Exploring the Magic of ‘Friend Like Me’ from Disney’s ALADDIN

When Disney’s Aladdin hit theaters in summer of 1992, the tale transported audiences to a whole new world of wonder, romance, and adventure through the fictional streets of Agrabah. Following the titular street rat, Aladdin, from bread thief to Prince Ali, audiences were instantly captivated by the story, the characters, and most notably, the songs.

With a score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman much of the music from this childhood classic has become part of the classic canon. And though the a hit ballad, “A Whole New World” typically takes top honors in the hearts of Disney fans, there is one other song in the score that still has toes tapping over twenty years down the line. A song that can transform an orphan into a “the boss, the king, the shah”. A song that has “punch, pizzaz, yahoo and how”. All you’ve gotta do is rub that lamp.

Ali Baba had them forty thieves, Scheherazade had a thousand tales, and as we came to find out, Aladdin had the Genie, a master shape shifter, best pal, confidante, and supreme granter of wishes; a mercurial magician, the likes of which the world had never seen before.

When conceiving the script for Aladdin, the Disney animators had only one name in mind for their ultimate sidekick creation: comedian and film star, Robin Williams. Though the Genie was written with only Williams in mind, the studio had yet to secure the star. In order to convince Robin, who at the time was filming the Steven Spielberg Robin Hood adventure, “Hook”, the Disney animators enacted a creative solution in order to persuade the star to join their cast.

Using selections from one of his comedy albums, the artists at Disney animated the Genie to the sketches and presented them to Williams. Lead ‘Genie’ animator, Eric Goldberg, remembers presenting the test animation to Williams, stating:

“I cannot tell you what great joy it gave me to make Robin Williams laugh. I was such a huge fan. I think what probably sold him was the one where he says, “Tonight, let’s…

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