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Apparently Gilbert Gottfried Feared Aladdin Was ‘Going To Be Terrible’ And Didn’t Mind Telling The Animators

We recently lost one of comedy’s most iconic voices in Gilbert Gottfried, who died on April 12 after battling a long illness. As Hollywood remembers the late talent, we cannot forget Gottfried’s hilarious role as Iago the parrot in 1992’s Aladdin. One of the film’s lead animators shared a funny tidbit about his time working with the actor on the classic Disney movie. 

Eric Goldberg, who was the lead animator for Genie on the musical based on a story from the Arabian Nights, recalled working with Gilbert Gottfried in the early ‘90s. As he recalled: 

I do have lots of memories of him and I liked him very, very much. And often we would be in publicity together and things like that. [Laughs] I think one of my favorite memories is sitting next to him at an Aladdin screening at the museum of modern art in LA. And he is going, 'Oh, no. Oh no, this is going to be terrible. This is gonna be another Newsies.' [Laughs]

When Eric Goldberg spoke fondly of Gilbert Gottfried, he also pulled out a near spot-on impression of the man himself, as he shared that the comedian didn’t have faith in the project. Of course, when Aladdin was made, it was a big swing for the studio following its hit princess fairytale The Little Mermaid. Gottfried apparently thought it was going to be “terrible” and let Goldberg know i. Of course he was proven wrong when Aladdin became the most successful film of 1992, grossing $504 million worldwide at the time. 

When Gilbert Gottfried was approached for Aladdin, his comedic material wasn’t on brand for Disney. Aladdin’s directors Ron Clements and John Musker were looking for a warm-up act for Robin Williams’ Genie, considering Aladdin doesn’t rub the lamp until close to 40 minutes into the movie. The filmmakers had to first sell the idea to Walt Disney Studios’ chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg. In order to do this, they showed him Gottfried’s scene from Beverly Hills Cop II, per The Ringer. 30 years later, it’s his most well-known role. 

When reflecting on Aladdin back in 2018 with People, Gilbert Gottfried shared his thoughts on the movie’s success and its place in his legacy. As he said: 

I remember when the movie came out it was a monster hit and still, when I look at my career, I look at [Aladdin] and go, ‘Ok, that one I know for a fact is a quality work.’

Eric Goldberg reflected on Gottfried alongside reminiscing on his time animating Robin Williams’ performance as Genie. During our interview with the Disney animator, Goldberg shared how the studio arrived to the character’s beloved look. He also recalled storyboarding a “zillion” impressions from Williamsthe actor ahead of completing the movie. Williams died back in 2014, to a ton of tributes remembering the actor particularly for playing the Genie in Aladdin

The Disney animator is featured in an episode of the new docuseries Sketchbook, where he and other animators from the studio teaches viewers to draw a character from a famous Disney movie along with offering their own insight in their profession. You can check out Sketchbook and revisit Gilbert Gottfried’s hilarious performance as Iago in Aladdin with a Disney+ subscription.  

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