Our name can be a huge part of our identity, and the same goes for our favorite fictional characters. Mickey Mouse, Sherlock Holmes, Luke Skywalker: their names feel so perfect that we can’t imagine calling them anything else. But did you know that these characters — and many others besides them — almost went by completely different monikers? It sounds like sacrilege, but it’s true. Read on to discover what some of the most iconic heroes and villains of books and screen were nearly called.
1. Luke Skywalker
Luke Skywalker is one of the most iconic characters in movie history. So it might shock you when you learn that he very nearly didn’t exist. Yes, in the early drafts of Star Wars that George Lucas penned, the character directly in Luke’s rightful place was a female Jedi named Starkiller. A 65-year-old general was also considered. Thankfully, with the aid of his own surname and some further inspiration, Luke Skywalker was born.
2. Mickey Mouse
Mickey Mouse is a legendary cartoon character with a most memorable moniker. The name rolls off the tongue so perfectly that you might be stunned to find out it was nearly very different. In fact, Walt Disney was going to call the iconic rodent “Mortimer” until his wife Lilian thankfully talked some sense into him. Mrs. Disney reportedly told him that Mortimer was a bad fit, and Mickey was a lot “friendlier-sounding.” Bravo Lilian!
3. Doc Brown
Now, we all love Christopher Lloyd as the eccentric Doc Brown in the Back to the Future franchise. You’ve probably never considered until now, though, just how integral the moniker “Doc” was to the character. But if we told you that the first draft had him going by the name “Professor Brown,” you’d quickly realize how that would have been just plain wrong: sacrilege even. Thankfully the alteration was made, to help lend the character his signature quirkiness.
4. Yosemite Sam
One of the coolest characters in the Looney Tunes cartoon universe, Yosemite Sam almost went by a different name. Indeed, three or four monikers were mooted by writers when they were seeking to name the rootin’ tootin’ gunslinger. Those considered included “Texas Tiny,” “Wyoming Willie,” and “Denver Dan.” Finally, when in search of that Western-style name, the creators landed on Yosemite Sam. Bingo!
5. Hermione Granger
Hermione Granger is as vital to the Harry Potter books and film franchise as the titular wizard hero is. But the Emma Watson-portrayed character almost had a different surname. Yes, Granger was initially going to be Puckle, but writer J.K. Rowling later admitted that it “did not suit her at all.” Interestingly, Granger’s first name is shared with a character from Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale, who like her shows resilience when falsely accused.
How Mickey Mouse’s loyal dog Pluto got his name is quite fascinating. The lovable character in the Walt Disney universe was originally Minnie’s canine for the initial two cartoons, and went by the name of “Rover.” But the discovery of the planet Pluto in February 1930 gave Walt Disney the idea to name the pooch that, instead of the mulled-over “Homer” and “Pal.”
7. Sherlock Holmes
One of the most famous detectives ever created was not immediately named by his creator, writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Actually, Doyle initially trialed “Mr. Sharps,” “Mr. Ferrets,” and “Sherringford Holmes.” But the novelist was eventually swayed by the name Sherlock, which had a nice ring to it. The surname was reportedly taken from American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, and the Christian name inspired by cricketer Frank Shacklock and Doyle’s old school friend, Patrick Sherlock. Elementary!
8. Buzz Lightyear
Toy Story’s beloved space ranger quite obviously got his first name from astronaut Buzz Aldrin. But the amiable action figure began life with a much-less-impressive moniker. This was revealed by early sketches and comment from Pixar Historian Christine Freeman on the 25th anniversary of Toy Story’s release. She said, “Buzz is one of our most popular characters, [but] his name changed over time, from Tempus of Morph to Lunar Larry to Buzz Lightyear. You can see the LL belt buckle in a few of these early designs.”
9. Ellen Ripley
Sigourney Weaver’s character is the central figure in the Alien franchise. But did you know that the legendary Nostromo Warrant Officer was almost a man named Ripley? According to FlavorWire, scriptwriters Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon initially decided all the characters should have unisex names, so when it came to casting they could choose either gender. Still, the scribes conceded they had envisaged Ripley as male. Thankfully, that was changed, and mercifully too Alien was chosen ahead of Star Beast as the movie’s title.
