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'Aladdin's' Genie Gets His Zany Voice Back

August 09, 1996|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Disney was so excited when Robin Williams agreed to reprise his role as the wisecracking Genie in "Aladdin and the King of Thieves" that the studio redid one-third of the made-for-video cartoon.

Tad Stones, producer and director of the second sequel to the 1992 animated feature "Aladdin," says work was almost completed on the movie, which arrives in stores Tuesday ($25), when Williams informed the studio of his interest in providing the voice of the big blue guy.

Williams had a very public falling out with Disney because of the studio's use of his Genie voice for merchandising. So for the sequel, "The Return of Jafar," the studio hired Dan Castellaneta (best known as the voice of Homer in "The Simpsons") for the Genie voice.

That video sold 10 million copies, so work began on "King of Thieves," using Castellaneta again. Then Disney and Williams made up.

At that point, Stones recalls, "We had finished animation; we had color back. But the nice thing about Disney, especially in animation, was there was no feeling we would have to have Robin lip-sync the Genie that already existed."

With Williams on board, Stones and his team of animators at Disney's studios in Tokyo and Sydney, Australia, threw out at least one-third of the movie. And not just the scenes involving the Genie.

"Not only was Robin a great asset to the film and fun to work with," Stone says, "in addition, we took the time to reexamine the rest of the film--just exactly how the emotional things are going. Should we check back with Jasmine again? How do Aladdin and his father interact? We redid a lot of that stuff."

In "King of Thieves," Aladdin and Jasmine finally get hitched and Aladdin is reunited with his long-lost father, Cassim, the King of Thieves. Along the way, Williams' Genie tosses out one-liners faster than a speeding bullet and morphs into Steamboat Willie, Mrs. Doubtfire and Woody Allen.

Besides Williams, the film also features the original "Aladdin" voice cast of Scott Weinger (Aladdin), Linda Larkin (Jasmine) and Gilbert Gottfried (Iago). John Rhys-Davis supplies the voice of Cassim and Jerry Orbach is the evil Sa'luk.

Williams, Stones says, was the most prepared actor with whom he's worked. "He thinks visually," Stones explains. "Sometimes he throws in sound effects when he performs. It really helped us out. He saw the palace around him and he would do a gag about an object he would assume would be in the palace. Before recording Robin, the writers went back into the script and really watched a bunch of Robin's films and listened to the rhythm of his humor and his delivery and rewrote a lot of the material. Certain lines in the film are scripted and there are a certain amount of ad-lib lines."

In fact, Stones says, there are more ad-libs than in the original. "We really let him have the room to expand and just found the right story points he could jump off on," he says. "The biggest ad-lib sequence was 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Magical.' That grew out of a few ad-libs."

Stones says the animators were excited about working with the man who created the original character. "We videotaped one of the days where he was recording, not so they could imitate his acting per line, but just so they could see how he moved and how his eyes flashed and how he smiles."

Mars on Film: With the news from NASA Tuesday that an ancient Martian rock found in Antarctica 12 years ago contains fossil-like structures that scientists believe represent ancient forms of life, it is time to break out the Mars bars and watch our favorite Martian-themed movies on video.

The low-budget 1953 comedy "Abbott and Costello Go to Mars" (MCA/Universal, $15) finds the duo accidentally on a rocket headed for outer space. Oddly enough, however, they land on Venus.

In the 1945, 15-part Republic serial "D-Day on Mars" (Republic, $30), the alien invader called the Purple Monster tries to attack Earth.

Larry "Buster" Crabbe stars in the enjoyable 1938 serial "Flash Gordon: Mars Attacks the World" (Cable Films and Video, $40). This time out, the Earth is under attack by the evil Ming, and Flash saves the day.

The 1959 sci-fi cult adventure "The Angry Red Planet" (Nostalgia, $20) finds astronauts landing on Mars and encountering a series of wild and crazy monsters. Filmed in "Cinemagic," which turns everything almost pink.

One of the best Martian movies is 1953's "Invaders From Mars" (Media, $20), in which a little boy alone witnesses the invasion of his small town by aliens. Poorly remade in 1986 by director Tobe Hooper (Media, $40).

One of the greatest bad movies ever made is 1964's "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" (Columbia TriStar, $20), starring John Call, Leonard Hicks and a little green-faced Pia Zadora. It's about a Martian spaceship landing on Earth and kidnapping Santa because Martian tykes are jealous that Earth kids get to have Christmas.

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