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10 Disney Characters Who Were Almost Voiced By an A-Lister

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The voices behind some of Disney’s best leads, sidekicks, and villains were almost very, very different. While some characters did end up with top-tier names behind their lines, others went to seasoned voice actors who aren't known for their billing. Read on to learn which famous faces almost brought these animated roles to life.

1. URSULA // THE LITTLE MERMAID

Who knew that two classic '80s TV shows could shape the writing of a Disney movie so much? The Huffington Post reported that when lyricist Howard Ashman wrote the part of Ursula, he had Dynasty's Joan Collins in mind. Ashman pictured Ursula's rivalry with King Triton as a soap opera, but Dynasty producer Aaron Spelling was worried that voicing a cartoon character would damage Collins’ career, so she never even auditioned for the role.

Disney’s John Musker and Ron Clements, however, had Golden Girls actress Bea Arthur in mind, and approached her for the part of Ursula. In the book Makin’ Toons: Inside the Most Popular Animated TV Shows and Movies, Musker said, "Her agent, I guess, read the script, and it described the witch as having a Bea Arthur-type basso voice ... but she just read it, somehow in her mind, like we were saying Bea Arthur is a witch. I don't think she even gave it to her."

Broadway legend Elaine Stritch was also a leading contender for the part, putting a more eccentric spin on the villain. But she clashed with Ashman’s style of directing and he cut her from the process. Eventually, after months of auditions, theater and television veteran Pat Carroll won the iconic part, largely because she understood Ashman's vision and how to voice the character as he had it in his head.

2. COGSWORTH // BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Cogsworth, loyal butler to the Beast and BFF to Lumière, was nearly voiced by Patrick Stewart, but his busy schedule—he was right in the middle of his seven-season run as Captain Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation—prevented him from taking the role. The part eventually went to David Ogden Stiers, who later voiced Governor Ratcliffe in Disney’s Pocahontas. Another Disney great that Stewart had to pass on because of Star Trek? The sorcerer Jafar in Aladdin.

3. GENIE // ALADDIN

Other comedy heavyweights including Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy, John Candy, Martin Short, and John Goodman were all reportedly considered before Robin Williams landed the role of the “ever-impressive, the long-contained, the often imitated, but never duplicated … Genie of the Lamp!” It ended up becoming one of Williams' most beloved roles, for children and adults alike; as The New Yorker put it, "The Genie was a perfect container for Williams’s manic energy and allusive impersonation skills."

4. TIANA // THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG

According to casting director Jen Rudin, Beyonce was in the running for the role of Disney's first black princess, Tiana. "Beyoncé expected an offer, but wouldn't audition and so she didn't get one," Rudin told Page Six. Rudin added that Tyra Banks, Jennifer Hudson and Alicia Keys all auditioned for the part before it went to Tony winner (and Beyonce's Dreamgirls co-star) Anika Noni Rose.

5. Prince Eric // THE LITTLE MERMAID

In an interview for the Howard Ashman fan blog "Part of His World," John Musker revealed that a young, unknown Jim Carrey read for the role of Prince Eric. Alrighty, then! Thankfully (for the sake of our childhoods), the part went to 16-year-old voice actor Christopher Daniel Barnes, who also later voiced Spider-Man in the '90s television cartoon series. 

6. CARLOTTA THE CHAMBERMAID // THE LITTLE MERMAID

John Musker also recalled that Roseanne Barr read for Carlotta, a character whose few lines were more sweet than the comedian's signature sass. But Musker says Roseanne ended up doing a read for Ursula as well: “Howard [Ashman] was so amused by her nasal voice he pulled us aside and said how about letting her read for Ursula? So we did. I am still amused as I recall hearing, ‘Flotsam, Jetsam, you divine little vipers!’ in that distinctive Barr twang.”

7. MUSHU // MULAN

Mulan’s self-proclaimed “serpentine salvation” Mushu was voiced by Eddie Murphy, but according to animator Tom Bancroft, Joe Pesci and Richard Dreyfuss were also considered for the part. The animators were still working out Mushu's look and facial expressions though, and they realized that no one was going to work for the little dragon like Murphy.

8. PACHA // EMPEROR'S NEW GROOVE

In the mid-‘90s, the original iteration of the Emperor’s New Groove was a loose spin on the Mark Twain classic The Prince and the Pauper and featured Owen Wilson as Pacha. However, after numerous setbacks, the disaster of a film was almost completely redone—with John Goodman voicing the peasant Pacha—before its December 2000 release.

9. SYKES // OLIVER & COMPANY

Sykes, the villainous gangster in Oliver & Company, was almost voiced by the “godfather” himself—Marlon Brando. Disney wanted the part to feel like an “evil presence” who was often shrouded in smoke and shadows, and CEO Michael Eisner reportedly approached the actor himself. After Brando turned down the role of Sykes because he didn't believe the movie would do very well, it went to Robert Loggia, who was known for playing "heavies."

10. HADES // HERCULES

Although Jack Nicholson wouldn’t actually read for the role of Hades, he did discuss it with Disney. For the “Part of His World” blog, John Musker recalled that the studio tried to woo Nicholson (the character was written with him in mind): “We showed him some test animation done to one of his lines from A Few Good Men where we had a simmering Hades idly playing with a lick of flame as he said, 'Take caution in your tone, commander. I’m a fair guy, but this f—in' heat is driving me absolutely crazy…'" When Nicholson couldn’t reach an agreement with Disney, Kevin Spacey and Phil Hartman came in to read, but eventually the part went to Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning actor James Woods, who took the character in an entirely new direction.

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12 Surprising Facts About Bela Lugosi
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On October 20, 1882—135 years ago today—one of the world's most gifted performers was born. In his heyday, Bela Lugosi was hailed as the undisputed king of horror. Eighty-five years after he first donned a vampire’s cape, Lugosi's take on Count Dracula is still widely hailed as the definitive portrayal of the legendary fiend. But who was the man behind the monster?

1. HE WORKED WITH THE NATIONAL THEATER OF HUNGARY.

To the chagrin of his biographers, the details concerning Bela Lugosi’s youth have been clouded in mystery. (In a 1929 interview, he straight-up admitted “for purposes of simplification, I have always thought it better to tell [lies] about the early years of my life.”) That said, we do know that he was born as Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó on October 20, 1882 in Lugoj, Hungary (now part of Romania). We also know that his professional stage debut came at some point in either 1901 or 1902. By 1903, Lugosi had begun to find steady work with traveling theater companies, through which he took part in operas, operettas, and stage plays. In 1913, Lugosi caught a major break when the most prestigious performing arts venue in his native country—the Budapest-based National Theater of Hungary—cast him in no less than 34 shows. Most of the characters that he played there were small Shakespearean roles such as Rosencrantz in Hamlet and Sir Walter Herbert in Richard III.

2. HE FOUGHT IN WORLD WAR I.

The so-called war to end all wars put Lugosi’s dramatic aspirations on hold. Although being a member of the National Theater exempted him from military service, he voluntarily enlisted in the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914. Over the next year and a half, he fought against Russian forces as a lieutenant with the 43rd Royal Hungarian Infantry. While serving in the Carpathian mountains, Lugosi was wounded on three separate occasions. Upon healing from his injuries, he left the armed forces in 1916 and gratefully resumed his work with the National Theater.

3. WHEN HE MADE HIS BROADWAY DEBUT, LUGOSI BARELY KNEW ANY ENGLISH.

In December 1920, Lugosi boarded a cargo boat and emigrated to the United States. Two years later, audiences on the Great White Way got their first look at this charismatic stage veteran. Lugosi was cast as Fernando—a suave, Latin lover—in the 1922 Broadway stage play The Red Poppy. At the time, his grasp of the English language was practically nonexistent. Undaunted, Lugosi went over all of his lines with a tutor. Although he couldn’t comprehend their meaning, the actor managed to memorize and phonetically reproduce every single syllable that he was supposed to deliver on stage.

4. UNIVERSAL DIDN’T WANT TO CAST HIM AS COUNT DRACULA.

The year 1927 saw Bela Lugosi sink his teeth into the role of a lifetime. A play based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker had opened in London in 1924. Sensing its potential, Horace Liveright, an American producer, decided to create an U.S. version of the show. Over the summer of 1927, Lugosi was cast as the blood-sucking Count Dracula. For him, the part represented a real challenge. In Lugosi’s own words, “It was a complete change from the usual romantic characters I was playing, but it was a success.” It certainly was. Enhanced by his presence, the American Dracula remained on Broadway for a full year, then spent two years touring the country.

