Disney: The Many Inspirations Behind Jasmine from ‘Aladdin’

Unlike Pocahontas, Disney’s Jasmine isn’t based on a historical figure. However, a handful of real women, including some cinematic icons, inspired the character and her appearance. Here’s a look at how contemporary and old-school Hollywood both influenced one of Disney’s most beloved princesses.

Someone dressed as Jasmine
A Jasmine cosplay| Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images

Who inspired Jasmine’s look?

The book Discovering the Magic Kingdom reports Jasmine’s appearance was based on that of Jennifer Connelly. Looking at Jasmine and Connelly, it’s easy to spot a resemblance between their distinct eyebrows. Jasmine is only supposed to be fifteen in Aladdin but some fans think she looks substantially older. Perhaps this is because Connelly was in her early twenties when Disney released Aladdin.

Connelly was a major star when Disney made Aladdin, however, not everyone who inspired Jasmine was famous. According to The Disney Book, animator Mark Henn tried drawing a number of models to find the right look for the film’s heroine. Ultimately, he decided to take inspiration from a source that was in front of him the whole time: a graduation picture of his younger sister, Beth.

What movie inspired Jasmine’s character?

A trailer for Roman Holiday

In addition, Jasmin’s character took influence from a fictional princess played by an Old Hollywood actress: Audrey Hepburn. To many kids who’ve grown up with it, the story of Aladdin seemed original. However, fans of classic movies noted a similarity between its story and that of the 1950s romantic comedy Roman Holiday.

In Roman Holiday, Hepburn plays Princess Ann, a royal who is fed-up with the constraints of her life and wants to be free. She pretends to be a commoner for a while and falls in love in the process. According to the book On Animation, Roman Holiday directly influenced Aladdin, which explains the similarity.

Initially, Jasmine was more of a Julia Roberts-type character, but Aladdin screenwriters Terry Rossario and Ted Elliot decided to make her more like Princess Ann. Perhaps one of the reasons why Aladdin was well-received among older audiences is that the film reminded them of a hit film with which they were familiar.

The Valley girl Disney princess

A trailer for Aladdin

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In addition, Jasmine was inspired by …Valley girls? Alan Menkin wrote music for Aladdin. “It’s so much of the Disney style to make the characters also very recognizable, American types within that context,” he told Entertainment Tonight. “So, Aladdin and Jasmine are kind of Valley kids, as well as being these Arabian characters.” Menken hoped his music combined Western pop music with Middle Eastern musical styles.

While Jasmine is from a fantasy land based on the Middle East, most of the inspirations for the character were not Middle Eastern. To this day, fans and critics argue over how culturally authentic Aladdin is — or should have been. Despite this, Jasmine remains a popular character and Aladdin remains a popular film — so much so that Disney remade it last year.