After the Aladdin TV series had run its course Disney decided to wrap up the franchise with the direct to video special, Aladdin and the King of Thieves. While the previous film, The Return of Jafar, was of lower quality since it had originally been conceived as a TV pilot, King of Thieves was allocated higher production values once Robin Williams became involved.
This only happened after Dan Castellaneta (who played Genie in The Return of Jafar and the series) had recorded his lines, but it was worth it to Disney to push back the release of the film and even add new scenes to accommodate Williams.
According to the writers of the film, Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley (who are now executive producers on Disney’s Big Hero 6 The Series) they tried to take their best guess at the kind of things Williams could do with the material.
“Then of course, he did his own,” remembers Schooley. “A few of our jokes made it, and we were happy about that, but Robin goes off.”
One scene that was specifically created for Williams was the touching scene where Genie tries to cheer Jasmine up after Aladdin has gone out to track down the forty thieves.
“We thought the movie had, because of the comedy and action, a fairly relentless pace, and it needed a gentle scene,” remember McCorkle. “We felt Robin would bring something special to it.”
Williams took about a week to record the lines for the film. For McCorkle and Schooley, who were big fans of Williams stand up, it was a gift to see Williams basically do stand up in the booth for four hours a day.
“He just gives so many choices. His mind worked so fast,” McCorkle recalls of the recording, “It was the only time in my life where I would go at the end of a day and I would be in pain from laughing too much. There were muscles in my stomach hurting.”
While King of Thieves isn’t as well known as the original film (which just celebrated its 25th anniversary), the presence of Robin Williams makes it worth revisiting.
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