10. Tom and Jerry
Name a cartoon pairing more iconic than Tom and Jerry. Hint: there isn’t one! But this legendary cat-and-mouse twosome were originally called Jasper and Jinx; they took those names in the pilot cartoon “Puss Gets the Boot” which aired way back in 1940. Thankfully, creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera realized the names didn’t fit, so the pair of them tested out several name combos until one of them landed upon Tom and Jerry.
11. Mr. Bean
Memorably portrayed by Rowan Atkinson, the goofy misfit Mr. Bean is an iconic character in TV comedy. But you might be shocked to learn that he was almost named after a different type of vegetable. Yes, Mr. Bean was almost Mr. Cauliflower, which just sounds absolutely ridiculous to us: we don’t know what more to say about it!
Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck’s loyal pal Goofy is one of the key characters in the Disney universe. But the clumsy coonhound we all know and love almost didn’t exist as we recognize him today: he debuted under a different name. Yes, in the 1932 cartoon “Mickey’s Revue,” the character that is now Goofy was known as “Dippy Dawg,” was much older, and sported a beard and glasses. But later that year Goofy as we love him was introduced in the short “The Whoopee Party.”
13. Scarlett O’Hara
It’s such a perfect name for the stubborn daughter of a plantation owner in Gone With the Wind that you might be shocked to learn it almost wasn’t to be. Indeed, it was only shortly before the novel was sent out to print that writer Margaret Mitchell altered the name of the book’s chief protagonist from “Pansy” to “Scarlett.” Perhaps it was because Pansy sounded too similar to the maid Prissy?
Gandalf the Grey is a name befitting of a wise old wizard and one of the best-loved characters in the Lord of the Rings saga. Yet in the earliest drafts of The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien had penciled in “Bladorthin the Grey” as the name of his sacred sorcerer, while Gandalf was actually the leader of the dwarfs. Thankfully, something made him change his mind, and Gandalf was switched to the good wizard; Bladorthin became a deceased King mentioned precisely once.
15. Elmer Fudd
Looney Tunes’ hapless villain may have had a completely different name and look in his early formation. That’s because in the Tex Avery cartoon “Egghead Rides Again” from 1937 there was a character very similar to Fudd called Egghead, who had a big nose and donned a khaki-colored hunting outfit. Fudd made his official cartoon bow three years later in “Elmer’s Candid Camera,” but had clearly been in the works several years before.
Is there a better name for a villainous vampire than Dracula? We certainly don’t think so, but were alarmed to learn that Bram Stoker had originally planned to call his iconic throat-biter “Count Waympr.” Yes, really. Thankfully Stoker discovered the history of Vlad II of Wallachia, a.k.a. Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracul, before committing to that terrible-sounding name he had earmarked for his character. FYI, Dracula translates as “Devil” in Romanian!
17. Miley Stewart
This one is funny more than anything. During the initial filming for Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus’s character was set to be called “Chloe Stewart.” But Miley’s father Billy Ray — who also starred in the series — couldn’t stop calling his daughter by her real name. So, the producers essentially gave up and just changed the character’s name to Miley. Maybe they didn’t want to upset his Achy Breaky Heart!
18. Charlotte A. Cavatica
Charlotte’s Web author E.B. White was all set to call his central character “Charlotte Epeira,” specifically after the gray cross spider, and its Latin name Epeira sclopetaria. But then something happened to change his thinking. With further research he found out that the spider that had inspired him was actually a barn spider. So, White altered the character’s name to directly nod to Araneus cavaticus, christening her “Charlotte A. Cavatica.”
19. Holly Golightly
Breakfast at Tiffany’s heroine was memorably portrayed by Audrey Hepburn in the big-screen adaptation of Truman Capote’s celebrated novel. But old manuscripts revealed that Capote was all set to call the character Connie Gustafson, a considerably less memorable moniker. On the manuscript — which sold for a whopping $306,000 at auction — he literally crossed out the former and penciled in the latter!
20. Cookie Monster
Kids and adults alike love the Cookie Monster, and who can blame them? The treat-loving blue beast is one of the funniest and most adorable characters on Sesame Street, but did you know that he has also gone by another less impressive name? Yes, the Cookie Monster also goes by the name Sid, as was revealed on a 2004 episode where he sang the ditty “The first time me eat cookie,” and further confirmed by a 2022 tweet he sent out!
