In the course of making a Hollywood feature film, there is a lot that gets left on the cutting room floor. Sometimes a director is forced to cut out so much that entire characters or plot lines are removed from the finished product (just ask Prince William and Prince Harry!). In the end, a “Director’s Cut” of a movie and the theatrical release could look like completely different films!
During the preproduction stage of movie making, one of the first things the director and producer have to decide on is the character design.
Typically, near the start of production, rough ideas for character designs are sketched out by hand or with a digital imaging software. These are just basic ideas; many of them actually never get implemented into the final design for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the original concept art of a character looks a million times better than what ends up on screen.
Other times – let’s just say there’s a reason it never made it into the final design! We’re taking a look at some of the creepiest early versions of our beloved childhood characters. For this list, “creepy” can refer to characters that were already supposed to be frightening as well as those who were supposed to be kid-friendly; the only rule is that it needs to keep us up at night.
Here are 15 Weird Unused Movie Character Designs That Will Ruin Movies For You.
15. Vampire Chewbacca (Star Wars)
Chewbacca is easily one of the most marketable characters in Star Wars. Wookiees can live for centuries and look like large dog/human hybrids. We’ll be shocked if Chewy isn’t showing up in Star Wars films decades down the line!
A fierce warrior, Chewy is a loyal friend and lovable goofball that could easily rip your arms out of their sockets if you cross him.
Originally, Chewbacca was less dog and more vampire bat.
If that image on the left was what a Wookiee looked like in the Star Wars universe, kids would have been totally freaked out. The sunken eyes, rigid cheek bones, and pointy ears makes the character look more like a monster than his final design. This isn’t a Hammer Horror picture, people!
14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Aliens
Yeah, we have to talk about the 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. By all accounts it was terrible. TMNT fans hated it. Parents hated it. Critics hated it. Yet, somehow it was successful enough to get a sequel.
One of the big issues people had with this movie was the fact that the Turtles looked nothing like the Turtles we knew and loved. Instead, they looked similar to the canceled Jurassic World human-dinosaur hybrid concept art!
Believe it or not, the Turtles could have looked much, much worse. Producer Michael Bay mentioned that the Turtles were of “alien origin;” the backlash was so huge that a line was even put in the film addressing the controversy. Looking at the original concept art, it’s not hard to see why people thought the Turtles were going to be aliens! They look like something that would step out of a flying saucer and ask to be taken to your leader.
13. Darth Maul or Cenobite? (Star Wars)
Darth Maul is essentially the Boba Fett of the Prequels. He literally has two or three lines of dialogue and zero character development, yet he was the standout of The Phantom Menace and easily the most recognizable villain from Episodes I-III. Fans loved him so much that he was brought back to life for both the Clone Wars and Rebels TV series and given a much deeper backstory.
Part of what made Maul so appealing was his intimidating yet awesome design. Sure, he was supposed to strike fear into our hearts, but he wasn’t scary enough to keep us up at night. Take a look at that image on the left. That is what Darth Maul originally looked like!
12. Sheriff Woody looked like Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy (Toy Story)
Toy Story was the movie that revolutionized CGI animation and put Pixar on the map. Starring Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, it was a tale about jealousy, adventure, and growing up that anyone of any age could enjoy. It also went on to become the highest-rated film trilogy of all time.
Had Pixar gone with Woody’s original design, this might not have been the case. Originally the Sheriff was supposed to be the story’s villain rather than just Buzz’s rival. To make him look more villainous the original art depicted Woody as a big-headed ventriloquist dummy with dead, sloth-like eyes.
You have to imagine that he wouldn’t have had the same upbeat personality as the Woody we know, either. Imagine that thing going around with a gruff voice antagonizing Buzz Lightyear. Yeah, we’re not sleeping tonight…
11. The Mask is anything but Smokin’ (The Mask)
The Mask was released right at the height of Jim Carrey’s popularity in the ’90s, and only helped to boost his stock.
The comedy followed hopeless romantic Stanley Ipkiss, a lovable loser who finds a magical mask that turns him into a living cartoon character. The Mask was a perfect representation of the ’90s: completely over the top in all the right ways and extremely dated. Yet, it’s still hilarious!
The Mask wouldn’t have been so funny had they stuck with the initial design for the character.
In the finished film the character was mostly just Jim Carrey with some green makeup and prosthetics. That thing on the left is the stuff nightmares are made of. Instead of looking charmingly cartoonish, the design makes him look like an angry green Voldemort with huge teeth. This original design is straight from the uncanny valley.
10. Half Man, Half Penguin (Batman Returns)
To be fair, The Penguin from Batman Returns was already creepy. Also to be fair, Batman Returns was far less kid-friendly than the rest of the movies in the franchise. But kids watched it anyway!
Most of what made Devito’s Penguin so grotesque was that he was nothing short of disgusting. He looked like he hadn’t bathed in months, he ate raw fish, and he creeped on women like crazy.
Had they gone with the original concept art for Oswald Cobblepot, the character would have been so much creepier, just in a different way. This early sketch showed him as more of a half-human, half-penguin creature that is the stuff of nightmares. You though the creature from Tusk was horrifying? That thing has nothing on this plodding penguin creature!
9. Noseless Na’vi (Avatar)
It’s been almost a decade, and we’re still waiting on those Avatar sequels James Cameron promised us. The first film was a box-office shattering success. It broke all sorts of records and ushered in a new trend of films shot in 3D. Despite being a single movie, Avatar had a huge cultural impact and created a world, culture, and even a language that people still talk about today!
We’re not sure how much people would have liked Avatar had Cameron stuck with the Na’vi’s original design. In early concept art the Na’vi looked like sea monkeys with dreadlocks. But not dreadlocks of hair –rather, they had weird fluorescent tubes that appeared to be biological. It’s hard to put into words exactly, but there’s just something very unsettling about this design.
