Disney Modeled ‘The Little Mermaid’s’ Ariel After This 80s Starlet

The Little Mermaid - Alyssa Milano

In the vibrant tapestry of Disney’s animated classics, “The Little Mermaid” stands out not only for its captivating songs and underwater adventures but also for its iconic protagonist, Ariel.

While many fans have been enchanted by Ariel’s fiery red hair and spirited personality, few are aware of the real-life inspiration behind this beloved mermaid. Dive with us as we explore the connection between an ’80s star and the creation of Disney’s underwater princess.

Ariel: More than Just a Fairytale Character

Ariel, the central character of Disney’s 1989 animated classic, “The Little Mermaid,” is a symbol of curiosity, determination, and the pursuit of one’s dreams, even in the face of adversity.

Her vibrant personality, combined with her iconic red hair and green tail, has made her one of the most recognizable and beloved Disney princesses.

But the journey to bring Ariel to life on the big screen required a muse, a real-life reference that could capture the essence of this animated character.

Enter Alyssa Milano

Alyssa Milano - The Little Mermaid

In the late 1980s, Alyssa Milano was making waves in the entertainment industry, primarily due to her role as Samantha Micelli in the popular TV show “Who’s the Boss?”

Her youthful charm, combined with her expressive eyes and charismatic presence, caught the attention of many, including those at Disney.

Glen Keane, the lead animator for Ariel, was on the hunt for the perfect inspiration to shape Ariel’s character.

While the original Hans Christian Andersen tale provided the narrative foundation, the visual representation needed a modern touch, something that resonated with contemporary audiences. And that’s where Alyssa Milano came in.

Keane has mentioned in interviews that Milano’s face, particularly her expressive eyes, served as a reference for Ariel’s design.

The animator’s goal was to capture the essence of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, filled with dreams, curiosity, and a touch of rebellion.

Milano’s youthful exuberance, combined with her ability to convey a wide range of emotions, made her the perfect muse.

The Legacy of Ariel and Milano’s Unintended Contribution

While Alyssa Milano wasn’t directly involved in the production of “The Little Mermaid,” her inadvertent contribution to Ariel’s character design is undeniable.

Ariel’s wide-eyed wonder, her expressive facial animations, and her overall demeanor bear a striking resemblance to Milano’s features and expressions from her “Who’s the Boss?” days.

Alyssa Milano, upon discovering her unexpected connection to Ariel, expressed her surprise and delight. It’s not every day that one finds out they’ve inspired one of Disney’s most iconic characters!

Milano’s gracious acknowledgment of this revelation further endeared her to fans, both of “The Little Mermaid” and her own extensive body of work.

So next time you watch The Little Mermaid and see Ariel yearning to be part of Alyssa Milano’s world, you’ll know there’s a bit of truth behind the fiction.

Mariska Lee

Mariska is a recovering attorney who gave up her professional job to discover new perspectives of life while traveling in a 2009 Ford Transit. She has been living the van life for 3 years and has not looked back since.

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