21. Philip Marlowe
Surely among the greatest detectives ever created by a writer, the iconic Raymond Chandler character had a far-less-pleasing name until the wife of the author stepped in. Yes, Chandler had decided to call his creation “Philip Mallory” in a nod to the English author Sir Thomas Malory, whom he admired. But Mrs. Chandler put an end to his plans, by suggesting and then convincing him of the surname we now know and love.
22. Tiny Tim
You’ll know the pint-sized, poorly boy in Charles Dickens’ famous novel A Christmas Carol as Tiny Tim. But what you might not be aware of is that Dickens had initially named the popular character “Little Fred.” An old manuscript that included notations by the British author revealed this to the world, and there are also scribbles on that script that suggest he could also have plumped for either “Tiny Mick” or “Tiny Dick” too. The last of these would likely have elicited much laughter today.
23. Indiana Jones
“The Adventures of Indiana Smith.” Doesn’t work, does it? But that’s the name screenwriting genius Lucas initially had for his swashbuckling, adventure hero in his initial screenplay, until Steven Spielberg stepped in. Spielberg — interested by Lucas’s screenplay, but put off by the name — wanted something else, and Lucas picked out the name of his dog, Jones. The rest, as they say, is history. It’s kind of odd how much better Jones works with Indiana than Smith, given they are ultimately both very common surnames!
The first appearance of the character we know as Tweety — or Tweety Bird, or Tweety Pie — in the Looney Tunes cartoon was in a 1942 short called A Tale of Two Kitties. The beloved yellow bird had to dodge the hungry felines Babbit and Catstello, but he didn’t have his iconic name then. No, we know that at that time he was labeled “Orson” on the Warner Bros. model sheet. This was thankfully rectified by the time of his second outing, a short called “Birdy and the Beast.”
25. Little Orphan Annie
The star of the original comic book and its later film and stage-show adaptations, Little Orphan Annie is a bona fide cultural phenomenon. But the little red-haired girl might have been called “Orphan Otto.” Yet thanks to a newspaper syndicate publisher, cartoonist Harold Gray was pushed into changing it from Otto to Annie, and ensuring it was more feminine and memorable.
26. Dr. John H. Watson
Like his loyal pal Sherlock Holmes, Dr. John H. Watson almost had another name. This was revealed in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s initial outlines for the story, but thankfully the awkward moniker “Ormond Sacker” was ditched in favor of the less exotic but much more relatable John H. Watson. Doyle reportedly lived next door to a Dr. James Watson.
27. Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie
Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie are key characters in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and indeed the whole Chronicles of Narnia series. But in the first drafts of C.S. Lewis’ novels, Peter Pevensie’s siblings actually went by the names “Ann,” “Martin”, and “Rose.” Why they were changed, we don’t know.
The legendary sage Yoda was a wise guru strong in the ways of the Force in the Star Wars saga, teaching Luke Skywalker all that he knew. But the mysterious Jedi Master almost had a frankly terrible first name. Yes, George Lucas actually considered calling him “Minch.” If you don’t believe us, have a look at the first treatment for The Empire Strikes Back. Thankfully, the moniker was dropped, and Yoda — likely based on the Hebrew name Yodea, or “one who knows” — was allowed to exist as we know and love him.
29. Nancy Drew
Way back in 1929 Edward Stratemeyer had a lightbulb moment one day, coming up with the idea of creating a series of books about a female teenage detective. But by the time he wrote to publisher Grosset & Dunlap he hadn’t settled on a name for the character. Indeed, Stratemeyer’s protagonist had several names, including “Nell Cody,” “Diana Dare,” “Helen Hale”, and “Nan Nelson” before Nancy Drew was eventually chosen. “Diana Dare” does have a certain ring to it, mind…
30. Betty Boop
The 1930s cartoon creation perfectly represented the flapper era. But prior to her becoming a leading light — incredibly competing with real-life stars like Greta Garbo — the brainchild of Max and Dave Fleischer played a supporting role in Fleischer Studios’ cartoons. In these she was known as either “Nancy Lee” or “Nan McGrew,” neither of which is anywhere near as cool.