D23: 'Aladdin' Cast, Filmmakers Remember Robin Williams

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It’s been nearly 23 years since Aladdin impressed a whole new world into the hearts and minds of moviegoers. The movie’s makers and cast were on hand to reminisce at Disney’s D23 fan expo in in Anaheim, California, on Saturday.

The mood in the room was palpable, as a year has now passed since Robin Williams, who voiced Genie, died. “He was bigger than life,” recalled Aladdin animator Eric Goldberg, who made the memorable, gregarious blue character. “He transcended time and space,” he added of Williams. Goldberg recalled being folded over in the recording booth with the actor, trying with all he could muster not to break into laughter and destroy the recording. “We couldn’t have done it without Robin’s warmth,” he added.

As for Aladdin’s runaway success, co-director John Musker said, “I think Robin Williams had a lot to do with it.” He and his fellow Aladdin director Ron Clements regaled the D23 audience with stories of Williams’s work ethic and instant versatility. He did 25 takes for the movie’s first scene, “and they were all different,” said Clements. Williams would stick to the script for the first few takes, “then he would riff.” With so much usable material, the directors then constructed their final selections “like a ransom note,” remembered Musker.

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Not mentioned during the panel: Disney is planning a live-action prequel to Aladdin called Genies. It will focus on the gregarious blue spirit of Arabian folklore made famous by the late Williams along with his fellow genies. The big question is, who could possibly play the hilarious, endearing, quick-witted genie voiced so memorably and uniquely by the late actor? Those are some huge genie shoes to fill.

For Aladdin purists and Williams fans alike, Disney fans also learned Saturday that the late Oscar-winner’s outtakes will appear on the Diamond Addition Blu-ray of Aladdin, available Oct. 13 (digital HD is out Sept. 29). The special footage, made in tribute to the actor, features incarnations of Genie never seen before, including Genie as a referee and also as a punch drunk fighter, as story boards were shown to the D23 audience.

Watch ’Aladdin’ Diamond Edition trailer: