How Robin Williams Became The Genie In Aladdin

Aladdin is a 1992 American animated film produced and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Aladdin was the 31st animated film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, and was part of the Disney film era known as the Disney Renaissance.

Aladdin is based on the Arab folktale of Aladdin and the magic lamp from One Thousand and One Nights. The film was directed by John Musker and Ron Clements. The voice cast features Scott Weinger, Jonathan Freeman, Robin Williams, Linda Larkin, Frank Welker, Gilbert Gottfried, and Douglas Seale.

Although this was not the first time in which a major actor provided voice-over work for an animated film, it was the first major US animated feature film in which particular attention was paid to a celebrity cast member – such as a major movie star – in the film as part of its promotion.

How Robin Williams Became The Genie In Aladdin
The Genie In Aladdin

During the storyboard development, the writers were considering Robin Williams for the Genie’s role, but at that point they hadn’t offered him to participate in the project. There’s even an anecdote about how Robin Williams was hired for this role.

In order to convince Williams to do the role, Disney president Jeffrey Katzenberg asked him to drop by the Disney Studios. During the talk Jeffrey showed to Robin a nearby TV monitor. On the screen was an animated Robin Williams doing a performance from his album Reality… What a Concept. Eric Goldberg, animator who had put together the test animation, had done a masterful job of transforming Robin into toon form. Williams was very impressed and asked what it was that the Mouse wanted him to do now. Katzenberg laid it on the line: ‘We’d like you to join the cast of Aladdin as the voice of the Genie.’

But Williams had a few conditions he wanted Disney to agree to before formally signing up to work on Aladdin. He insisted that Disney Studio couldn’t use his name or image to promote the film, since his next live action film, Toys was due to be released after Aladdin. Williams also agreed to lower his standard fee of $8 million per picture to the Screen Actor Guild minimum. At that time that was $485 a day.


Aladdin was released on November 25, 1992 and was the most successful movie of 1992, earning over $217 million in revenue in the United States, and over $504 million worldwide. The movie also won many awards, most of them for its soundtrack.


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