Aladdin Producer Calls Backlash To Will Smith's Genie 'Unexpected'

Will Smith as Genie in the Aladdin remake

Aladdin was a monster of a movie, raking in over $1 billion at the global box office. While Disney is somewhat used to that sort of success, the fact is that Aladdin's overwhelmingly positive response from the audience was somewhat surprising for the studio, considering that prior to the film's release, all anybody could talk about was Will Smith's Genie, and how terrible he apparently looked.

The first look at Will Smith's Genie set fans off because the character wasn't blue. Then, when the first trailer showed the blue version of the character, fans seemed to go off on it even more. Producer Dan Lin recently admitted that, while they were certainly expecting some amount of negative response to the character when he was revealed, the filmmakers really wren't expecting the response that they got. According to Lin...

Yeah, we expected some backlash. I'll be honest, we did not expect the amount of backlash that we actually got. I feel like it really became part of the popular culture, when we're on the news with people talking about how the Genie looked. We never expected that kind of reaction. But, certainly, we expected some kind of backlash. Given that he’s an iconic character; Robin Williams created a character that everyone loved in their childhood. Naturally when you take that character and turn it into a real-life live action character, it's going to bump some people. But we did not expect the reaction we got.

Clearly, Will Smith's version of the character was the freshest of takes on one of Disney's most popular animated characters. The Genie and Robin Williams are as tightly linked together as a hand drawn image and a voice actor can be. Producer Dan Lin told ScreenRant that he knew seeing anybody else in that role was going to create some backlash.

What we saw however, was something quite different. While there was certainly some negative reaction for Will Smith's more, well, Will Smith version of the Genie, most of the criticism was simply about how the character looked. There was a feeling that the CGI that turned Smith into a swole Genie was just a bit off, and the fear was that bad look will take away from the film as a whole.

For the most part, the fear was unnecessary. While many critics did agree that the big blue Genie wasn't perfect in a technical sense, people largely felt that it wasn't so bad that the movie couldn't still be enjoyed, and people certainly enjoyed the movie, to the tune of $1.044 billion in ticket sales globally.

On paper, something like the Aladdin remake seems destined to make a boatload of money at the box office. Disney has been largely successful with its live-action remakes and the movies that have done the best as remakes are the ones where the original has stood the test of time the best, like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Aladdin would seem to be in the same company.

However, due to the negative social media reaction, it seems that going into opening weekend the filmmakers were far from confident that Aladdin would even be successful, nevermind become a massive hit. As Dan Lin told me when I spoke to him about the same topic, nobody was assuming that Aladdin was poised to become a breakout hit.

That certainly wasn't our assumption going in. If you followed the online chatter, we were really getting bashed online. A lot of negative talk about Will Smith and his interpretation of the Genie and how the Genie looked and could anyone be as good as Robin Williams? So, there was a lot of negativity going in on social media. Certainly, we were definitely concerned and glad that once people saw the movie that went away very quickly.

The fears went away so quickly and easily that not only was Aladdin a massive hit, but it's already got the studio considering sequel options. The upcoming Maleficent: Mistress of Evil shows that sequels to live-action remakes are certainly on the table, and the original animated Aladdin had a pair of direct-to-video sequels that could be turned into live action remakes, or we could see a sequel go in a completely new direction.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.