When Robin Williams refused to work with Disney again because of the Genie from 'Aladdin'

Throughout the career of Robin Williams There are many emblematic characters, but in the United States he is especially remembered for having lent his voice to the Genie of ‘Aladdin’. A highly applauded work but that antagonized the actor with Disney for breaching, in his opinion, the agreement he had reached with the studio.

The truth is Disney wanted Williams for the role from the get-go, even commissioning the person in charge of animating to study the actor’s routines to present a proof to Williams of what the study was looking for. The result was satisfactory and Williams agreed to charge only $ 75,000 for his work.

The showdown with Disney

The key was that Williams had a number of conditions, thinking above all that ‘Aladdin’ did not outshine ‘Toys’, the other film that was going to be released that same year and that ended up being a resounding failure. The actor himself remembered In an interview granted the following year what happened:

We had an agreement. I said I’d put out my voice. He did it because he wanted to be part of this lively tradition. I wanted something for my children. The agreement was that I did not want to sell anything, not at Burger King, toys or things like that.

Disney didn’t keep their end of the deal and they used their voice to sell things, something Williams himself summed up as “that’s where they passed the line“In fact, Williams had more than one run-in with Disney during the promotional campaign, mostly over something related to your poster.

Aladdin postersAladdin posters

Initially, Disney released the poster that you can see at the top left. In it there is no trace of the Genie, whose importance in the film grew remarkably thanks to the contributions of Williams, but the actor already showed his disagreement for the great importance of his character in which he was launched next. It was not agreed.

Things got even more complicated when walking through the city of Los Angeles shortly after the premiere of ‘Aladdin’, Williams found several billboards of the film dedicated exclusively to the Genie, without any trace of the rest of the characters of the film. Complained to Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of the studio at the time, who apologized and ordered the removal of the posters. But only of those in Los Angeles that Williams could see, as it was a nationwide campaign, something the actor would not discover until later.

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From anonymous Disney sources it was commented at the time the movie once became an actor hit “he did not like the agreement he had” So what “We do not use your voice in any way that you do not agree to contractually.“That may be the key, since those Williams requests were made informally in a gentlemen’s agreement with Katzenberg that was not recorded in writing.

Williams had no problem commenting publicly that he had no plans to return to work with Disney after what happened. Katzenberg tried to calm things down by sending a painting by Picasso as a gift to the actor that the studio had helped make him a star with titles like ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ or ‘The club of dead poets’. It did not work.

A momentary truce

King ThievesKing Thieves

Faced with Williams’ refusal to lend his voice to the Genie again, Disney chose to hire Dan Castellaneta, popular for being the voice of Homer Simpson, to take his place in both ‘The Return of Jafar’ and the animated series aired between 1994 and 1995. In fact, Castellaneta had also recorded most of the character’s scenes in ‘Aladdin and the King of Thieves’ when the miracle happened: Williams announced his return.

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Of course, Williams did not agree to return until Disney held a press conference to publicly apologize with him for what happened. This surely never would have happened under Katzenberg, but his departure from the studio made it possible, as his place was taken. Joe Roth, who had a good relationship with the actor.

However, neither can there be talk of a happy ending in the relationship between Disney and Williams, since the actor did not take the promotional efforts of the study too well with ‘The bicentennial man’ and since then he only returned to work once more with Disney in ‘Two very mature babysitters’, and it took ten years for it to happen.


Also, the death of Williams left us another surprise, as in his will He wanted to make it clear that he did not give Disney permission to use the rest of the recordings and outtakes he made of the Genie during the preparation of ‘Aladdin’. Apparently there are so many that you could even mount another film around it, but that will not finally happen.

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