Disney Used Robin Williams’ Real Voice in Once Upon a Studio

Disney Used Robin Williams' Real Voice in Once Upon a Studio

The animated, mega-cameo-filled short film Once Upon a Studio is now streaming on Disney+ to celebrate Disney’s 100-year anniversary.

The special release features so many classic animated characters in a heartfelt love letter to the legacy of Disney across all the generations. It is bittersweet, as these characters are voiced by incredible actors who made them iconic and without whom a centennial would not have been possible (something worth noting, as the SAG-AFTRA strike continues). Nevertheless, the short, which was produced before the strikes, hits all of the nostalgia feels for everyone who grew up on formative Disney movies; it features so many favorites, including Aladdin’s Genie, who—thanks to hard work and Disney magic—is still voiced by the late, great Robin Williams.

“Robin Williams is very special. And of course, Genie is one of our special iconic characters. We worked closely with the Williams estate to make sure that they were along for the journey. We pitched them the film and they loved it. We pitched it in board, so they saw it very early on,” shared producer Yvett Merino on making the magic happen. “And the recording that you hear is actually one of the recordings [from Aladdin outtakes].”

Co-writer and director Trent Correy further explained the process that went into using the familiar faces and voices in the short. “[Our] legal team, whether it was using the look of a character or the sound, they went to extreme efforts to do that and we absolutely went to the estate right away to get proper permission for all the characters.”

Dan Abraham, the other half of the filmmaking team, was up to the task of scouring Robin Williams’ Aladdin booth recording outtakes. “[There were] 16 hours of footage of them recording Robin for the Genie. And every time he would say something that they didn’t use, I would go back into my Disney Rolodex in my head and be like, ‘Oh!’ and I would write down the time code and the line,” he said. “We wanted to piece together a moment between [Frozen character] Olaf and the Genie. And so we just came up with the scenario and the dialogue, and it goes by real quick.”

You can watch Once Upon a Studio on Disney+.

This article, which includes film/tv characters from major studios, was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of actors currently on strike, the films and TV covered here wouldn’t exist.

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