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17th Oct 2023

Robin Williams’ real voice from past recordings is being used in new Disney film

BY Steve Hopkins

We love Robin Williams!!

Robin Williams is continuing to delight fans, with the late actor making a surprise cameo as Aladdin’s charismatic Genie in Disney’s latest short film.

Despite passing away in August 2014, William’s real voice is used alongside a host of other characters in Disney’s Once Upon A Studio film.

The short premiered at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in June and had its first public showing on ABC on Sunday as part of The Wonderful World of Disney: Disney’s 100th Anniversary Celebration.

While AI has been a hot topic of contention in Hollywood, especially when it comes to bringing actors back from the dead, Once Upon A Studio producer Yvett Merino has stated this isn’t the case with the Genie.

“It was actually direct lines from past recordings,” Merino told Polygon.

“When we do animated recordings on any feature, there are a number of takes. So we were able to find this line that fits so well in our short.”

In the short, William’s Genie appears out of a pad of paper Frozen’s Olaf is drawing on, making him fall to the ground.

He then jokes, “I haven’t seen a fall like that since Rome” before he puts Olaf back together.

Disney Animation Studios’ chief creative officer, Jennifer Lee, said the company spoke to Williams’ estate about his inclusion in the new film and got its blessing, something Merino added was, “so important.”

“So many of us who work here at Disney Animation were inspired by Aladdin and Robin’s performance. It meant the world that they said yes to his inclusion in the short.

“And [it was] so special that Eric Goldberg, who animated Genie for the [original] feature film, did the animation here as well.”

William’s daughter, Zelda, previously criticised AI renderings of her father’s voice, slamming it as “disturbing”.

Brad Simonsen, a producer on the short film, said the studio has “a flat no on [AI] right now”.

He also highlighted the care the team took in putting the celebratory short together.

“What Dan Abraham [studio director] and Trent Correy [shorts director and animator] were specific about was, we were hoping to get back the animators [who originally served as lead animators on some of the short’s characters], because in 2D, in hand-drawn, a supervisor actually led for that character,” he added.

“They were the ones who kept that character on model for the whole show. So bringing back those folks who led those characters was a dream.”

Fans who missed the short film can watch it on Fubo TV and Hulu+ Live TV.