4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People

Anger the wrong person named Matt or Trey & you may end up immortalized for all eternity as the jerkiest character in South Park.
4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People

Is there anything better than cartoons? Steak. Beer. Money. The beach. Vacation time. Sex. Roller coasters. The moon. Dropkicks. Shut up, is the point. Cartoons can be pretty awesome, and there was a point in all of our lives when we thought cartoons were surely the best thing that ever happened to us.

4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People
bhofack2/iStock/Getty Image

Admittedly, we can be a bit promiscuous with what we call "best thing ever."

As you get older you begin to appreciate the subtle differences in cartoons. Some cartoons toss in sly jokes for adults. Some cartoons are just not meant for kids at all. Other cartoons treat your kids like helmet-wearing mouth-breathers who are being raised by dim-witted swamp mollusks and can barely count to potato. But they're all delightfully colored and attention-grabbing, so what's not to love?

As it happens, not all cartoons are born from some artist's desperate need to have their creation featured on the side of a box of pre-moistened baby asswipes. Some of these characters were born from the most uncartoony place of all: live-action. Characters played by real people inspired these bizarre beings and gave them pseudo-life. But what manner of weirdo could possibly inspire a cartoon? These manners! Or whatever is grammatically correct there!

Arleen Sorkin Is Harley Quinn

4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People

While The Joker has been awesome for about 75 years now, his crazy-lady sidekick Harley Quinn has only been awesome since the '90s. She first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series and was quite a hit, because really, the only thing fanboys would love more than The Joker was The Joker with boobs.

Warner Bros Television

They even gave her collar boobs just to be safe.

When Quinn first appeared on the show, she came complete with an over-the-top cartoony voice that was just this side of maddening. This was no coincidence. The voice, provided by actress Arleen Sorkin, was a pretty important part of Harley since Harley herself was inspired by Arleen Sorkin, and specifically this scene from the soap opera Days Of Our Lives.

Isn't that ridiculous? It is. From that one appearance as a really off-putting clown, Paul Dini created another really off-putting clown to assist a third off-putting clown in his campaign of mayhem in Gotham City, and thus Harley Quinn came to be.

Cartman Is Archie Bunker

4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People
CBS/Comedy Central

Eric Cartman is one of the greatest characters in television history. A child with an insidious and spiteful mind, a weight problem, and a love of kitties. So, like a Cracked columnist. Oh, and his mom used to be a bit of a sloot. Maybe that warped his young psyche; who are we to say? What we do know, thanks to a podcast with Norman Lear, is that Cartman is Archie Bunker.

4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People

In Archie's best episode, he's put in his place by Sammy Davis Jr.
In Cartman's best episode, he feeds two parents to their son. Line on line!

For those who don't know All In The Family: It was a sitcom created by Lear about someone you'd never want to spend time with and his wife, who was a flightless bird in an apron. Archie Bunker was depicted as a gruff, blue-collar everyman and a terrible bigot who was also abusive to his wife. Not physically abusive, of course, but verbally so. Through some paradox of forgiveness the character himself and our understanding of him has somehow weathered time to the point where we forgive and even love him -- he's often voted one of, if not the, greatest sitcom characters of all time. His bigotry is written off as being part of the character and how he was supposed to have been raised. He's not really a bad guy; he just doesn't know any better. Sure!

This gives a lot of insight into Cartman as a character, especially with the added dimension of being a child. Of course he doesn't know any better. I mean, he obviously does, but that's what we say.

4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People
Comedy Central

"I'm not bad; I'm just drawn that way."

So he can be this kid who does every egregious thing, because he's testing the waters, he's a product of his environment where anything goes, and he doesn't know any better -- a sort of monster by accident. Plus he's funny as shit.


Bender And Nelson Are Both John Bender

4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People
Universal Pictures/Fox

Nelson Muntz, perennial haw-hawer and bully, is a complex character. His dad left for cigarettes and never returned, and his mom looks like a man and seems to be something of a loose-morals type with a lack of concern for her son's well being. Poor little guy. He just needed a chance. Except not really, because he's based on cinematic asshole John Bender, Judd Nelson's tour-de-force, pseudo-tough guy with maybe a heart of gold because his dad's mean to him, from The Breakfast Club.

