Why Disney Had To Apologize to Robin Williams After ‘Aladdin’

Robin Williams masters his role of Genie to perfection. The Disney character is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic examples of a celebrity doing voice-over work in an animated film. His role as Aladdin’s beloved sidekick launched a whole new wave of stars tackling animated roles.

But after Williams’ needs weren’t met following production for Aladdin, the actor began insisting that he’d never work with Disney again. Disney felt the need to apologize to Williams after he discredited the corporation for lying to him. But what launched the feud between Williams and Disney in the first place?

In this handout image provided by Disney, actor Robin Williams (C) is recognized by Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Co.,and Mickey Mouse for Williams' work in "Aladdin,"
In this handout image provided by Disney, actor Robin Williams (C) is recognized by Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Co.,and Mickey Mouse for Williams’ work in ‘Aladdin’ | Adam Larkey/ Getty Images

Robin Williams agreed to star in ‘Aladdin’

According to the Dead Poets Society actor, he was willing to star in Aladdin on one condition: that the film didn’t use him as an excuse to market the movie.

As a big name in Hollywood, he was weary of the movie’s intentions for casting him. Did they genuinely want Williams for the part because they believed he was the best fit for the role? Or did Disney just want a big name in Hollywood so they could sell more tickets?

Following the film’s premiere, he began to believe that the movie was just using him for advertising purposes.

“We had a deal,” Williams said, according to The Los Angeles Times. “The one thing I said was I will do the voice. I’m doing it basically because I want to be part of this animation tradition. I want something for my children. One deal is, I just don’t want to sell anything–as in Burger King, as in toys, as in stuff.”

“Then all of a sudden, they release an advertisement,” he continued. “One part was the movie, the second part was where they used the film to sell stuff. Not only did they use my voice, but they also took a character I did and overdubbed it to sell stuff. That was the one thing I said: ‘I don’t do that.’ That was the one thing where they crossed the line.”

Disney apologized to Robin Williams for the misunderstanding

Once Williams started to badmouth Disney, the corporation apologized to the actor by giving him a Picasso painting. Yet, in response to Williams’ accusations, a source at the studio insisted that Williams approved of the marketing material.

“Every single piece of marketing material involving Robin Williams was run by Robin Williams,” the source revealed. “We did not use his voice in any way that he did not contractually agree to.”

“He agreed to the deal. And then when the movie turned out to be a big hit, he didn’t like the deal he had made.”

Disney later honored the star following his tragic death

Actor-comedian Robin Williams dances 10 July in Los Angeles with the Disney character "Genie" during a celebration for the scheduled 13 August world release of the film 'Aladdin'
Robin Williams dances with the Disney character ‘Genie’ during a celebration for the world release of the film ‘Aladdin’ | JOHN T. BARR/AFP via Getty Images

Following Williams’ tragic death in 2014, Disney CEO Robert Iger released a statement honoring the actor. It said,

“We’re deeply saddened by the loss of Robin Williams, a wonderfully gifted man who touched our hearts and never failed to make us laugh. An incredible actor and a comedic genius, Robin will always be remembered for bringing some of the world’s favorite characters to life, from his zany alien on ABC’s Mork & Mindy to the irascible Genie in Disney’s Aladdin. He was a true Disney Legend, a beloved member of our family, and he will be sorely missed. We join Robin’s friends and fans everywhere in mourning and offer our thoughts and condolences to his family during this difficult time.”