This Finn brought Disney heroes to life. They’re even more gorgeous than on film.

When graphic designer Jirka Väätäinen from Kuopio, Finland, first started his project on what Disney characters might look like in real life, he didn’t expect anyone to see them.

“One day, back in 2011, I just got this idea to entertain and challenge myself by reimagining Ursula in a more realistic way,” Väätäinen says. “It was fun so I did the same with a few other characters and posted them on the blog that I kept for my university studies.”


Ursula from The Little Mermaid

The rest is history. Someone stumbled upon his real life Disney characters and shared them, creating an online phenomenon. This year, inundated with requests for more, Väätäinen published a collection of Disney hunks. It has been viewed by literally millions of people.

Childhood nostalgia meets adult ambition

So, why Disney? Väätäinen confesses he’s been a fan ever since he was a child, having grown up with classics from The Little Mermaid to Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.



“It’s the sense of nostalgia that has made this such an inspiring and fun project. I still try to see every Disney film that comes out but I’ve not seen them all, for example Atlantis. That’s why I haven’t created any of its characters,” he says.

As an adult, Väätäinen has always been interested in character design, the way people look and the things that make them unique. ”It was fascinating to take characters we all know and love, and combine real-life looks with some of the unrealistic quirks in their original designs.”

Separated at birth?

Speculation is rife about whether Väätäinen has based his illustrations on actual real people. Though he says he believes there’s certain magic in subtle resemblance to someone people might recognize, he denies ever intentionally attempting this.

“Of course I get inspired by likenesses and borrow people’s features that remind me of the characters. But in the end, my personal vision of them is born from hundreds of image sources drowned in manipulation, blending, mixing and digital painting,” he explains.


Queen Elsa from Frozen

From Finland to funland

In January 2015, a working holiday visa brought Väätäinen from Helsinki to Melbourne, Australia, where he claims to be enjoying life to the fullest. “At times,” he says, “the Australian lifestyle seems much more easygoing for me – people seem to be naturally making the most of the joys in their everyday life.”

Who knows whether that’s because of sunnier weather or national characteristics, but it doesn’t stop Väätäinen loving his native Finland. Next year, he might be back in Helsinki again. One thing that’s for sure is that he’s carrying on with his work on real life Disney characters, having promised his fans to add certain characters to the series. And, excitingly enough, he is planning to soon embark on another project, too. As for what it is, he tells us to just stay tuned and see. We certainly will.

Scroll down below for more of Väätäinen’s Disney magic…


Flynn Rider from Tangled


Prince Charming from Cinderella


Merida from Brave


Rapunzel from Tangled


Snow White




Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid

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8 replies

  1. One thing that strikes me is that how Anglo saxon every character is….even Alladin has been anglofied but I suppose that’s a Disney tradition

    • Are you kidding? Excepting Aladdin (who still looks VERY much like his movie character, no blaming this artist), these ARE white characters. They’re from European fairy tales. What on earth did you expect them to look like?!

    • That’s EXACTLY what they look like in the movies, though… what did you expect??? Disney is inherently a WHITE company. Did you expect Elsa to be a freaking African???

  2. These really are beautiful, but is there a copyright issue in making them or is it okay because it’s an artist take on a subject? If he is not selling them does that make it alright? I’ve always been unsure about using images from companies. If you visit his website his work is fantastic and if the image on top is a picture of him. WOW

    I did notice he did do some work for Disney maybe it was after they saw his work with the images above because they mention it in the blog post.

    • There are copyright issues involved. Disney and many other large media companies often don’t pursue claims against makers of “fan fiction” and/or “fan art. sometimes they write to them and get permissions in writing. And sometimes they write a series of books/videos/comics etc and it starts getting popular and then the copyright owner revokes their permission. Bottom line, don’t count on this kinda stuff for money, but don’t be afraid to do it for arts sake.

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