Will Smith has a tough act to follow—and Robin Williams fans are letting him know about it. Smith has been cast in the coveted role of the Genie in Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of Aladdin, according to Rolling Stone. Smith will take on the iconic voice role previously filled by Robin Williams in the Oscar-winning 1992 animated film, and some fans of the late comedian are not happy about it at all.
Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin film has already been the subject of casting controversy. The film was under scrutiny for weeks amid “whitewashing” rumors over who would play the title character. Egyptian-born actor Mena Massoud was announced as Aladdin, but the newcomer’s casting seems to be overshadowed by the confirmation that Will Smith will take on the role of the three-wish granting genie that Robin Williams made famous more than 25 years ago. Sadly, Robin Williams died in 2014.
After the Aladdin casting announcement was made, some avid Robin Williams fans slammed the choice of Will Smith in the Genie voice role. Some fans wrote that Smith “is not my genie,” while others said the former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star isn’t funny enough to fill Robin’s shoes.
Rumors about Will Smith’s possible involvement in Aladdin first started to surface in April. At the time, the Hollywood Reporter revealed that Will was also in talks with Tim Burton about the live-action Dumbo movie, but they couldn’t ink a deal due to scheduling.
While not everyone is happy about the Aladdin deal Smith eventually did ink, some movie fans defended Ritchie’s choice to cast Will Smith as Genie, pointing out that Robin Williams is no longer with us and someone had to take over in the role as the Aladdin antagonist.
It’s no doubt that Will Smith has some pretty big shoes to fill with the Aladdin role. In 1992, Robin Williams helped Aladdin pave the way for Disney’s animation renaissance. Aladdin was the highest-grossing film that year. Disney animator Eric Goldberg told the Los Angeles Times that working with Williams was an animator’s dream come true, comparing him to the great 1930s and ’40s animation voices who were also radio actors.
“What Robin had in common with them is a set of vocal chords that were 100% elastic,” he said.
Goldberg revealed that Williams did a lot of improvisation when recording the Genie vocals and that Disney let them keep most of Robin’s improvised scenes because they were so good.
“He turned into a game show host, an evangelist. Out came all the celebs — Arnold Schwarzenegger John Wayne, George C. Scott. We took the stuff back to Burbank and went… ‘Oh my God, this is gold… Will they let us put this in the picture?'” Goldberg recalled.
“We could have just gotten somebody who was technically adept at impressions. But the warmth that Robin brought was something we tried very hard to convey.”
The official release date for Disney’s live-action Aladdin has not yet been announced.
[Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI]