An artist turns Disney characters into realistic portraits, and the results are magical

Courtesy of Jirka VäätäinenThe artist reimagined John Smith from ‘Pocahontas.’
  • The artist Jirka Väätäinen has re-created some of Disney’s most popular characters so they appear more realistic.
  • Väätäinen said his favourite character to draw was Ursula from “The Little Mermaid,” but he also reimagined another Disney villain: Cruella de Vil.
  • He also drew Disney princesses like Belle, Cinderella, Moana, and Elsa.
  • Väätäinen even brought Hercules, Tarzan, and John Smith to life in his realistic drawings.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

From princesses to villains, the world of Disney is all about fantasy – but one artist is determined to bring this world to life.

Jirka Väätäinen, an artist in Finland, has been turning Disney characters into realistic portraits for several years. Some of his re-creations include depictions of Belle, Cinderella, Ursula, and even Tarzan.

From Cruella de Vil to Moana, these are some Väätäinen’s reimaginings of Disney characters.

The project started with Väätäinen’s favourite Disney character, Ursula.

DisneyUrsula in ‘The Little Mermaid.’

“One day, back in 2011, I just randomly thought I’d challenge myself and have a little fun in Photoshop and explore what the character of Ursula from ‘The Little Mermaid’ could look like in real life,” Väätäinen told Insider.

The result was this realistic portrait of Ursula.

Courtesy of Jirka VäätäinenVäätäinen’s Ursula.

“Ursula is my all-time favourite Disney character,” Väätäinen said. “With her, I feel like I’ve captured her essence, the way I remember her from my childhood.”

Ursula isn’t the only Disney villain he re-created. He also reimagined Cruella de Vil.

DisneyCruella de Vil in ‘101 Dalmatians.’

Cruella de Vil is the “101 Dalmatians” villain who attempts to turn the dogs into fur coats.

Here, Väätäinen brought the villain to life.

Courtesy of Jirka VäätäinenVäätäinen’s Cruella de Vil.

Cruella de Vil’s iconic black-and-white hair and fur coat are all in Väätäinen’s version – but with a more realistic look.

He didn’t stop there. The artist also reimagined Disney princesses, like Belle.

DisneyBelle in ‘Beauty and the Beast.’

Väätäinen said it’s easier to draw Disney princesses than villains.

“It turns out creating a pretty face is much easier than creating this very over-the-top face, full of expression and malicious intent,” he told Insider.

Here, Belle is still wearing her signature white blouse and blue dress, but her face is more realistic.

Courtesy of Jirka VäätäinenVäätäinen’s Belle.

“Since I grew up with a lot of these characters, the sense of nostalgia made it such a fascinating and a fun personal project to explore,” Väätäinen said.

Väätäinen said he loved re-creating the characters he grew up with, like Cinderella.


“As I have grown up with a lot of these characters, I usually have a certain vision in my head of the character, and based on that, I get further inspired by looking up and studying photos and features of real people that one way or another come to mind,” the artist said.

In Väätäinen’s recreation, Cinderella still has her outfit and hairstyle.

Courtesy of Jirka VäätäinenVäätäinen’s Cinderella.

Väätäinen said most of his work is done in Photoshop.

“I basically use image sources as both my inspiration and my colour palette,” he said. “All of this photo compositing and manipulation are brought together by doing digital painting by hand.”

He even brought Princess Jasmine to life with his unique technique.

DisneyPrincess Jasmine.

Jasmine is the princess from Disney’s “Aladdin.”

In Väätäinen’s image, Jasmine is still sporting the same clothing and hairstyle.

Courtesy of Jirka VäätäinenVäätäinen’s Princess Jasmine.

Väätäinen decided to re-create Jasmine when it was announced in 2017 that Disney would create a live-action “Aladdin.”

Väätäinen said it was difficult for him to re-create newer Disney characters, like Elsa, because he did not grow up with them.

DisneyElsa in ‘Frozen.’

Elsa is one of the princesses from “Frozen,” Disney’s 2013 hit.

Instead of working from memory, Väätäinen had to do more research with characters like Elsa, he said.

Courtesy of Jirka VäätäinenVäätäinen’s Elsa.

“The newer characters that I did not grow up with are somewhat more challenging for me,” Väätäinen said.

Moana is another newer Disney princess he reimagined.


Disney’s 2016 movie “Moana” introduced a new princess, Moana, who is from a fictional Polynesian island.

Väätäinen drew Moana to look like a real person.

Courtesy of Jirka VäätäinenVäätäinen’s Moana.

“So many requests for this one – and I finally found some time give her a go,” Väätäinen wrote on his Instagram of his depiction of Moana.

The artist also re-created some of the most famous male Disney heroes, like Hercules.


Hercules is a classic character in the Disney canon.

In Väätäinen’s reimagining, Hercules still has his trademark biceps, cape, and headband.

Courtesy of Jirka VäätäinenVäätäinen’s Hercules.

Though he has a more realistic face, the character still a superhero-like quality.

Tarzan is another character the artist updated.


“Tarzan” premiered in 1999 and follows a man who was raised by animals.

Here, Tarzan looks like a real man, despite his fantastical origin story.

Courtesy of Jirka VäätäinenVäätäinen’s’s Tarzan.

Tarzan’s signature long hair is also in Väätäinen’s reimagining.

Disney’s male love interests, like John Smith from “Pocahontas,” even got the Väätäinen treatment.

DisneyJohn Smith.

John Smith is the white settler who becomes Pocahontas’ love interest in the Disney film.

Väätäinen made John Smith come to life in this portrait.

Courtesy of Jirka VäätäinenVäätäinen’s John Smith.

The blond hair is remarkably similar to the Disney animation.

Lastly, Väätäinen turned Prince Eric from “The Little Mermaid” into a more realistic man.

DisneyPrince Eric.

Prince Eric is Ariel’s love interest in “The Little Mermaid.”

Väätäinen said he loves that people are “stimulated or inspired” by his re-creations like this one.

Courtesy of Jirka VäätäinenVäätäinen’s Prince Eric.

“It’s been a pleasure to see people react to these in such a positive way, whether it is feeling nostalgic and reconnecting with these characters on a new level, or just getting a sense of joy in seeing something that visually floats their boat,” Väätäinen said.

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