The makers of the wonderful new short Once Upon a Studio used outtakes from Robin Williams’ Genie sessions to feature the character.
Disney has been commemorating their 100th anniversary all year long. From theme park celebrations to a massive 100-film box set, the studio has gone all-out for the special occasion. But their most recent short film, the live action/animation hybrid Once Upon a Studio — now available for streaming on Disney+ — might be the most touching of all. And while it’s filled with hundreds of cameos, one that stands out is Genie from Aladdin, voiced by none other than Robin Williams — not just in the 1992 classic but in Once Upon a Studio as well.
It has been more than nine years since Robin Williams’ devastating death but those behind Once Upon a Studio knew that not only was the presence of Genie crucial, but so was getting the voice. After all, Williams made him one of the most beloved characters in the studio’s history. Thankfully, Williams wasn’t resurrected through the use of AI but rather unused audio from the recording sessions. And considering he recorded well over 24 hours worth of dialogue, the team definitely had a wealth to choose from.
As producer Bradford Simonsen told Variety, not only was obtaining Robin Williams’ Genie voice necessary but Disney also wanted the blessing of the estate. “We tried to take them on the journey with us to say, ‘We’ve got this very special short that we’re doing. Robin as the genie means so much to so many people and we would really love to involve him. So Dan [Abraham, co-director] listened to the outtakes from the original recording and he found those little bites that we could use. We went back to the estate and said, ‘This is what we hope to do.’ Eric [Goldberg, artist], who originally animated the genie is on the show, and he’s going to be part of it.’ And it was wonderful to see that happen.”
While a Disney celebration of this magnitude wouldn’t be complete without Robin Williams’ Genie — who appears alongside Olaf from Frozen — one does wonder how the comedian would have felt considering he had a falling out with the House of Mouse over their use of the character concerning marketing and tie-in merchandise.
How do you think Disney did with Robin Williams and Genie in Once Upon a Studio? What was your favorite moment from the short?