Disney’s 100th Anniversary Short Features Robin Williams Returning as the Genie

Disney’s 100th Anniversary short, “Once Upon A Studio,” brings back the iconic character, the Genie, known from the classic film, Aladdin. This short film marks Disney’s centennial celebration and features the Genie, once again voiced by the late Robin Williams, through the use of previously unused voice lines from the original movie, without employing artificial intelligence.

With Robin Williams having passed away in 2014, Disney delved into their archives to find unreleased voice recordings from the original Aladdin and sought permission from Williams’ estate to utilize them. Producer Bradford Simonsen emphasized their desire to involve Williams’ legacy in this special project, stating, “Robin as the genie means so much to so many people.”

The Genie character was a beloved figure when Aladdin premiered in 1992, making his return crucial for Disney’s 100-year anniversary celebration, as only Williams’ unique charm could do justice to the character. Director Dan Abraham listened to the outtakes from the initial recording to find suitable clips that could be incorporated into the new short. Simonsen explained, “We went back to the estate and said, ‘This is what we hope to do.’ Eric [Goldberg], who originally animated the genie, is on the show, and he’s going to be part of it.”

“Once Upon A Studio” uses a blend of live-action footage, hand-drawn animation, and CGI animation to resurrect 543 classic Disney characters. Notable figures like Mickey Mouse, Elsa and Anna from Frozen, Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan are featured in this short film.

The story unfolds after everyone has left Disney’s studios for the night, allowing these iconic characters to come to life. Their escapades shed light on Disney’s rich history of animation. The film’s teaser trailer has Mickey Mouse asking, “Is that it, they all gone?” before characters venture out of their frames and artwork.

Simonsen shared that each character was meticulously crafted to evoke the feeling that they had just stepped out of their original films, aiming for a strong emotional response from the audience. They referred to the animation research library, utilizing model sheets for the animators and collaborating with Eric Goldberg, who possesses an extensive understanding of the studio’s history.

“Once Upon A Studio” premiered on ABC on October 15 and is available on Disney+ from October 16. It is a heartwarming homage to Disney’s century of animated storytelling.

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