and evil plans are more than enough to scare the kids, there are a few aspects to these villains that only adults will pick up on.
It's hard to forget Ursula, the big bad of 1989's The Little Mermaid. With her particularly deceitful scheme, her eel henchmen, and her instantly iconic musical number "Poor Unfortunate Souls," Ursula has easily become one of the most distinct members of the Disney villain canon. But something else sets Ursula apart from her fellow Disney baddies, and that's her real-life inspiration. Of all people, Ursula had her design based on the famous drag queen and actor Divine.
So just how did the star of raunchy John Waters movies like Pink Flamingos and Multiple Maniacs come to inspire the villain of a G-rated Disney musical? Well, animator Rob Minkoff drew up a design of Ursula that ended up bearing a strong resemblance to Divine. Little Mermaid composer Howard Ashman, a major fan of both John Waters and Divine, strongly endorsed this design choice. Disney's other animators took further visual influence from Divine by giving Ursula a hairstyle similar to the one donned by the drag queen in Pink Flamingos. The connection between the two only grew as Ashman committed to channeling Divine's uber-confident persona into Ursula's performance during "Poor Unfortunate Souls."
Watch this video for more things only adults notice about Disney villains!
Ursula and Divine | 0:00
Frollo's sins | 1:36
Prince John | 3:18
John Ratcliffe | 5:06
Chernobog | 6:35
Cruella's inspiration | 8:07
Auto-900 | 9:35
Aliens from Outer Space | 11:15
Scar's parade | 12:27
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