4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People
Universal Pictures

And so is Emilio Estevez. It's hard to know which one would hurt worse.

And this goes beyond Nelson sharing a name with the actor who plays Bender. You see, at first Bender seems like a real asshole, but as we spend his detention with him we learn he feels ostracized by the "cool" kids at school, something he actually revels in as a way to deal with how his own father abuses and neglects him. He lashes out at those around him because his life has been a struggle of fight or flight where only the tough survive, and though he wants to be accepted, it's hard for him to open up and be that person until he's afforded the opportunity to become someone important and likable in defiance of a douchebag teacher. Oh man, what a dreamboat! So take that, then something something with a vest, and you have Nelson Muntz -- misunderstood bully who just wants to belong and be loved.

4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People

Just not by Milhouse.

And since we're on the topic of dudes named Bender, as it happens Futurama's Bender is also named after the character of John Bender, which clearly had a profound effect on all cartoon creators for Fox.

Jackie Gleason Is Fred Flintstone Is Homer Simpson Is Peter Griffin

Fox/Hannah Barbera

This rabbit hole is both deep and painfully obvious, so let's all go for a jaunt. Peter Griffin is Homer Simpson. Don't agree? The number of similarities between Family Guy and The Simpsons is astounding. Not judging the quality of either show -- feel free to love whichever cartoon you want to love. But know that it's really weird that the Van Houtens are a family of three ultra nerds who all look exactly alike, just like the Goldmans on Family Guy.

4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People

A similarity not lost on The Simpsons.

It's weird that Marge became a mindless gambling addict, and then Lois did it in the exact same way years later.

It's weird that both shows had a throwaway joke about a pre-movie word jumble where the answer should obviously be Tom Hanks.

4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People
20th Century Fox

But only one of them actually got Tom Hanks.

It's weird that both shows did a blackjack gag where both Homer and Peter keep hitting to 21 and beyond.

Both shows actually made a joke where someone mispronounces wind as "whined," then gets corrected about how it rhymes with "grinned," and then it's explained that the speaker had only ever seen the word in print before. So, yeah, Family Guy kind of copies The Simpsons. Not that it matters, because Homer Simpson is clearly Fred Flintstone.

4 Cartoon Characters (Surprisingly) Based On Real People

Also not lost on The Simpsons.

In a less obvious mirroring of characters, it's no secret the Simpsons were heavily inspired by the Flintstones. The show itself acknowledged this with the Family Guy/Simpsons crossover in which Fred Flintstone appears as the judge.

Both shows feature a semi-dysfunctional but loving blue-collar family in a satirical jab at suburbia and life in America during the time the show takes place. Both feature a shlubby, gruff father who rarely thinks before he acts and for some reason has 5 o'clock shadow 24 hours a day. Both have monsters for bosses. Both even have close friends named Barney.


And everyone has improbably attractive wives!

As time went on and The Simpsons transcended time and space by lasting for 1,000 seasons, this relationship kind of died off, but it's much more prevalent in the early seasons when Homer was basically an updated Fred Flintstone. And that's kind of ironic, because Fred Flintstone was simply a parody of Jackie Gleason.

The fact that Gleason and The Honeymooners inspired The Flintstones is pretty obvious insofar as The Flintstones was nearly the exact same show but in cartoon form. With a dinosaur for a toilet. But Fred was absolutely Jackie Gleason, and it was so obvious Gleason is rumored to have contemplated suing the show, but held off because he didn't want to be known as the guy who got Fred Flintstone taken off TV. How could he have been so sure? Alan Reed, the voice actor for Fred, used to do voiceover work for Jackie Gleason too. And when Mel Blanc started making Barney Rubble sound like Art Carney, that pretty much sealed the deal. That Mel Blanc, what a fucker.

So, technically speaking, Peter Griffin is a watered-down Jackie Gleason, which even the producers of Family Guy have acknowledged:

The circle of cartoon life is complete!

For more from Felix, check out 4 Mistakes Hollywood Seems To Love Making and 4 Things People Get Away With At Work (And Nowhere Else).

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