Robin Williams spent an awful lot of time working at the
Mouse House. Few people today remember that Robin's first starring role -- the
title character in 1980's "Popeye" -- was actually a Walt Disney
Productions / Paramount Pictures co-production. Or that three of Williams' best-reviewed
dramatic turns -- Adrian Cronauer in 1987's
"Good Morning, Vietnam," John Keating in 1989's "Dead Poets Society"
and Sean Maguire in 1997's "Good Will Hunting" -- were released by
Sure, there were other Mouse-related roles along the way -- the rapidly aging man-child in 1996's "Jack," the
absent minded professor in 1997's "Flubber" ; Andrew, the
android-who-longed-to-be-human in 1999's "Bicentennial Man ; and Dan
Rayburn, the put-upon Pop in 2009's "Old Dogs." Not to mention the
two Disney theme attractions that Williams worked on, 1989's "Back to
Neverland" and 1992's "The Timekeeper."
The animated version of Robin Williams as a LostBoy from "Back to Neverland"
But if you were to ask members of the general public which
Disney character they most closely associated with this late comic genius ...
Well, it wouldn't be even close. It was Williams' hilarious & heartfelt voicework
as the Genie in 1992's "Aladdin" and its direct-to-video sequel, 1996's
"Aladdin and the King of Thieves" that had captured the imaginations
of animation fans worldwide.
Given that Robin was a lifelong animation fan, you'd think
that he'd jump at the chance to voice a character in a Walt Disney Animation
Studios production. But truth be told, Williams needed a little persuading. It
wasn't until Robin saw some test footage that animation master Eric Goldberg
had prepared -- which took a routine from his 1979 "Reality ... What a
Concept" album where Williams announced that "Tonight, I'd like to
talk to you about schizophrenia." Only to then have the animated version
of Robin grow a second head, which quickly told the first head to "Shut
up! No he doesn't!" -- before he then bought into the project.
(L to R) John Musker and Ron Clements
And once Williams was fully on board with "Aladdin," the artists
& animators at Walt Disney Animation Studios couldn't have asked for a
better or more generous collaborative partner. As John Musker & Ron
Clements (i.e., the directors of "Aladdin") recalled earlier today:
"We had the thrill and privilege of directing Robin
Williams in 'Aladdin.' We wrote the part
with him in mind, but his performance, complete with his brilliant, improvised
flights of fancy, took us and the character far beyond what we had imagined. Robin's genie defied space, time, and
physics, and so did Robin's talent. Like
the genie it was immeasurable, thrilling, a cosmic explosion of wit and warmth. Robin brought magic into our lives, to his
animator/other half, Eric Goldberg, and to the scores of artists who brought
the genie to such vivid life on the screen.
But, most of all, Robin's magic touched millions of viewers who laughed
and were moved by him. We will cherish
the memory of this ever-giving man who made every life he touched, including
our own, better."
Master animator Eric Goldberg
Speaking of Eric Goldberg. When reps from Walt Disney
Animation Studios reached out to get this master animator's thoughts on Robin
Williams' untimely passing, Eric admitted that ...
"I am beyond devastated. I cannot express how
influential and important Robin was, and will continue to be, to me and
countless other animation artists. Robin gave those of us who worked on the
Genie so much humor, inspiration, and just sheer delight, that we were always
spoiled for choice whenever we came back from a recording session. Like the
Genie, Robin's immense talent could not be contained in the lamp. I think we
all knew, as the world does now, if there was ever a person who was tailor-made
for the medium of animation, it was Robin.
We have lost not just a great voice, though. We have lost a
warm, human, miraculous person whose numerous and amazing talents will continue
to inspire people for generations upon generations."
In fact, Goldberg was so determined to pay tribute to
Williams that -- earlier today -- he crafted this image of the Genie from
"Aladdin." Which shows a starry version of this much-beloved Disney
character staring down from the heavens at the lamp that once confined him.
This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post's Entertainment page on Tuesday, August 12th