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Disney Aladdin’s Lead Genie Animator Storyboarded A ‘Zillion’ Of Robin Williams’ Impressions To Capture His Iconic Performance

This fall marks 30 years since the release of Disney’s Aladdin, and we cannot talk about the animated classic without remembering Robin Williams’ hilarious role of Genie. For the new Disney+ series Sketchbook, the character’s lead animator, Eric Goldberg, reminisced on creating the character through teaching viewers how to sketch the magical being right out of the Arabian Nights. He also spoke to CinemaBlend more in depth about making the 1992 movie. 

During our conversation, Eric Goldberg talked about how the animators arrived on Genie’s iconic look. Additionally, the Aladdin lead animator spoke about contributing to the late Robin Williams’ legacy on screen with Genie: 

I think I was the most moved sadly when Robin Williams passed away. The thing that I saw the most was the Genie on the internet and how that represented him to so many people and I was very moved by that. I don't think I helped solidify his amazing talent or legacy, but I'm certainly pleased to have been part of it. To a certain extent, I was trying to do him justice, I was trying to give a great Robin Williams performance in animation.

When the tragic news of Robin Williams death broke so many hearts almost eight years ago, a lot of Robin Williams fans remembered the actor through his incredible performance as Genie. Eric Goldberg, who was very much a part of bringing Williams' vocals to life through animation, was able to really see how the character touched so many people on that day, despite it being an especially somber time. 

To honor Robin Williams’ Genie, Eric Goldberg also recalled returning to the recordings from the actor to give fans more behind-the-scenes peeks of all his funny moments following the actor’s death. As he recalled: 

I listened to all 16 hours of his recordings, picked the ones that I thought were the funniest that didn't get into the movie and storyboarded those, and those are on the Aladdin Blu-ray. That contains an awful lot of material, it's squashed down to about seven minutes, but we had 16 hours of it to pull through. There was so much gold that he gave us, we were literally spoiled for choice as to what to put in the movie. One thing that's amazing to me is Robin's ability to give you variations.

When recalling his time working with Robin Williams’ Eric Goldberg was most dumbfounded by the number of impressions the Ms. Doubtfire actor could pull from when speaking the lines of Genie. He continued with these words: 

I had come up with a line during storyboarding when he was told about his powers, you know, 'three wishes, no substitutions, exchanges or refunds'. And so the one we put in the movie was him doing Groucho Marx. He also did it as Mr. Rogers, as W.C. Fields, as George Jessel, as a zillion different characters. And, I storyboarded all of them. The fact that he just, his brain could work so fast and be so funny that way was mind blowing. Absolutely amazing.

Eric Goldberg’s stories of Robin Williams remind how special he was in the voice booth, especially for Aladdin as Genie. Many of the moments you see in the movie are as a result of Robin Williams' improvisations. We should also take a moment to appreciate all the work Goldberg put into bringing his funny moments to life through the various animated moments that brought out the performance even further. 

Eric Goldberg is one of six animators featured in the Disney+ docuseries Sketchbook (opens in new tab). Each episode sees another Disney animator teaching us how to draw a famous Disney character, along with sharing their personal journey in animation and through the iconic characters they’ve helped bring to life. You can watch the series now with a Disney+ subscription and check out what other new movies and TV shows are on Disney+ this month here on CinemaBlend. 

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