Why Robin Williams Refused to Work With Disney After ‘Aladdin’

Robin Williams is iconic in his role as Genie from Aladdin. He accepted the offer to play the beloved sidekick in the Disney film after being courted by filmmakers during production. Yet he only agreed to the part on one condition: that the movie wouldn’t use him as a marketing tool to sell more tickets. And when this wish wasn’t fulfilled, Williams and Disney struck up a major feud that spanned several years.

Robin Williams
Robin Williams | Vera Anderson/WireImage

Disney worked hard to get Robin Willaims to play the Genie

Despite the tumultuous relationship between the late actor and Disney, the filmmakers behind Aladdin were persistent in their attempts to get Williams in the movie. Before Williams played the role of the Genie, it wasn’t common for A-list celebrities to do voice work in animated films. In fact, most celebrities at the time frowned upon it.

But Disney was willing to do whatever they could to get the comedic actor on board. They even animated the Genie doing one of Williams’ standup routines. This ultimately worked to win him over, and he felt honored to be a part of the “animated tradition.”

But when Williams bargained a specific condition to Disney that they didn’t end up fulfilling, he wasn’t willing to work with the corporation again.

Robin Williams refused to work with Disney after ‘Aladdin’

Robin Williams dances with the Disney character 'Genie' during a celebration for the 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

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According to Williams, he gladly agreed to star in Aladdin, as long as they didn’t use him for advertising purposes.

“We had a deal,” the actor revealed (via The LA 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.”

At first, Williams was confident that Disney would follow his wishes. But that all changed when the corporation started using the actor to market the movie. “Then all of a sudden, they release an advertisement–one part was the movie, the second part was where they used the movie 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.”

And when Williams was asked whether he’d ever work with Disney again, he said “I don’t think so.” Yet if he ever did return to Disney, he’d say to them: “You lied.”

The feud between Williams and Disney didn’t last forever

Fortunately, though, the feud didn’t last forever. Disney apologized to Williams by giving him a Picasso painting. And Williams, who initially said he probably wouldn’t work with Disney again, ended up voicing Genie once more in Aladdin 3Aladdin and the King of Thieves.