Will Smith is looking at the glass half full when it comes to the internet backlash over his appearance as the Genie in Disney’s live-action “Aladdin.” Smith’s VFX character was unveiled for the first time February 10 in a teaser that debuted during the Grammy awards. Fan reaction to blue Will Smith was overwhelmingly negative. The actor’s appearance as the Genie launched hundreds of memes on the internet mocking the character’s look (many compared the Genie to Tobias Fünke in “Arrested Development”), but Smith tells Empire he took it all in good fun.
“It was very funny,” Smith said about the response to his Genie. “There was a Sonic the Hedgehog / Genie frog. Everything is under such critical scrutiny. I came up in an era where there was no internet. It’s a new thing that I’m trying to get a handle on.”
Ritchie told Empire that reaction to Smith’s appearance got better once the film’s official trailer dropped in March. “It even came with apologies from the cynics who were so adamant initially,” the director said. “I’ve never seen apologies in that world. I thought, ‘Oh well, great, we’re back to where I’d hoped we’d be.’”
The road has remained bumpy for “Aladdin” nonetheless. During its CinemaCon presentation earlier this month, Disney showed off footage from “Aladdin” of Smith’s Genie singing “Friend Like Me.” The scene, which Disney stressed was not completely done from a VFX standpoint, featured Smith rapping parts of the song. Press reactions to the footage were divided, with some going so far as calling Smith’s Genie look “pure nightmare fuel.”
“Aladdin” is will the second Disney remake released in 2019 following Tim Burton’s “Dumbo,” which didn’t exactly set the box office on fire. Following “Aladdin” is Jon Favreau’s “The Lion King.” Disney will be opening “Aladdin” in theaters nationwide May 24.