1 Villainous ‘The Princess and the Frog’ Character Was Inspired By Michael Jackson and Prince

A 2009 animated film that has become a cult classic, The Princess and the Frog remains one of Disney’s most popular and beloved movies. The Princess and the Frog marked Disney’s brief return to traditional animation and features a star-studded voice cast.

These days, fans still turn to the film when they want to enjoy a sweet fable about love and acceptance—and are eagerly awaiting the spinoff series, which is set to start streaming on Disney+ in 2023. Interestingly enough, The Princess and the Frog based at least one character in the film on two iconic singers. 

‘The Princess and the Frog’ is a New Orleans-based fairytale

The Princess and the Frog released to theaters in late 1999. A clever re-imagining of the ages-old fable, the movie is set in 1920s New Orleans and follows an ambitious young woman named Tiana who has dreams of opening her own restaurant.

Tiana encounters a prince who has been turned into a frog by an evil witch doctor named Dr. Facilier. After kissing the frog, and turning into a frog herself, Tiana and the prince must then figure out how to become human again, falling in love in the process.

Fans loved the traditional animation in The Princess and the Frog, the catchy songs, and the all-star voice cast. Jim Cummings, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, Anika Noni Rose, and John Goodman all lent their voices to the movie, bringing the characters to life in fun, innovative ways. 

Tiana of 'Princess and the Frog'
Disney+ series image for ‘Tiana’ | Disney

Who inspired the character of Dr. Facilier in ‘The Princess and the Frog’?

The villainous Dr. Facilier in The Princess and the Frog is voiced by Keith David. Also known as the “Shadow Man,” Dr. Facilier is a voodoo witch doctor who has ambitions to rule the city of New Orleans with the help of his friends “on the other side.”

Although the character of Dr. Facilier looks a great deal like some other classic Disney villains like Jafar, he was inspired by two pop icons.

According to MSN, Disney animators based Dr. Facilier’s fine features and “toothy grin” on pop icon Prince, who is responsible for hit songs like “1999,” “Purple Rain,” and “Raspberry Beret.” They also took inspiration from Prince’s stylish, sleek outfits when creating Dr. Facilier’s costumes in the movie. Additionally, singer Michael Jackson’s distinct, smooth way of walking helped to inspire Dr. Facilier’s way of moving across the screen with inimitable grace. 

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Disney is known for basing animated characters on celebrities

Of course, Disney has always taken inspiration for animated characters from celebrities and other pop culture figures.

One of the most notable examples is the animated classic 101 Dalmatians. The villainous Cruella DeVil was inspired by actor Tallulah Bankhead, according to MSN’s report, with her stylish onscreen persona and lanky figure lending themselves well to the renderings of Cruella.

The demure Aurora from the animated flick Sleeping Beauty was reportedly inspired by another high-profile performer—Audrey Hepburn, who is best known for classic movies such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Roman Holiday, and My Fair Lady. Although Aurora is known for her long, luxurious blonde hair, while Hepburn typically rocked a dark pixie cut, animators reportedly based Aurora’s shy, sweet demeanor on Hepburn.

The most famous performer who inspired a Disney character is Marilyn Monroe. MSN notes animators used Monroe’s famous curves as a reference point when drawing the character of Tinker Bell in the classic movie Peter Pan. However, some sources have claimed that animators also used model Margaret Kerry as inspiration for Tinker Bell.