8. Beautiful Sauron (Lord of the Rings)
In the lore of J.R.R. Tolkien, Sauron is the Lord of Darkness. Commanding massive legions of Middle-earth’s fiercest creatures, the Dark Lord’s wrath showed no bounds and was only brought to an end when rival races joined together to oppose him. We only get a glimpse of Sauron in the films, but he definitely looks like one evil dude.
In the original cut of Return of the King, Sauron himself was supposed to take part in the saga’s finale. He created a physical manifestation of himself to go toe-to-toe with Aragorn during the climactic battle in a deleted scene.
In early concepts Sauron was to appear as the specter of a beautiful man.
7. The Meanie Genie (Aladdin)
Part of Disney’s “Renaissance Period,” Aladdin was an instant classic when it came out, partially thanks to the charismatic performance of Robin Williams as the Genie. Williams’ role has become an all-time classic as the years have gone by. His wacky antics and child-like playfulness made him a standout in the already-great film.
Originally, the Genie wasn’t intended to be so inviting and friendly.
Allegedly these concept sketches came from an early treatment of the story in which there were two genies (the genie of the lamp and the genie of the ring), with one being good and one being evil. Even then, the idea of Robin William’s voice coming out of one of those things is enough to ruin your childhood!
6. The Green Goblin goes medieval (Spider-Man)
Alongside Blade and the first X-Men movie, Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man helped bring about a new era of superhero box office smashes. The tale has been told three different times now, but many still prefer Tobey Maguire’s Spidey origin story over the others. This is partly because of the Green Goblin. He may have looked like a Power Rangers villain, but William Dafoe’s portrayal was ridiculously hammy in all the right ways.
We know that Dafoe can be an intimidating, scary actor when he wants to be. What if, instead green spandex, the actor’s terrifying voice was coming out of the medieval demon depicted on the left? The character would have gone from laughable to the stuff of our nightmares! At least he would have been more comic-accurate – and made more sense than Norman Osborn crafting a goblin helmet.
5. The Joker looked like he was from a horror movie (The Dark Knight)
Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight was already scary enough. In one of the greatest performances in movie history, Ledger was able to play a villain that could go from downright hilarious to bone-chilling at the blink of an eye. Not to mention the fact that he had great chemistry with both Christian Bale’s Batman and Aaron Eckhart’s Two-Face!
Early versions of the Joker seemed to go in a much more sinister direction. Words cannot describe how horrifying it would have been to see the Dark Knight face off against such a creature. Maybe it’s the sunken eyes and the (somehow even more) grotesque scar. Or maybe it’s the doll-like hair. No matter what it is, children everywhere are glad that this wasn’t the final version we got.
4. Yoda was a Gnome (Star Wars)
Who would have thought that a little green Muppet would become one of Star Wars most bankable characters? Master Yoda first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back, and was so popular that he has made an appearance in five of the seven films since.
Part of Yoda’s charm (other than his backwards talking) is that, for a Jedi Master, he looks as non-threatening as you can get.
Now, his original design? That is something most people would want to kill with fire the minute they saw it. Yoda was supposed to be a little gnome, complete with a bushy beard and a pointed hat to match his ears. If you think the concept art is weird enough, just picture how the Jim Henson studios would have made that design look in real life! You’re welcome for the sleepless nights.
3. E.T was supposed to be evil (E.T)
During the late ’80s and early ’90s director Steven Speilberg was on fire. He put out smash hit after smash hit at the box office and looked like he could do anything. In the span of about ten years he made multiple sci-fi films, action/adventure films, an Oscar-winning period piece, and a family-friendly horror movie. Somewhere along the way Speilberg made E.T., the story of a boy who befriends a ship-wrecked alien and tries to get him back home.
E.T. was always a weird looking character, but he was more on the goofy and harmless side. In early drafts of the film, he wasn’t so nice. In fact, E.T. was supposed to be a villain, and his designs showed it! How do you go from the Earth-conquering alien on the left to the Reese’s Pieces loving goofball on the right!?
2. Optimus the Prime Dog? (Transformers)
Say what you will about Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, but don’t hate on Optimus Prime! Despite the overall quality of these films, Prime (voiced by his original actor Peter Cullen) looks and sounds like he was ripped straight out of the original ’80s cartoon and updated for the 2000s. The Transformers series has always been known for its visual effects and has won multiple awards for the designs of the Autobots and Decepticons.
Which makes it all the more shocking to look at Optimus’ original design for the first Transformers movie.
Where on Earth did the artist get the idea that Transformers were supposed to look like dogs?
Perhaps it would have looked okay with his mask on, but the snout, nose placement, and “ears” leave no doubt that Optimus was intended to be canine. Luckily, even Michael Bay realized how terrible this looked, and scrapped the concept immediately.
1. Somehow, Dementors could have been scarier (Harry Potter)
In a series of PG to PG-13 rated stories, the Dementors in Harry Potter always felt out of place. Mind you, they fit into the story J.K. Rowling was trying to tell, but aesthetically they seemed like they belonged in an R-rated ghost flick. The Dementors guarded the prison of Azkaban and gave a “kiss” (sucked out the soul) of anyone who tried to escape.
The Dementors were already scary enough from their descriptions in the book, and what we got on screen was just as eerie. But it could’ve been worse.
The original film designs are the stuff of nightmares.
The floating skeleton in the middle, which we assume would have dragged its spine like a dragon’s tail, is much scarier than what we got on screen. Then there’s the one on the left; the silent monk robe over a subtle skull would have been too much for most adults, let alone any children.
Did we ruin your childhood? Or are we being too harsh on these early designs of characters? Let us know in the comments!
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