By Terry Flores / Variety.com
Improv in voice acting has been a part of Disney films going all the way back to “Snow White.” But Robin Williams’ Genie [in “Aladdin”] was something extraordinary. [Co-writer and co-director] John Musker and I wrote the original script with the specific idea that Robin would voice the genie and that he would be a visual as well as vocal shape-shifter. Robin would be encouraged to improvise to his heart’s content.
On the first day of recording [Genie’s intro] we had script pages written in Robin’s improv style and storyboards illustrating some of the visual metamorphosing we were planning. He started out recording the script as written a few times, then took off in a multitude of directions. The original scene was meant to be about three minutes long. Each take, Robin would add and embellish, so by the 25th (and last) take, the scene had expanded to about 20 minutes long! Robin kept coming up with more and more ideas. And he was consistently hilarious. At one point, we had to remove the genie’s lead animator, Eric Goldberg, from the recording stage because his uncontrollable laughter was messing up takes.