Impressed by its box office prowess, Universal decided to adapt the show into a major motion picture in 1930. Horror fans might be surprised to learn that when the studio began the process of casting this movie’s vampiric villain, Lugosi was not their first choice. At the time, Lugosi was still a relative unknown, which made director Tod Browning more than a little hesitant to offer him the job. A number of established actors were all considered before the man who’d played Dracula on Broadway was tapped to immortalize his biting performance on film.

5. MOST OF HIS DRACULA-RELATED FAN MAIL CAME FROM WOMEN.

The recent Twilight phenomenon is not without historical precedent. Lugosi estimated that, while he was playing the Count on Broadway, more than 97 percent of the fan letters he received were penned by female admirers. A 1932 Universal press book quotes him as saying, “When I was on the stage in Dracula, my audiences were composed mostly of women.” Moreover, Lugosi contended that most of the men who’d attended his show had merely been dragged there by female companions.   

6. HE TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF FRANKENSTEIN’S MONSTER.

Released in 1931, Dracula quickly became one of the year's biggest hits for Universal (some film historians even argue that the movie single-handedly rescued the ailing studio from bankruptcy). Furthermore, its astronomical success transformed Lugosi into a household name for the first time in his career. Regrettably for him, though, he’d soon miss the chance to star in another smash. Pleased by Dracula’s box office showing, Universal green-lit a new cinematic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Lugosi seemed like the natural choice to play the monster, but because the poor brute had few lines and would be caked in layers of thick makeup, the actor rejected the job offer. As far as Lugosi was concerned, the character was better suited for some “half-wit extra” than a serious actor. Once the superstar tossed Frankenstein aside, the part was given to a little-known actor named Boris Karloff.

Moviegoers eventually did get to see Lugosi play the bolt-necked corpse in the 1943 cult classic Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. According to some sources, he strongly detested the guttural scream that the script forced him to emit at regular intervals. “That yell is the worst thing about the part. You feel like a big jerk every time you do it!” Lugosi allegedly complained.

7. LUGOSI’S RELATIONSHIP WITH BORIS KARLOFF WAS MORE CORDIAL THAN IT’S USUALLY MADE OUT TO BE.

It’s often reported that the two horror icons were embittered rivals. In reality, however, Karloff and Lugosi seemed to have harbored some mutual respect—and perhaps even affection for one another. The dynamic duo co-starred in five films together, the first of which was 1934’s The Black Cat; Karloff claimed that, on set, Lugosi was “Suspicious of tricks, fearful of what he regarded as scene stealing. Later on, when he realized I didn’t go in for such nonsense, we became friends.” During one of their later collaborations, Lugosi told the press “we laughed over my sad mistake and his good fortune as Frankenstein is concerned.”

That being said, Lugosi probably didn’t appreciate the fact that in every single film which featured both actors, Karloff got top billing. Also, he once privately remarked, “If it hadn’t been for Boris Karloff, I could have had a corner on the horror market.”

8. HE LOVED SOCCER.

In 1935, Lugosi was named Honorary President of the Los Angeles Soccer League. An avid fan, he was regularly seen at Loyola Stadium, where he’d occasionally kick off the first ball during games held there. Also, on top of donating funds to certain Hungarian teams, Lugosi helped finance the Los Angeles Magyar soccer club. When the team won a state championship in 1935, one newspaper wrote that the players were “headed back to Dracula’s castle with the state cup.” [PDF]

9. HE WAS A HARDCORE STAMP COLLECTOR.

Lugosi's fourth wife, Lillian Arch, claimed that Lugosi maintained a collection of more than 150,000 stamps. Once, on a 1944 trip to Boston, he told the press that he intended to visit all 18 of the city's resident philately dealers. “Stamp collecting,” Lugosi declared, “is a hobby which may cost you as much as 10 percent of your investment. You can always sell your stamps with not more than a 10 percent loss. Sometimes, you can even make money.” Fittingly enough, the image of Lugosi’s iconic Dracula appeared on a commemorative stamp issued by the post office in 1997.

