13 Stories From Behind The Scenes Of Disney’s Original ‘Aladdin’

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Vote up the surprising tales and making-of tidbits that take you on a magic carpet ride.

Behind the scenes of Aladdin is a whole world (perhaps new to you) of creators, actors, musicians, animators, and even a bit of controversy. The original 1992 Aladdin is one of the best cartoon Disney movies, according to fans, but most viewers probably don't know much about the making of Aladdin.

The soundtrack, with songs like "A Whole New World" and "Friend Like Me," features the music of Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice. Robin Williams is the most recognizable cast member from Aladdin. Nearly everyone he worked with during his lifetime said wonderful things about him, but he made some unusual requests during this film's production.

The movie itself was considered controversial for several reasons after its release, although it did go on to win two Academy Awards, for best original song and score. You might be surprised at some of the behind-the-scenes details about Aladdin.

  • 1
    207 VOTES

    Williams Recorded His Role In Four Sessions Filled With "Detours"

    Williams was in the middle of filming Hook when he worked on Aladdin, but that didn't stop him from putting in as much effort as possible. His scenes were heavily improvised, and all his lines were done in 16 hours. Animator Eric Goldberg recalled:

    We only had Robin for four four-hour sessions. He gave us 150%. Contrary to what a lot of people think, Robin didn’t bounce off the walls all the time.

    While he delivered his lines as instructed, he took a lot of "detours" along the way. The filmmakers had to sort through the 16 hours of material to find Williams's best moments. 

    207 votes
  • Aladdin directors Ron Clements and John Musker were shocked when Disney Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg asked them to start over only 19 months before the release date.

    Katzenberg didn't like the directors' script or the story reel, so he told them to give it another try without pushing back the release date. Musker recalled:

    We scrambled. One of the first things that happened is we were in production and people were going to be coming from Beauty and the Beast imminently, so we auditioned some writers to help us out.

    They called that stressful moment "Black Friday." Despite the complications, Clements and Musker completed the film on time and set it up for success.

    85 votes
  • When Robin Williams took on the role of Genie, he agreed to a pay cut to ensure that his voice wasn't used to sell any promotional products. But Disney broke its promise not to do so. 

    As an apology, the company gave Williams a Pablo Picasso painting worth $1 million: a self-portrait of Picasso in the style of Vincent Van Gogh's art.

    Williams wasn't impressed, however, and even joked about making a copy of the painting to burn as a prank. The actor later made up with Disney and worked on the third Aladdin film (the direct-to-DVD sequel Aladdin and the King of Thieves). 

    202 votes
  • If it weren't for American playwright and lyricist Howard Ashman, Disney's Aladdin never would've hit the big screen. Ashman came up with a version of Aladdin for Disney and submitted a treatment in 1988 that featured several songs. 

    Disney passed at the time, however, and went on to release The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast instead. After Beauty and the Beast's success, the company decided to reconsider an Aladdin adaptation. The company ended up making a lot of changes to Ashman's work, including adding Abu the monkey, removing Aladdin's mother, and featuring only one genie instead of two.

    Ashman began helping producers with this adjusted story, but he passed at age 40 before finishing the project. His songs "Friend Like Me," "Prince Ali," and "Arabian Nights" all made it into the film. Even though Ashman never got to see the final product, Disney later returned to some of his original ideas for the Broadway musical, including the song "Proud of Your Boy," meant to be sung by Aladdin's mother.  

    189 votes
  • 5
    135 VOTES

    Aladdin's Original Design Can Be Seen In 'Friend Like Me' Because It Was Animated First

    "Friend Like Me" was the first scene in Aladdin to be animated. During the filmmaking process, Aladdin's character design was tweaked several times, so animators had to go back and make those animation changes to the song scene.

    During production, Aladdin's design was changed to have a stronger physique to make him look more like a Disney protagonist. But if you look closely, you can see some moments in "Friend Like Me" where his original design still exists

    In the few frames where Aladdin's old appearance is shown, you can see that his face was more rounded and his body frame smaller. It's unlikely, however, that anyone would notice the changes without pausing the movie. 

    135 votes
  • 6
    319 VOTES

    Robin Williams Took A Huge Pay Cut On The Condition That His Voice Not Be Used To Sell Merchandise

    When actor Robin Williams agreed to play Genie in Aladdin, he wanted his voice to be used only for the character in the film, not for any promotional content. He explained:

    We had a deal. The one thing I said, 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.

    Williams made $75,000 for the film, which is less than his normal earnings, to ensure that Disney followed through on its promise. Yet the company didn't stay true to its word. Williams said:

    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.

    319 votes