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The Genie Has a Gripe With Disney : Movies: Robin Williams goes public with his beef with Disney over 'Aladdin' marketing and says he won't work for 'the Mouse' again.

November 25, 1993|ROBERT W. WELKOS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Actor Robin Williams, doing little to disguise his anger and pulling on an imaginary nose a la Pinocchio, accused the Walt Disney Co. Wednesday of lying to him and breaching an agreement not to use his voice to merchandise products inspired by the hit animated film "Aladdin."

Williams, who won critical acclaim for his voice work as the chameleonlike wisecracking Genie in the 1992 film, said it was too late for him to sue the studio but said he was hurt and indicated that he may not work for Disney again.

Disney executives would not comment on his remarks, but sources familiar with the dispute characterized Williams' comments as "sour grapes" because he was paid scale of $75,000 for his work on an animated film that went on to gross more than $200 million domestically.

Williams' comments came during an interview on "The Today Show," where he was interviewed as part of a segment designed to publicize Williams' latest film, "Mrs. Doubtfire," a 20th Century Fox release.

"You realize now when you work for Disney why the mouse has only four fingers--because he can't pick up a check," Williams told interviewer Gene Shalit. Williams makes a similar comment in the Nov. 22 issue of New York magazine.

"We had a deal," the actor said on the NBC 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."

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Williams said Disney executives agreed to honor his wishes, "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."

A source at the studio repudiated the actor's comments.

"Every single piece of marketing material involving Robin Williams was run by Marsha (the actor's wife) and Robin Williams," the source said. "We did not use his voice in any way that he did not contractually agree to.

"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."

Disney later sent him a late Picasso painting as a way of thanking him for his work.

Meanwhile, when Williams was asked on NBC whether he would work again for Disney, he replied: "I don't think so." If he does ever go back there, however, Williams added, he would tell them: "You lied."

Some film industry sources said they were surprised that Williams would begin "trashing" the studio in public, noting that he has achieved box-office success with films he has made for the studio.

"In true Hollywood fashion, people's memories aren't that long," said one source, who asked not to be identified. "Robin Williams' career was made by (Disney movies) 'Good Morning, Vietnam' and 'Dead Poets Society.' "

When the movie was released in theaters last year, television commercials featured the Genie with Williams' voice, but commercials for merchandising tie-ins did not, Disney sources said.

In the New York article, Williams went further in explaining why he was upset with Disney:

"In 'Mork & Mindy,' they did Mork dolls--I didn't mind the dolls; the image is theirs. But the voice, that's me; I gave them my self. When it happened, I said, 'You know I don't do that.' And they apologized; they said it was done by other people."

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