10. LUGOSI ALMOST DIDN’T APPEAR IN ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN—BECAUSE THE STUDIO THOUGHT HE WAS DEAD.

The role of Count Dracula in this 1948 blockbuster was nearly given to Ian Keith—who was considered for the same role in the 1931 Dracula movie. Being a good sport, Lugosi helped promote the horror-comedy by making a special guest appearance on The Abbott and Costello Show. While playing himself in one memorable sketch, the famed actor claimed to eat rattlesnake burgers for dinner and “shrouded wheat” for breakfast.

11. A CHIROPRACTOR FILLED IN FOR HIM IN PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE.

Toward the end of his life, Lugosi worked on three ultra-low-budget science fiction pictures with Ed Wood, a man who’s been posthumously embraced as the worst director of all time. In the 1953 transvestite picture Glen or Glenda?, Lugosi plays a cryptic narrator who offers such random and unsolicited bits of advice as “Beware of the big, green dragon who sits on your doorstep.” Then came 1955’s Bride of the Monster, in which Lugosi played a mad scientist who ends up doing battle with a (suspiciously limp) giant octopus.

Before long, Wood had cooked up around half a dozen concepts for new films, all starring Lugosi. At some point in the spring of 1956, the director shot some quick footage of the actor wandering around a suburban neighborhood, clad in a baggy cloak. This proved to be the last time that the star would ever appear on film. Lugosi died of a heart attack on August 16, 1956;  he was 73 years old.

Three years after Lugosi's passing, this footage was spliced into a cult classic that Wood came to regard as his “pride and joy.” Plan 9 From Outer Space tells the twisted tale of extraterrestrial environmentalists who turn newly-deceased human beings into murderous zombies. Since Lugosi could obviously no longer play his character, Wood hired a stand-in for some additional scenes. Unfortunately, the man who was given this job—California chiropractor Tom Mason—was several inches taller than Lugosi. In an attempt to hide the height difference, Wood instructed Mason to constantly hunch over. Also, Mason always kept his face hidden behind a cloak.

12. HE WAS BURIED IN HIS DRACULA CAPE.

Although Lugosi resented the years of typecasting that followed his breakout performance in Dracula, he asked to be laid to rest wearing the Count’s signature garment. Lugosi was buried under a simple tombstone at California's Holy Cross Cemetery.

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How to Carve a Pumpkin—And Not Injure Yourself in the Process
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Wielding a sharp knife with slippery hands around open flames and nearby children doesn't sound like the best idea—but that's exactly what millions of Halloween celebrations entail. While pumpkin carving is a fun tradition, it can also bring the risk of serious hand injuries. According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), some wounds sustained from pumpkin misadventure can result in surgery and months of rehabilitation.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to minimize trauma. Both ASSH and CTV News have compiled safety tips for pumpkin carvers intended to reduce the chances of a trip to the emergency room.

First, it's recommended that carvers tackle their design with knives made specifically for carving. Kitchen knives are sharp and provide a poor grip when trying to puncture tough pumpkin skin: Pumpkin carving knives have slip-resistant handles and aren't quite as sharp, while kitchen knives can get wedged in, requiring force to pull them out.

Carvers should also keep the pumpkin intact while carving, cleaning out the insides later. Why? Once a pumpkin has been gutted, you’re likely to stick your free hand inside to brace it, opening yourself up to an inadvertent stab from your knife hand. When you do open it up, it's better to cut from the bottom: That way, the pumpkin can be lowered over a light source rather than risk a burn dropping one in from the top.

Most importantly, parents would be wise to never let their kids assist in carving without supervision, and should always work in a brightly-lit area. Adults should handle the knife, while children can draw patterns and scoop out innards. According to Consumer Reports, kids ages 10 to 14 tend to suffer the most Halloween-related accidents, so keeping carving duties to ages 14 and above is a safe bet.

If all else fails and your carving has gone awry, have a first aid kit handy and apply pressure to any wound to staunch bleeding. With some common sense, however, it's unlikely your Halloween celebration will turn into a blood sacrifice.

[h/t CTV News]

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