In 1992, Disney’s animated feature “Aladdin” raked in a whopping $US504 million worldwide.
Part of the film’s success was due to Robin Williams’ beloved genie character, whom the late actor voiced and improvised so well that Disney decided to make Genie a pivotal role.
Williams ended up recording about 30 hours of written and improvised dialogue for “Aladdin” because, according to a 1993 interview with New York Magazine, he “wanted to leave something wonderful behind for his kids.”
So Williams took a hefty pay cut and agreed to be paid $US75,000 for his work on the Disney film instead of his usual fee of about $US8 million — but there was a catch. Williams did not want his voice used to merchandise products.
“I don’t want to sell stuff,” Williams later told New York. “It’s the one thing I don’t do.”
“We had a deal,” the actor later said on the “Today Show.” “The one thing I said was I will do the voice. I’m doing it basically because I want to be part of this animation tradition. I want something for my children. One deal is, I just don’t want to sell anything — as in Burger King, as in toys, as in stuff.”
Williams said Disney execs signed off on the deal, “Then all of a sudden, they release an advertisement — one part was the movie, the second part was where they used the movie to sell stuff. Not only did they use my voice, they took a character I did and overdubbed it to sell stuff. That was the one thing I said: ‘I don’t do that.’ That was the one thing where they crossed the line.”
Disney initially defended using Williams’ voice, saying, “He agreed to the deal, and then when the movie turned out to be a big hit, he didn’t like the deal he had made.”
But the studio quickly changed its tune and sent the actor an apology in the form of a Pablo Picasso painting estimated at the time to be worth $US1 million, according to artnet.
The painting was a self-portrait of the artist as Vincent van Gogh, which apparently really “clashed” with the Williams’ wilder home decor.
Williams’ friend and fellow actor Eric Idle even suggested Williams go on TV and burn the Picasso live as a form of protest.
Williams told New York that his previous “Mork & Mindy” merchandising was different because, “the image is theirs. But the voice, that’s me; I gave them myself. When it happened, I said, ‘You know I don’t do that.’ And they [Disney] apologised; they said it was done by other people.
“You realise now when you work for Disney why the mouse has only four fingers — because he can’t pick up a check,” he joked to the magazine.
When Williams died this August, Disney sent a final peace offering:
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