When Disney reissues a feature or original film to DVD or Blu-ray, they
celebrate it with a screening at Hollywood’s El Capitan theater. The Blu-ray
premiere of Aladdin was such an event.
Seeing the 1992 film, fully remastered, on the big screen was an
exhilarating—and bittersweet—experience, as a key creative mind behind the film
could not attend.
Robin Williams’ presence was very much in evidence nevertheless, as
members of the cast and animation team sought new superlatives to describe the
joy of working with Williams, and the film that will forever bear his stamp.
“Eric Goldberg– the genius who animated the Genie–took a lot of Robin
Williams’ outtakes”, said Scott Weinger, who hosted the event. “What you see in
the movie is only a drop in the bucket. They have hours of Robin’s recordings.
Eric found some of his favorite ones and animated them.” It’s one of the new
special features on the Blu-ray.
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“Also they have footage of me recording with Robin, which is amazing to
me, to go back and see myself as a teenager having that experience.
Another feature showcasing Williams and his animated alter ego is called
“Genie 101”. Weinger explains: “I walk the viewers through all the references with
a lot of pop-up animation to explain them all, for those who might not know of
people like William F. Buckley and Ed Sullivan.”
Not that getting every reference is a requirement for enjoying the
film–as each successive generation proves when they fall in love with Warner
Brothers cartoons that are chock-full of nods and jabs. Weinger witnessed this
fact first hand. “I was in a row of the theater with my son and all his buddies–ages
6, 7 or 8–and when the scene where Robin is imitating Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver, ‘Did you rub my lamp? Are
you talkin’ to me?’ they were hysterical anyway. “I certainly hope none of them
had actually seen Taxi Driver at
their age, but Robin is just hilarious whether you get the references or not.”
Weinger currently has an office on the Disney Studios lot as a producer
and writer of the irreverent medieval comedy satire, Galavant, created by Tangled scribe Dan Fogelman with original
songs by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. “Alan Menken has nothing to prove
because he’s got more Oscars than anybody. He approaches this show with the
same level of energy and enthusiasm as when he was writing the music for Aladdin. And we’re very fortunate to
have Glenn Slater, one of today’s top lyricists. He’s just fantastic; so
clever. The stuff they write together just blows my mind.”
And Weinger 23 years after Aladdin’s original release still does the
voice. “When they have a new video to record, or there’s a parade at Tokyo
Disneyland, I just show up, have a cup of tea and Aladdin comes out! Even when
I was a teenager, people would comment on how much water and tea I would have
to have in the sessions. The thing about the Aladdin character is that he’s a
youthful character. He’s got tons and tons of energy. He doesn’t just say,
“Carpet, let’s go!” He says [in Aladdin voice], ‘CARPET, LET’S GO!!” So, as a
precaution, I always drink a lot of hot water and tea.
I’ve known Rick Dempsey [of Disney Character Voices] for decades now. We
still talk about how, when I went away to college, he would travel to the East
Coast and record my Aladdin dialogue in New York or Boston. I remember him
lugging his suitcase through the snow to get to my voiceover session. He’s a
really great guy.”