Robin Williams Posthumously Appears In Disney Short, Fans Aren’t Happy About It

in Disney, Movies

(R-L) Actor Robin Williams, and the Genie from Aladdin

Credit: Inside the Magic

After passing away in 2015, Robin Williams has finally returned to the role of the Genie from Aladdin (1992) to take part in a new animated short. However, not all Disney fans are happy about it.

Robin Williams as the Genie and Josh Gad as Olaf in the Once Upon A Studio animated short
Credit: Josh Gad Instagram

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The Walt Disney Company is still celebrating its 100th anniversary with constant tributes located at its parks and in various films and shorts. In fact, one recently premiered at the Annecy Film Festival, titled Once Upon A Studio (2023),

The short features the return of around 400 beloved Disney characters, springing to life inside an animator’s studio. They range from old classics like Bambi (1942) to modern-day marvels like Zootopia (2016). It’s a loving tribute to one hundred years of Walt Disney Animation, creating classic characters and stories that will last the ages.

Aladdin's genie with chin on hand
Credit: Disney

But the character that has people most excited is the Genie from Aladdin, memorably originated by the late great Robin Williams. One of the most beloved actors and comedians of all time, Williams is well-remembered for his performances in Good Will Hunting (1997), Happy Feet (2006), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Bicentennial Man (1999), Patch Adams (1998), and The Birdcage (1996) alongside Nathan Lane.

Despite Williams passing away in 2015, Walt Disney Animations Studios has brought back his iconic character by animating and creating dialogue based on unused audio from the Academy Award-winning actor. While this has made Once Upon A Studio a must-see for most fans, there are others who are wildly upset.

Fans Say Robin Williams Didn’t Want His Likeness Used

Robin Williams as Peter Pan in Hook
Credit: TriStar Pictures


Over the years, Robin Williams’ dissatisfaction with how Disney handled the marketing for Aladdin was widely publicized. The Dead Poets Society (1989) actor hated how his likeness took over all the posters and commercials, so he swore he would never work for Disney again. That is, until there was a leadership change, and Williams was back in. However, Fans are still against any extra footage of his original performance being used again after his tragic death due to mental illness.

According to Twitter user Dave Lee, “Really excited for this [Disney 100] short — but SO confused at Disney continually releasing “unheard audio” / outtakes, etc. from Robin Williams’ Genie performance despite his wishes that nothing of the kind was to be released. Feels especially distasteful after this death.”

robin williams with butterfly
Credit: Disney

Another user agreed, sharing a link to a Guardian article sharing how Williams wrote a deed stating that his likeness cannot be used in any film or publicity until 2039.

While there are arguments about whether a person’s voice counts as their image or likeness, something else trumps those arguments: Robin Williams’ Estate. And according to his costar in the short, all of these fans are wrong about what the Good Morning Vietnam (1987) actor would want.

Josh Gad Says Williams’ Estate Approved The Short

Josh Gad on the Conan O'Brien show Wonder Man
Credit: Team Coco

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Fans of Robin Williams aren’t the only people who took to Twitter to debate whether Williams’ appearance is appropriate. His costar in the animated short, Josh Gad as Olaf from Frozen (2013), stated that this was done with his Estate’s approval.

“Incorrect info here bud. Won’t say more but this was not done to my knowledge without the consent of [his] family. Please don’t spread misinformation before getting facts. I knew Robin personally, and would never agree to do anything unless I knew that it had consent.”

Credit: Screenshot via Disney

Gad continued in a second Tweet, “In fact, I know for a fact, Disney did not do this without reaching out to the Estate. They had the blessing before ever committing to doing this beautiful tribute to my hero.”

You can tell Gad was excited about starring opposite Williams because of the way he announced the short on his Instagram account. “Now that it’s premiered at Annecy, I’m so excited to finally have the world see what [Disney Animation] has created to celebrate the incredible 100-year legacy of the studio. I nearly cried when I was told Olaf would appear alongside the Genie, utilizing previously unheard audio from my idol, Robin Williams.”

Either way, it’s exciting to get something new from an actor who was taken from the world far too soon. Hopefully, Once Upon A Studio is a fitting tribute to the Walt Disney legacy and Robin Williams as well.

Do you think Walt Disney Animation Studios should have used old Robin Williams footage? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!

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