Sitting right up there with the likes of Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh among the most beloved Disney animated characters of all time is the Genie. Robin Williams’ wisecracking blue-skinned wish-granter is everyone’s favorite part of 1992’s Aladdin, and while Will Smith’s variant from the 2019 live-action version wasn’t actually all that bad, there’s no beating the original. We’ve never had a friend like him.

As much as the much-missed Williams’ performance is undoubtedly a major reason for his popularity, though, let’s not overlook the fact that the Genie is a beautifully animated creation, with his distinctive character design perfectly complimenting Williams’ charming, cheeky vocals. But which Disney animator deserves credit for not just his original appearance but for bringing him back to life for Disney’s big 100th birthday celebrations?

The Genie’s original animator resurrected the character for Disney’s 100th anniversary

Genie greets Olaf from Frozen in a Disney animation studio.
Image via Disney

The supervising animator responsible for working on the Genie in Aladdin was Eric Goldberg. Nowadays a distinguished Disney veteran, who’s worked on such iconic productions as Pocahontas, Hercules, and Fantasia 2000, Aladdin was one of Goldberg’s first jobs at the company, and yet he was entrusted with an incredibly important task. In order to convince Williams to accept the part, the filmmakers asked Goldberg to animate the Genie to one of the comedian’s stand-up routines.

The pitch, which included a moment in which the Genie grew another head to argue with himself, caused Williams to “laugh his ass off,” and he agreed to play the role on the spot. Considering Disney owes Goldberg a debt for getting Williams to sign on, then, it’s only right that he was invited back to resurrect the character one more time for Once Upon a Studio, the documentary celebrating Disney’s legendary animated history to mark the studio’s centenary.

The special, which is available to stream, includes one scene in which Frozen‘s Olaf meets Aladdin‘s Genie, with the latter character quipping, “I haven’t seen a fall like that since Rome.” This was a clip of unused Williams dialogue taken from the many hours of outtakes he recorded for the original Aladdin, which Once Upon a Studio‘s team were able to recover from Disney’s vaults with the permission of Williams’ estate.

To mark the Genie’s return, Goldberg reflected to Entertainment Weekly that Williams’ performance was always key to how he brought the character to life, commenting he wanted to make him “as broad-ranging as his vocal cords.” Goldberg added that, after living with the Genie so long, he’s now “a guy who just kind of flows out of my fingers. It’s not that I don’t have to think about it, but it’s a comfort fit.” He continued: “The Genie and I have been friends for many years, and to revisit him in this film is always a joy.”

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