It’s the dream of every young girl to wake up one morning as fully fledged Disney princess – be she Jasmine, Ariel, Belle or Tiana. You get the idea. Now we can fuel our imagination with thanks to Finish graphic designer and illustrator, Jirka Vinse Jonatan Vaatainen, who has magically and painstakingly transformed 10 Disney princesses from classic cartoon characters on page and film to stunning IRL (a.k.a. “in real life”) digital illustrations. We explore the origins of each animated film classic and, given the recent surge in live-action remakes, we compare and contrast the most recent Hollywood double for each Disney smash hit. Which character is your favourite?

1.) Alice, Alice in Wonderland

Disney adapted Lewis Carroll’s 1865 fantasy classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1951. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture and well-received by both critics and the box office. We liked Tim Burton’s more recent “live-action” takes in 2010 and 2016, but for the nostalgia factor alone, nothing can beat the original.

Alice in Wonderland, 1951

Mia Wasikowska as Alice Kingsleigh, 2010
Mia Wasikowska as Alice Kingsleigh, 2010

2.) Ariel, The Little Mermaid

Everyone’s favourite mermaid Princess, real-life Ariel, opposite her 1989 Walt Disney Pictures musical romantic animated original. The Little Mermaid was the 28th Disney animated feature film and loosely based on the 1837 Danish fairy tale of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen.

The Little Mermaid, 1989

Halle Bailey will play the lead role of Ariel in the upcoming live-action adaptation
Halle Bailey will play the lead role of Ariel in the upcoming live-action adaptation

3.) Belle, Beauty and the Beast

Here we have Belle from Beauty and the Beast, alongside her character in Disney’s 1991 animated musical romantic fantasy. The story is based on the 1756 French fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. Some ideas in the feature were also lifted from the 1946 French film, once again of the same name. The 2017 live-action adaption had an estimated budget of around $255 million – one of the most expensive films ever made. However, it’s another Disney number holds that title; Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides had a draw-dropping budget of $378.5 million.

Belle, 1991

Belle was played by Emma Watson in 2017's live-action remake
Belle was played by Emma Watson in 2017’s live-action remake

4.) Esmeralda, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Disney’s 1996 animated musical, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is another animated musical drama – this time based on the 1831 novel of the same name by French poet, novelist, and dramatist Victor Hugo. This prolific period for the studio, from 1989 to 1999, is known as the Disney Renaissance. During this window, Disney returned to their heyday of the 30s, 40s and 50s where they produced critically and commercially successful hit after animated hit, primarily on well-known stories. In the Hunchback, Esmerelda plays opposite Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer of Notre Dame, in what is widely considered to be one of Disney’s darkest animated films. A live-action remake of The Hunchback of Notre Dame was announced in 2019. Josh Gad is set to produce and will play Quasimodo; the part of Esmerelda has been connected with multiple actresses but none have been confirmed.

Esmerelda, 1966

A live-action re-make of the Hunchback is in pre-production
A live-action re-make of the Hunchback is in pre-production

5.) Jasmine, Aladdin

Ah Aladdin, Disney’s 1992 animated musical fantasy with Robin William’s inimitable Genie (RIP), Abu, Jasmine and her father the Sultan, and who could forget the ghastly Jafar. The feature is based on the Arabic folktale of the same name from the One Thousand and One Nights – a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age from the 8th to the 14th century, often known in English as the Arabian Nights, which sparked one of the feature’s most memorable songs.

Will Smith, to be fair, did an admirable version of genie in the live-action 2019 adaptation, which has grossed over $1B since its release but was met with a lukewarm reception by critics – a middle of the road 57% on Rotten Tomatoes from 362 accredited reviewers. “Aladdin retells its classic source material’s story with sufficient spectacle and skill, even if it never approaches the dazzling splendor of the animated original,” the site remarked. We’d have to agree.

Jasmine, 1992

Animated Jasmine, 1992 + Live-action Jamines, 2019
Animated Jasmine, 1992 + Live-action Jasmine, Naomi Scott, 2019

6.) Pocahontas, Pocahontas

Disney’s Pocahontas was based on the Native American woman notable for her association with the colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia in the early 17th century. The 1995 film received two Academy Awards for Best Musical or Comedy Score for “Menken” and Best Original Song for “Colors of the Wind”.

The title character appeared in a non-Disney production alongside Colin Farrell as Captain John Smith in 2005, but given some violent themes and the wider historic context, there is no word yet on whether Disney have one of their own in the planning.


Pocahontas, in 2005's New World
Pocahontas, in 2005’s New World

7.) Rapunzel, Tangled

Tangled in 2010 marked Disney’s 50th animated feature film, a 3D computer-animated musical adventure loosely based on the German fairy tale “Rapunzel” from the collection of folk tales published by the Brothers Grimm. Vaatainen has done another impeccable reincarnation here, in-keeping with her style based on the 2D animated series.

Rapunzel, 2010

MacKenzie Mauzy played Rapunzel in 2014's Into the Woods
MacKenzie Mauzy played Rapunzel in 2014’s Into the Woods

8.) Snow White, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

As with Tangled, Disney’s 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is also based on the 1812 German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm and was the company’s first full-length cel animated feature and the their first animated feature film.

Snow White
Snow White, 1939

9.) Tiana, The Princess and the Frog

The Princess and the Frog is a 2009 animated musical fantasy, loosely based on the novel The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker, which itself was based on another Brothers Grimm fairy tale “The Frog Prince”. The film went on to gross $267 million worldwide, making it a box office success.

Tiana, 2009

10.) Tinkerbell, Peter Pan

Peter Pan is a 1953 American animated musical fantasy adventure-drama, which was based on the 1904 play, and the later 1911 novel, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie. Here we can see Tinkerbell, at first only a supporting character described by her creator as “a common fairy”, but was a standout performer in her animated incarnation. Tinkerbell has since become a widely recognized unofficial mascot of The Walt Disney Company, next to the company’s official mascot Mickey Mouse. The character was played by Julia Robert’s in 1991’s Hook, and rumours on who will play here in an upcoming Disney live-action adaption have been doing the rounds for almost 10 years; names such as Reese Withersppon, Elizabeth Banks and Margot Robbie have all been mentioned, but nothing has been confirmed by the Studio.

Tinkerbell, 1953

Join the conversation


  1. Hans Christian Anderson literally wrote “her skin was as clear and delicate as a rose-leaf”, meaning, if anything, she should be green. Watch out, Elphaba, Heather A. Lewis is coming for you.

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